Skip to content
Join our Newsletter

Duchess Park grad's college athletic career coming to an end

Top-ranked VIU Mariners taking aim at PacWest basketball title

Winning doesn’t come easily for Dan Zimmerman but it has come often.

It’s been that way throughout his basketball career as a guard for the Vancouver Island Univrsity Mariners.

The Nanaimo-based Mariners have dominated the Pacific Western Athletic Association in the five years Zimmerman had been with the team, continuing the winning ways he was used to playing high school ball in Prince George.

He’s got the hardware to prove it. The Mariners won PacWest silver last year and in 2019-20, and a gold medal two seasons ago that led to national bronze at the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association tournament.

“The year before I got here they won the national championships, it’s been a long time, every year I can probably count my regular season losses on one hand, it’s been special,” said the 22-year-old Zimmerman.

This weekend on the road at Langara, as the lone graduate on his team, Zimmerman will play the last regular season games of his college career, The Mariners (20-2) have already clinched the season title and are ranked fourth in Canada.

“A lot of it has to do with our coaches, we have a great coaching staff," said Zimmerman. "Scott Kuzminski and Scott Marr have been here since 2013 and Scott was the guy who got me to come to VIU. Just the culture he’s built with the guys, it’s a ton of stuff off the court we do together and the principles we have as a team translate into the way we play.

“Even beyond the coaches, the athletics department is really special here and the results obviously show that. It’s been great.”

The six-foot-three Zimmerman has averaged 18.1 minutes per game this season and while he doesn’t rack up a lot of points (2.8 average) or rebounds (2.5 per game) he does generate offence, with 35 assists and 10 steals. He provides stability to the fast-paced Mariner offence but knows his primary role is to prevent points.

“My big calling comes definitely on the defensive end and more often than not I’m guarding the other team’s best player, so my team really counts on me for that,” he said. “Beyond that, I’m just going to make the hustle play and defensively take a charge. I’m that guy, who plays with heart and toughness.”

Mariners guard Jackson Kuc, a teammate of Zimmerman’s since elementary school, is in his third PacWest season. He’s played in all 22 games so far and is averaging four points per game, shooting 52.5 per cent from the field and 40 per cent from three-point range.

They were part of that Duchess Park team that dominated the North Central zone and came close to winning provincials in Zimmerman's Grade 12 year (2019) but suffered a buzzer-beating loss to North Delta in the semifinals.

"Jackson is our backup point guard and he gets lots of minutes, he's a big energy guy for our team," said Zimmerman.

Okanagan College in Kelowna is hosting the six-team PacWest playoff tournament Feb. 29-March 2 and the Mariners, as one of the top two teams, will get a bye into the semifinals.

The PacWest champion advances to the four-team CCAA championship in Sackville, NB, March 11-16.

In 2020, the Mariners won the Pac West title and they were ready for the flight to Toronto but the pandemic forced cancellation of the CCAA tournament just before they were about to board the plane due to the pandemic.

Zimmerman graduates this spring with an arts degree, majoring in history. He plans to become a teacher and wants to go to Japan to teach English.

“I have a late birthday and my first year I was still 17 years old and now I’m a young adult just about to graduate university and go off into the world on my own,” Zimmerman said. “I got lucky to come to VIU and I’m really grateful for coaches I’ve had and my teammates and my parents - all these people have influenced me so much to grow into the guy I am today. It’s been five years of figuring out who I’m going to be and it’s been pretty incredible.”