The Ballenas Whalers senior boys basketball team are back on the hardwood this week, with a game on tonight in Nanaimo to kick off a busy week.
The Whalers will look for a win against the honourably-mentioned-ranked NDSS Islanders.
The Whalers themselves have been ranked in The Province’s Big 10 rankings at the Triple A level.
“They’re one of the teams we need to beat,” head coach Kevin McMillen said. “It’s an important game for us, no doubt, we need to beat them to get through our big tournaments at the end of the season. We’re right there; it’s just a matter of getting over the hump for us. It’ll be a tight, defensive battle, NDSS doesn’t give up a lot of points against teams so it’s going to be a battle.”
McMillen knows his team is more than capable of playing a solid game and beating a team like the Islanders and he’ll need to see that effort from his players.
“They’ve got it in them,” he said. “We’ve had some guys really step up for us at different points in games so they’ve seen it too, they know who’s capable of what. But my hope is that they can bring it all together as a team, if they can do that there’s no telling what this group of players can do.”
McMillen expects solid efforts from the likes of Aaron Paetkau and Liviano Canil, who present match-up problems for opposing teams, but it’s the players who nobody expects to perform well that he’s most excited about.
“We have a good number that can do it,” McMillen said. “One of the biggest examples is Jacob LaRocque-Wall, he’s one of our smallest players on the team and he plays like an absolute beast. In the game against KSS, he went out there and brought down rebounds, played fantastic defensively and was a game changer without even scoring the ball on offense. It’s efforts like those that we need to see more of, guys who can do things without having the ball. Jacob has been great with that so far this season, and he can score the ball too, don’t get me wrong, but being able to make a difference in a game defensively, that’s a huge deal.”
This weekend the Whalers will be in Port Alberni for the 61st installment of the Totem Tournament. Rich in history, the Whalers will look for success in the tournament that McMillen has been part of as a coach and a player. In his time as a senior at Alberni District Secondary School, McMillen’s team took on two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash and the St. Michael’s University School Blue Devils.
“Just the history alone is amazing,” McMillen said. “I’ve come close to winning it twice as a player and once as a coach, so to be able to win that tournament would be a dream come true. But we’ll enjoy ourselves there for sure, it’s always a good, competitive tournament and we’re going to be excited about it after that NDSS game.”