The Vancouver Island University men's basketball program are still a few weeks away from opening their national title defence, but on Saturday they will get a stiff test from some familiar faces.
The M's will be playing their alumni team at 7:30 p.m. at the VIU gym, going up against a number of stars from recent years. They already have had one exhibition game - a 96-82 loss to the VanCity All-stars this past weekend - but this will likely prove to be their best litmus test before the start of the Pacific Western Athletic Association season.
"We're taking this as a serious game, because the Alumni will be such a good team," said Mariners head coach Matt Kuzminski.
"It will be all recent players, in good shape and they'll play really hard. It will be a tough game for us."
There Alumni team will be made up of former stars like: Andrew Kaban, who is gearing up for a pro contract in Australia; Jacob Thom, who is looking for a pro deal; Tyler Olsen, who was an all-Canadian on last year's championship team; Ryan Davidson, another retired member from last season; and Jason Hubbs, another former all-Canadian, among others.
The Mariners are returning seven players from their championship roster - including all-Canadian Brandon Jones - but that means they are trying to break in seven new players, including top recruits Seth Goodman, Liam Horne and Woodlands Eagles star Bryson Cox.
"It's a process bringing in seven new guys," said Kuzminski. "The seven returning guys are somewhat up to speed, because a lot of the stuff is similar as far as offence. So the seven new guys are having to catch up a bit."
One player who has stood out through a month of training camp is third-year forward Jason McKee. After losing big bodies like Olsen, Davidson and Adam Connolly, the six-foot-four, 210-pounder out of Dover Bay is being leaned on to play out of position at centre and the low post against players that frequently measure in at between six-footeight and seven-foot.
"He's always been very physical and in good shape, but this year he's been above and beyond as far as his conditioning and he's playing well too," said Kuzminski.
Admission for the game is $2 for non-students. They open their PacWest season on Oct. 19 at Thompson Rivers University.
Fill the Frank for the BCHL Food Challenge The Nanaimo Clippers are hoping to pack in the fans at Frank Crane Arena for their Friday night game against the Cowichan Valley Capitals at 7 p.m., as they encourage people to bring a non-perishable food item with them for donation.
This is part of the B.C. Hockey League's Five Hole for Food Challenge, in an effort to help out food banks around the province. The challenge will rotate throughout the league this season with Nanaimo kicking it off.
To encourage more people to come out, the Clippers are holding a Buy One Get one Half Price Weekend, where buying a tick for Friday's game will get you a 50 per cent discount for Saturday's game against the West Kelowna Warriors at 7 p.m.
Daily News hockey pool The Daily News has started up the Nanaimo Daily News Hockey League pool with weekly and overall prizes up for grabs.
Registration is free for those who want to join at www.NDNHL.com.
ON TAP - The North Island Silvertips host the Vancouver Northeast Chiefs on Saturday and Sunday at 5:15 and 12:30 p.m., respectively in B.C. Major Midget Hockey League action. .. The Vancouver Island Raiders look to clinch first place in the B.C. Football Conference when they host the Westshore Rebels at 2 p.m. at Caledonia Park.
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