Kodiaks need your support next year

First published in the Lethbridge College Endeavour, March 25, 2009

All year long I have focused my columns on the hilarious world of professional sports.

As the Endeavour releases its final issue of the school year, I would like to turn my attention to collegiate sports.

I would like to get as serious as I’ve ever been.

The message: support Kodiak basketball next year.

After spending the entire season watching, covering and getting to know the coaching staff and players, I can tell you, with full confidence, that the Kodiaks basketball program is unmatched across the country.

Did they win a national title? No. Were they good enough to win a national title? Absolutely.

The fact that countless variables such as luck can prevent the best team from winning each year doesn’t change that.

On the men’s side, head coach Mike Hansen and his club had to battle a month-long, team-wide fl u.

They had to play in probably the toughest division, not to mention conference, in the nation and they had to make their entire playoff run on the road.

All this and the club narrowly missed a trip to nationals.

The men will be back, mark my words, and they will find themselves wearing a national medal a lot sooner than later. Hansen is a player’s coach, who takes care of his own and provides a fun, yet competitive atmosphere for his team to develop in.

Do his players agree? A few of them had an opportunity to play for the university and chose to play at the college for one reason, coaching.

Yes they will enter next season without team leaders Denver Corbiere and Ndale Philbert but you can bet that Hansen is already planning a solution and will no doubt send a very capable group to the floor in the fall.

As for the women’s team, the reasons for coming to support the club next year are almost endless. How about head coach Brad Karren being named the 2009 CCAA coach of the year?

How about the fact he has been nominated for the award fi ve times in only 10 years heading up the team?

Not convinced? How about his fi ve national tournament appearances, including three podium fi nishes and a title? Not good enough?

OK, then what if I said the best player in the country will be back too? Kayla Lambert didn’t win the player of the year, though she was one of five nominees, but she easily could have and maybe even should have.

Her statistics were nothing short of spectacular and she hardly saw the floor in a fourth quarter all year since her club spent nearly every game nursing a 25-point lead.

Also likely to return is Anne Mercer. Having just watched the best-of-the-best compete in Quebec last week, I have no issue endorsing her as the best six-footer in Canada. All she does is dominate under the hoop until she’s ready to step outside and drain threes.

In a national tournament game versus MacEwan College, Mercer had their best player, a fellow centre, so rattled by the third minute of the game that she was rendered useless. Mercer went on to drop 25 points and grab 11 rebounds. All her opponent received was the embarrassment of being schooled, not to mention the embarrassment of watching her father thrown out of the gym for non-stop complaining. Thanks for coming out.

Aside from Lambert and Mercer, the Kodiaks could return every single player but one to next year’s group. But even if his club doesn’t all come back, Karren has made a name for himself as being one of the best recruiters in the nation and will have no problems finding viable replacements. But as good as these two clubs have been, and will be, they need better support from fans.

In Quebec last week, the host fans were insane. In the Val Matteotti Gym during the year, the fans were quiet, if not nonexistent.

The college has a fantastic facility in which to watch a game and offers some of the most competitive athletes in the nation. So next season, get out to some games and show your teams the support they deserve.

It’s free for crying out loud.

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