NANAIMO, BC — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.
The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.
While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.
To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.
That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.
From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.
Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.
Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the defending CCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions, the VIU Mariners.
2018-19 in Review
After winning the CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship in 2013, and then bringing home a silver medal in 2015, the VIU Mariners had their sights set on making another title run in 2018-19.
Equipped with a talented roster that was full of experience from top to bottom, Head Coach Matt Kuzminski and the Mariners went to work. They posted a 16-2 record in the regular season to claim first-place in the standings by eight points. The Mariners went 9-1 over their final 10 games to separate themselves from the rest of the PACWEST, building momentum ahead of the post-season in the process.
In the PACWEST Tournament, the Mariners and Douglas College Royals squared off once more for the chance to represent the league at Nationals. In another close contest between the top two programs in the PACWEST, overtime was needed to decide a winner. Ultimately, the Mariners came away with the 89-82 win to punch their ticket to the 2019 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championships.
At Nationals, the Mariners found themselves matched up with the three-time defending ACAC Champion SAIT Trojans in the quarter-finals. In a battle of two of the nation’s top offensive units, the Mariners put up 102 points on the Trojans in an 18-point victory to advance to the Championship Bracket.
In the semifinals, the Mariners were in tough against the Vanier Cheetahs of the RSEQ. At the break, the Cheetahs held a 14-point lead over the Mariners, 45-31, and it looked as though they were going to run away with things. However, VIU had other plans, and they launched a second-half comeback for the ages.
Down by 10 heading into the fourth quarter, the Mariners outscored the Cheetahs by a 26-14 margin to complete the comeback for the 85-83 win. With 35 seconds left in the game, Cameron Gay (Ninemile, Wash.) connected on a three-pointer to give the Mariners an 82-80 lead.
It was their first lead of the game. The Mariners led for a total of 35 seconds, but came away with the win and a spot in the Championship game.
Against the Sheridan Bruins in the Championship Game, the Mariners found themselves matched up against another one of the country’s top offensive teams. Once more, they needed to dig deep in the fourth quarter if they wanted to keep their gold medal dreams alive.
It was a back-and-forth affair for a full 40 minutes. The Mariners jumped out to a nine-point lead after the opening quarter, only to see the Bruins trim the deficit to seven before halftime, at 45-38.
The third quarter was all about the Bruins and their high-octane offense. Sheridan outscored the Mariners by a 25-12 margin to take a six-point lead of their own into the fourth and final quarter of the 2018-19 season.
Once more, the Mariners wouldn’t be denied of their Championship aspirations. For the second game in a row, VIU launched a fourth-quarter comeback in an attempt to come away with the title. A quick 5-0 run for the Mariners to start the quarter got momentum back on their side, and it was only a matter of time before they took the lead again and held it for good.
When the final buzzer sounded, the Mariners celebrated an 85-82 win over Sheridan. For the second time in seven seasons, the VIU Mariners were the CCAA Men’s Basketball National Champions.
Fast forward to this season, and the Mariners have their sights now set on defending their title. They’ll be without some familiar faces, but they have another talented and experienced roster that’s ready to go to work and defend their championship.
After last year’s Championship run, the Mariners will look to defend their title without two of their stars in 2019-2020. Both the back court rotation and the front court take hits with two of the team’s top scorers having moved on to the next chapter of their respective basketball careers.
In the back court, the Mariners will be without the services of guard Harry Fayle (Melbourne, AUS). Fayle capped off his final season with the Mariners by being named the PACWEST BC Player of the Year. Over the regular season, Fayle averaged 19.6 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 4.7 assists per contest. He shot 42.7% from the floor, 34.4% from three-point range, and 81.2% from the free throw line.
On a VIU team that averaged more than 96 points per game on offense, Fayle was one of five players to average at least 14.2 points per contest. He had seven games in which he topped the 20-point mark over the course of the year. In fact, he recorded double-digit points in 17 of 18 regular season games. In the regular season finale against the Camosun Chargers, Fayle was held to just six points on 1-of-12 shooting from the field.
Fayle is now playing professionally back home in Australia with the Diamond Valley Eagles of the NBL1.
Also gone from the Mariners’ Championship team is forward Jerod Dorby (Duncan, BC). The 6’7” forward was a steady presence inside for the Mariners over the course of the season, posting nine double-doubles over the 18-game regular season. He finished tied for second in the PACWEST with an average of 9.7 rebounds per contest, trailing only Christian Williams of the Okanagan College Coyotes (10.8).
On February 8th against the Langara Falcons, Dorby had arguably his best game of the season in a 95-74 win for the Mariners. He posted 25 points and 24 rebounds for one of his nine double-doubles in 38 minutes of action. Dorby would average 14.6 points and 2.2 assists per game while shooting 52.8% from the field for the year.
Losing players like Dorby and Fayle will be tough for the Mariners to replace, without a doubt. However, Coach Kuzminski and his staff have a strong returning class to keep things moving with little resistance.
The Mariners are without two of their top of their top four scorers from last season, a situation that would be tough for most teams to overcome. However, that means VIU still returns three players who averaged at least 14.2 points per game in 2018-19. Across their lineup, the Mariners will once again feature a ton of talent and experience from top to bottom, both of which put them in great shape in the PACWEST.
Leading the way in terms of returnees is guard Landon Radliff (Richland, Wash.). While Radliff missed six games, that didn’t phase him one bit, especially on offense. Over his 12 regular season appearances, he never scored fewer than 14 points in a game. Radliff had nine games with 20 or more points, en route to leading the conference in scoring with an average of 26.2 points per game. Radliff was also named MVP of the 2019 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championships.
While he knows how to fill up the basket, Radliff brings a ton to the table for the Mariners. He posted 5.3 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 3.2 steals per contest to establish himself as arguably the nation’s top two-way player. To top off his impressive stat line, he shot 42.2% from the field and 36.9% from three-point range for the season. A full season of Radliff in the lineup will help VIU make up for their losses in production on both ends of the floor.
Joining Radliff in the back court in 2019-20 is Cameron Gay, the hero from last year’s semifinal win over Vanier. Gay is one of the top three-point shooters in the PACWEST, and he gives the Mariners a legitimate threat from beyond the arc that teams must be aware of at all times. He finished fourth in the conference in three-point shooting, hitting on 41.2% of his attempts last season. In fact, Gay had 14 games with multiple three-point jumpers, en route to posting 14.6 points per game.
Gay, like Radliff, is a strong two-way player that can impact the game on both sides. He averaged 4.0 rebounds and 5.9 assists per game to go along with his point production, showcasing his ability to get teammates involved while also getting second-chances on offense with his rebounds. Add in the fact that he shot 90.9% from the free throw line, Gay had himself a strong season that should have VIU fans excited for what’s ahead in 2019-20.
At Nationals last year, Gay was named to the Tournament All-Star team.
Coach Kuzminski had this to say about his star back court returning for the 2019-20 season.
“Both of them are high compete, high skilled, and high IQ guys who make their teammates better.”
Up front, Tyus Barfoot (Nanaimo, BC) is entering his fourth year of eligibility this season, and he will be one of the more senior players on the team along with being one of the team captains. Barfoot finished the year tied with Dorby for second in the league with 9.7 rebounds per contest. Like Dorby, Barfoot was a consistent presence in the paint for the Mariners last season, posting eight double-doubles over the 18-game season.
Aside from their Big Three, the Mariners return key role players in Brett Christensen (Langley, BC) and Anders Cederberg (Nanaimo, BC). Christensen was a regular starter in the first half of the 2018-19 season, and he recorded four double-digit scoring games before the 2019 calendar year. He posted 12.5 points per game as a starter in the first half, and could be a regular member of the starting five in 2019-20.
Cederberg should see an increased role this season with the departures of both Fayle and Dorby. He averaged 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game last season in limited action.
“I am very excited about our recruiting class,” added Kuzminski. “We have added several players who will be impact guys right away as well as high character freshmen who will come in battle, get better and work to be future foundations of our program.”
The Mariners have currently added six players to their 2019-20 roster, filling out their roster with young talent and veterans alike. Two players bring JUCO playing experience with them, while four players will be true first-year student-athletes in 2019-20.
Guard Drew Magaoay (Shoreline, Wash.) is the standout commitment of their recruiting class. Magaoay joins the Mariners after transferring from the Edmonds C.C. Tritons, where he averaged 18.9 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game last season. Magaoay will bring talent and experience to the lineup for VIU, adding yet another top-tier scorer to the mix.
Forward Jacob Cowley (Langley, BC) comes to the Mariners from the North Idaho C.C. Cardinals in the NJCAA. The 6’8” forward will bring size and strength to a front court group that will look to replace the production of Dorby.
The Mariners added a guard who had family ties to the program with the commitment of 6’3” guard Marlon Edgar (Vancouver, BC). Edgar’s father, Gary Edgar, starred for the Mariners in the 90s, and he won a National Championship with VIU in 1994.
Guards Thaskani Mtwali (Courtenay, BC) and Dan Zimmerman (Prince George, BC), as well as hometown forward Jarryd Engavik (Nanaimo, BC) round out the six-man recruiting class for the Mariners.
In 2019-20, the VIU Mariners have the chance to do something that hasn’t been done since the 1998-99 season when Langara did it, and that’s defend a Men’s Basketball National Championship.
Yes, the Mariners lose two of their top scorers from last year’s title winning team. However, we’ll beat the same drum by saying they had five players with an average of at least 14.2 points per game last season. With three of them returning, plus the addition of Magaoay and others, the Mariners have another loaded roster that will look to successfully defend their title.
The PACWEST should challenge the Mariners once more, with Douglas College looking like their top challengers in 2019-20. If the Mariners can get back to the CCAA Championships this season, they will have an experienced roster who knows what it takes to win it all.
Don’t bet against the Mariners.
Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.
– T. Bennett