Leader of the pack

Being a fifth-year player on a varsity team usually comes with added responsibility.

In addition to being a go-to guy on the court, the extra duties include being a leader and setting a good example for your teammates. And Billy Cheng, a 22-year-old point guard on the UNBC men's basketball team, fits the mould.

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"You're relying on your fifth-year guys to be your leaders," said UNBC head coach Todd Jordan. "Those guys have been around and you just have to trust in their experience after five years. You trust all the coaching you've done at the start has paid off. Billy's been a big piece for us probably since his second or third year. We need a lot from him and the expectations are high."

While UNBC's 2015-16 season in CIS Canada West is only two games old, it's so far so good for Cheng.

In Friday's home- and season-opener against the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack, Cheng spent 36 minutes on the floor at the Northern Sport Centre. In those minutes, he led all scorers with 32 points and dished out five assists in a 94-89 loss.

Saturday, he was on the court the entire game, except for six minutes in the second quarter, and managed 11 points in an 85-79 defeat.

The leadership role is one Cheng is happy to accept, but he also credits his teammates for helping him.

"I take it as more of a challenge in leading this team that's young," said Cheng, who's double majoring in finance and international business. "Todd has given me confidence in doing so and keeping all of my teammates together. I don't feel too much pressure, but I'm glad to do it and glad the team has given me confidence to do it."

Cheng and fourth-year guard Rhys Elliott are responsible for guiding the T-wolves offence. Born and raised in Adelaide, Australia, Elliott is in his second season at UNBC after playing two years for the junior college Central Iowa Tritons.

Elliott also had a solid weekend, earning Canada West male third star honours when he collected 29 points, seven rebounds and four assists on Friday and 30 points, seven rebounds and four steals Saturday.

That tally included 16 points alone in the fourth quarter with four three-pointers to keep UNBC within striking distance of the WolfPack.

Elliott and Cheng have developed quite the chemistry in only one season. Last year, the Timberwolves reached the post-season for the first time in their CIS history, posting a 10-8 record.

"Rhys is such a good player from right when he came in," said Cheng. "He's so talented and he fits right into the Timberwolves system. He moves very well and moves into space that's open. It's just so easy to get him the ball."

Cheng often goes up against the opposition's top players, whether it's on offence or defence.

Cheng said Jordan told him he has to be a bit more aggressive with the ball this year and he is making the transition.

"He said I have to be ready to score with the ball but at the same time, I'm a pass-first point guard and I'm just looking for my teammates to get the ball to," he said.

The Timberwolves - men and women - are in Kelowna tonight and Saturday to take on the UBC Okanagan Heat.

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