By Tommy Osborne, November 15 2016 —
Coming off a 17–3 season that ended in a Canada West Championship, the Dinos men’s basketball team hopes to achieve greater success and bring home the University of Calgary’s first national championship title. But head coach Dan Vanhooren emphasized that the team cannot rest on the accolades of last year.
“The guys have to realize it’s a new season and that we have to go through the process again to get to the same endpoint,” Vanhooren said. “I think because we have some additional new faces and some new talent level, we need to learn to play together at a higher pace than we have in the past.”
The Dinos’ strong core from last year returns along with an influx of new talent that will bring depth and scoring ability to the team. Vanhooren credits this year’s 9–1 start to the players that were so successful last season.
“We have a great group of guys back from last year, [and] a solid amount of our scoring back,” Vanhooren said. “The team does have a number of the key components that are required to be successful early.”
Third-year guard Mambi Diawara is one of the team’s returning veterans. He hopes to help the Dinos take the top spot in this year’s U Sports national championships.
“I think that’s what everyone is looking for,” Diawara said. “I’m just trying to improve my game every single day — put in work on and off the court. We all have the same goal.”
Diawara played a key role in the 102–77 victory over the Manitoba Bisons on Nov. 5, with 19 points alongside eight rebounds and an assist. When asked about how he plans to maintain that success, Diawara pointed to the team’s defence.
“Play defence, because that’s how I got my points, out of transition,” Diawara said. “We have to play defence first and then get quick buckets, fast paced. That’s how we’re looking to start our games.”
Along with the returning core, there are also five new players joining the team. Vanhooren stressed the importance of acclimating rookies to the work that needs to be put in to be successful at such a high level of basketball.
“I think our freshmen need to realize they need patience. They’re going to have to hit the weight room and learn,” Vanhooren said. “These guys are going to need patience to go through the process, gain some experience, better their bodies and get ready for some opportunities. They’ll have to figure out how to work in the system, so that’ll really just take some gameplay to get those edges smoothed out.”
Among the rookies is first-year guard Max Eisele, a transfer student from Ulm, Germany. Along with the challenges of being on the basketball team, Eisele also had to acclimate himself to Calgary life. He says the transition from Ulm to Calgary has been positive.
“It’s been very good, because it’s a great community here. The guys on the team are great,” Eisele said.
Eisele hopes he will contribute to the team’s effort to take home a national championship.
“[I want to] try to help the team however I can with my experience and love for the game [and] just try to do the best to get us to our goals.” Eisele said.
Eisele credits the team’s hot start to both the talent and the relationship the players share on and off the court.
“We have a lot of talent and we get along well on and off the court — that’s a good mixture,” Eisele said. “We have a great coaching staff as well — we have all the fundamentals to achieve what we want to achieve.”
Like the rest of the team, Eisele is determined to win a national championship.
“I think the whole team has the same goal. Last year we made it to the finals, this time we want to get it done,” Eisele said.
For Vanhooren, heading to the U Sports finals also tops the to-do list.
“For 50 years this school has been trying to win a national title and they haven’t won one yet. So I’m not gonna be bashful talking about that as a goal. The ultimate goal is to win a national title,” Vanhooren said.
The Dinos look to continue their route to a national title on Nov. 26 at the Jack Simpson Gym against the Lethbridge Pronghorns. Entry is free for students with a valid student ID.