Bear Path: Golden Bears Basketball

Bear Path: Golden Bears Basketball

August 21, 2019 0 By Stanley Isaacs


It’s mid-January and the Golden Bears regular
season is winding down. The defending Canada West Champs have won
15 out of their 16 games thus far. However, it doesn’t mean that they are satisfied
with their level of play. Do your job! Play! Have some confidence in yourselves. You don’t have to be superstars – do your
role! Let’s go. Anything less than excellence doesn’t cut
it in this program. When we’re obviously not playing or living
up to that standard, we need a reminder of who we are, and what we’re capable of doing. You can’t wear the crest lightly, that’s for
sure. You got to come in here and want excellence
every single day. That’s kind of the mentally that I think is
instilled within every one of our members on this team. We’re recruiting young men to come here, we’re
looking for people that want to push for excellence. Everyone is pushing for that University degree,
everyone is trying to get the most out of themselves athletically… for a coach that’s
a dream come true. All of us got to start stepping up. This is our time. The intensity of Monday’s practice ahead of
the team’s home-and-home series with the Macewan Griffins highlights how serious the Golden
Bears are about their aspirations this year. I think we knew we had a really special team
this year, we had a lot of returners and a lot of talent. I see depth. I see guys in every position that can fill
the need, fill their roles. The communication is at a level that I’ve
never experienced before. When you mess up on the court, people are
going to tell you. When you do good, people are going to support
you. I don’t think that any team can beat us if
we are playing to our best of our abilities. It’s just being able to consistently roll
out a performance like that – that’s going to be a real challenge. The Golden Bears best is when they completely
shut down the opposition; allowing only 63 points a game so far, tops in the conference. We’ve got a lot of talent on the offensive
side of the ball, and some days you aren’t going to hit shots, and other days you will. But what always travels, and what always works,
is defense. By yourself, by yourself. You’re there! You’re there, I see you! We spend a lot of time on the court practicing
defense, and a lot of times just honing in on every 2 or 3 players on the team we have
to stop to win. And to our credit, there’s been a lot of games
where we’ve shut down players that have caused problems to other teams. I know for me, that’s all I pretty much care
about during the game. Anything else is just icing on the cake. That guy will play 35 minutes of defense,
and diving on the floor, and boxing out, and not shoot once… and be so happy that we
won. We have another guy, Dwan Williams. He’s one of the top defenders in Canada West
no doubt. He takes the best player on the other team
and he always does a great job on him. They know what it takes to have a chance to
play in march. And if we’re not defending, we’re not going
to have that opportunity. Coach Craddock knows what he’s talking about
– he’s the only coach to ever take three separate programs to the National Championships. Now in his 13th year as a head coach, 6th
with the University of Alberta, Craddock’s focus is to bring out the very best out of
every single player. He’s real passionate about the game, and I
like that. You know, he doesn’t really let things slide. He wants to push everyone to be their best,
and to reach their full potential. And that’s what I like about him. “And it could be switched, we can switch this.” He never lets us get by with anything other
than what he thinks is our best. That was why I came up here from the U.S,
is cause of the impact he can have on my basketball career. And how he can help me get to where I can
reach my goals. It’s rewarding career that you’re working
with all these young men, talented guys, helping them along a path that I went along as a student
athlete years ago. That’s the most rewarding part. The players don’t have to look far to be reminded
of the success of this historic program. A visit to the Sports Hall of Fame, just steps
across from the old Main Gym where the Bears played for so many years, highlights its best
teams. Those same pictures are found in the team
dressing room, a daily reminder of what they, too, can accomplish. Coming here to join a team, that has such
a good history, I feel like it was very humbling. And I was more than proud to come here and
put on that jersey. Funny enough when I first got hired here,
they had won the conference title the year before. And I asked our administration about when
we were going to have a banner celebration. And they said no, only the National Championship
banners are going up around here. That was a wake up to what the department
is pushing for here at the University of Alberta. It’s challenging, but exciting, what else
would you want your bosses to say, really? I think it’s in my personality to release
tension. Cause tension builds up in practice…. And if you can do something just to minimize
it just by a little… I play a game, if you have your hands on the
side, if you get your arm through it and back it’s called a weasel. It’s the most stupid game and everyone hates
it but me cause I’m good at it. Cause I keep my eyes out for it. Weasel… ah you killed it! From one end of the bench to the other, this
team gets along. And you can see it every day. I’ve never been on a team where everyone is
solid around each other. Strangely close. Like it’s kind of – it is a little weird. I feel like everyone has good chemistry with
each other, and that’s what is going to help us on the court obviously as well. Real time report by Andre Kelly. You looking like Chuck with that… What do you want to hear? .. Nah man don’t start with that. Don’t start with that. I ain’t gonna do it. Don’t start now… That chemistry is most evident between Andre
Kelly and Jonah Weyessa’s brotherly trash talk, with their respective hairlines at the
forefront of discussion all week. Even when the team goes out for their weekly
wing night tradition, no one is safe. Let me see what’s under that. What are you hiding? What are you hiding!? They can go at each other for days… The tightness of this group is even more special
when you consider how far some of these student-athletes have come from, whether it’s Europe, the U.S,
or Eastern Canada. First team defense, Jeffrey! Everybody is away from home, and this is closest
thing to a family that you have. And truly this year for sure is the closest
thing to a family I can get. A lot of guys that aren’t from here they all
get together and make that feeling you know… Yeah I feel like this is a second home for
us. That’s a foul! Each player’s journey to the Golden Bears
program is unique. Hey tell the mic you got me. Tell the mic you foul’d me. Geoff Pippus played for UBC for 3 years, and
then ended up taking a couple years off. When he wanted back in, nobody was willing
to give him shot… until Craddock offered Geoff the chance to show the program what
he still could do. Some of my teammates the first day we met,
they didn’t know if I was a coach or a player… I really didn’t know myself either. Good job white, good D white! I worked my butt off to get in shape and to
get in school, and it worked out. And this has been the most rewarding years
of basketball of my life for sure. Others, like Lyndon Annetts, spent years watching
the Golden Bears play before getting to don the jersey themselves. It’s pretty cool. It means a lot to me. I know there’s probably a kid in the crowd
that is wanting to be the next guy to follow that step so it’s pretty cool to be a guy
who did that. Another player who had the same dream growing
up, not only played for the Bears, but broke almost every record for the Bears, and is
now known as coach Jordan Baker after a couple years playing pro. He’ll pull me off on the side and tell me
something and I’ll go do it, and it’ll work just like that. It’s amazing to have Jordan back on the bench
with us because everything he tells you, everything he says, seems like he was in this position
not a long time ago. Obviously to get to the level he was at, he
was incredibly dedicated. So when he can start to pass that on to the
guys in the program, I mean that’s a perfect scenario. Yeah the guys have been really receptive which
is the biggest part. I mean you gotta be willing to go out and
try something, and they’ve done a great job. And our record shows. And now the Golden Bears bring that 15-1 record
across the river, to Macewan University, on a snowy, Thursday night. We don’t want to do anything different this
weekend, then we do when we’re playing the number one team in the country, or at nationals. We just want to play our game. It all just comes down from the heart and
we have to really just provide energy. We have to just work and have that hunger. Let’s go support each other, and let’s get
this done in the second half! Who is going to come and start putting their
best foot forward, so we can compete to be the best team in the country? The last three games, have we been the best
team in the country? No! Not even close. And if you’re not happy with your performance,
then we won’t be. The U of A comes out on top 74 to 56, but
even so, this team isn’t satisfied with the way they played. They know they have to be better. The University of Alberta has placed in the
top 5 University Rankings in Canada for many years. It’s a prestigious school with a rich history,
which is why so many of these Golden Bears wanted to play here. These athletes are students first, and they
have to balance two full time schedules. I just have to make a weekly schedule of when
to study, I make study blocks of when I’m going to work, when I’m going to go over lessons,
or when I’m going to practice/work out. So I just feel like I’m organized. The engineering department is really understanding
of my situation. They are very supportive of athletes at this
school so I’m lucky that I’m able to extend my degree over a few extra years. And if anyone falls behind, they have Annetts
to answer to, who has become the school sheriff in the locker room. I don’t care how they do it, as long as they
get it done. That’s the most important thing. I think everybody’s first year here is a huge
learning experience in that, cause it’s a lot different than high school when you have
people helping you. So the most important thing is communicating
with teachers, communicating with Barnaby, getting all the help you need, stuff like
that. It’s definitely a massive part of the history
and tradition of this program. The amount of people that have graduated from
here that are now you know CEO’s, in management, and running things, around Alberta, Canada
and worldwide is quite an impressive list. Saturday’s rematch holds extra significance
as it’s Senior Night, where all the graduating players will be honoured before tip-off as
per tradition. It’s 5 dedicated years of their life given
to a University, given to a program, and countless unpaid hours for them of work and sweat. These guys deserve it when they get to that
point. It’s nice, it can be a little emotional as
the head coach because you got some great ties with these young men as they finish five
years. I mean just to be there and realize it’s been
now five years and I’m the guy who’s leaving, it’s just something I cannot really describe. I just can’t wait to see how it feels. I make it 5 times a week, because I can’t
cook anything else. The team has organized a pot luck at Cole
Knudsen’s house after Friday’s light practice. Admittedly, the cooking looks pretty good
overall, but it’s not always the case. Jonah, he came, we had him over a couple weeks
ago. He brought us a cheesecake for dessert, but
it was expired like two weeks before so… I had a piece just to make him not feel bad,
but it’s not great. If you don’t have a sense of humor, you’re
not going to cut it. And it’s just constant jokes, and constant
card games, and board games, and video games…and Andre Kelly and Jonah Weyessa talking about
each other. It doesn’t get old. Don’t let them do this to you! Don’t let them do this to you! The final battle of the foreheads emerges
once dinner has been eaten, when someone pulls out the tape measure in the name of science. Chill bro! Feels more of a family, than a team. I trust you… That’s a 3…that’s a 3. That’s like a 2.4! That’s kind of been one of the biggest things,
building chemistry like that. It’s taken 3 years of being together, but
I think right now this is as close of a team that I’ve seen. The final score is 2.76 to 2.54. Like you can see it, when things are going,
and we’re taking to the court, everyone has bought in. Everyone is celebrating together – someone
from the end of the bench, to the top of the bench everyone is happy either way. The team’s closeness makes it easier for everyone
to forget what’s best for them, and worry what’s best for the team. With all these talented individuals, the players
knew they would have to sacrifice their numbers. Coming in to training camp, we saw how talented
our roster was. We were like OK, we have to find a way to
take all the talent we have and be able to play as one unit. It really comes down to knowing your role,
and what you got to do for the team to succeed. If that means sacrificing shots, that’s what
you got to do, cause that’s going to be the best possible outcome. With this team it’s just prevalent everywhere. We wouldn’t be 15 and 1 without those guys
having that type of mindset. Your contributions and presence in the program
has been massive over your 2 years here. You’re fitting in from day one. We knew we had the right thing with Geoff
coming here. Certain players only come around once every
5 years in a basketball program. Type of players that end up defining the culture
of your program. Over 1500 career points, and is currently
top 25 in the history of our conference. We got a few more games left in this gym Mams,
let’s give the fans what they came to see. The Golden Bears will go on to win this game,
as well as the last four of the regular season. They’ll enter the playoffs as the number one
seed in the conference, with hopes of repeating as Canada West Champs… And maybe even showing the rest of the country
what can happen if everyone only accepts their very best. I remember my first year, when I first walked
in the gym on my visit, I literally walked on the Golden Bear sign and it just
felt like home. I thought my senior night was going to be
2015… First, thank you to the Alumni. The support you guys have shown, everyone
one of you, after every game there’s always so many handshakes and hugs, and ‘great game’
and ‘how’s school going?’ I’m proud to say I’ve played for you coach. I don’t know if we can keep this team going
without you anymore. I don’t know how you can ever leave anymore,
you’re going to have get some type of contract. You guys make this run… you don’t need to
dedicate the amount of time you do to this program, but you’re here and you guys make
this show run. And it’s much appreciate, so thank you coaches. My grandpa is almost 90… he still has a
better hairline than both Andre and Jonah.