By Kristy Koehler, February 4 2019 —
The University of Calgary Dinos men’s basketball team ended their regular season with a historic victory — their 91–59 win over the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack concluded an undefeated season.
In addition to becoming the first undefeated Dinos men’s basketball team — and only the fifth undefeated men’s basketball team in the history of the Canada West conference — Saturday night marked another special evening: Senior night.
Four players took to the court for their last regular season game as Dinos — Mambi Diawara, David Kapinga, Lucas Mannes and Lars Schlueter.
Head coach Dan Vanhooren gave an emotional speech before the game, lauding the accomplishments of the four young men who helped bring the team their first-ever national basketball championship last year.
“In the spirit of tradition, tonight we celebrate our graduates,” Vanhooren said. “These four have done many things together here on the court, including win Canada West Championships, produce their first ever national championship. But more importantly, they also contribute to our Calgary community in a big way through coaching, mentoring and working with young people.”
Vanhooren cited teamwork as a major factor in the success of the Dinos basketball program.
“The key thing that they have done for one another is sacrifice individual accomplishments for the betterment of our team,” he said.
Teamwork continued to be a theme throughout the evening, as Vanhooren spoke with pride about the four graduates.
Congratulating Diawara, the most efficient points per minute player in the league, Vanhooren commended his ability to take a step back and let other players develop.
“He could have scored 30 points a game, every game for us,” Vanhooren said. “His minutes have been reduced, allowing for the development of his younger teammates — a sacrifice on his part for greater team success that cannot be unrecognized.”
Diawara, along with Kapinga, were members of Team Canada’s 2018 Commonwealth Games basketball team, winning silver medals. They combined for 55 points to give Canada its first basketball medal at the games. Diawara scored the game-winning shot in the Dinos 79–77 win over the Ryerson Rams at the National Championships last year.
The German national anthem was played before the game in honour of the graduating Schlueter, a native of Ulm, Germany. The Canada West rookie of the year for 2014–2015 holds the record for most three-pointers at U of C. Vanhooren calls him “arguably the most successful Dino of all time.” The two-time conference champion amassed 79 wins and just 19 losses in his five seasons at U of C.
The Dinos have won 31 consecutive games, ending the regular season at 20–0. They now go on to defend the U Sports National Championship. The best-of-three quarterfinals take place on home court Feb. 15–17 in the Jack Simpson. Their opponent has yet to be decided.
“You’re only as good as the people around you,” Vanhooren said in his speech.
Hopefully, the Dinos continue the teamwork and come together to give these seniors something even more historic than an undefeated season — a second-consecutive national basketball championship. Now that would be one heck of a graduation gift.