THE Capilano University men's basketball team has exactly one player who has played significant minutes of postsecondary hoops prior to this season.
Keen observers at the team's home game against the Camosun Chargers Friday night may have picked him out in the first few seconds.
He was the one who found a little open space on a breakout and threw down an emphatic two-handed dunk to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. It was second-year guard Wes Dekleer who got things started with a bang but he and the Blues quieted down for the rest of the first half and came into the break trailing 41-39.
As the third quarter got underway, however, Dekleer showed just what he can do for the Blues. The Argyle grad took over the game, starting things off with a coast-to-coast layup followed by a variety of strong cuts and drives with a few long bombs thrown in. Dekleer racked up 15 points in the 10-minute quarter and by the time the barrage was over the Blues were leading 59-53 and on their way to a win.
"They just couldn't match up with him," Capilano head coach Dwayne Selby said about
Camosun's attempts to slow down his ultra-athletic six-foot-five wing player. "He was too fast for their forwards and too big for their guards. I think he did a great job of leading us and being aggressive - he just wouldn't be denied. It was great to see."
If the young Blues are going to do much in the Pacwest league this season they'll likely need a lot of repeat performances from Dekleer.
"Wes is a big, big part of our team," said Selby. "He gives us so much, it's hard for me to take him off the floor. He does such a good job of rebounding at the three position, he's great at getting to the rim and he can also hit the outside shot so it creates such a matchup problem."
The Blues beat the Chargers 86-80 Friday night to score their second regular season win of the season and while the lone veteran led the way, Selby was impressed with the rest of his untested crew as well. Five of the Blues are college rookies while the rest have played on Pacwest teams in the past but without playing big minutes.
"It was a quality win for us, a win we needed to have, and I'm just really proud of the guys for playing as a unit and never giving up," he said, adding that he was impressed with how his team cranked up their defence and rebounding in the second half. "We know as a team our bread and butter is our defence and our rebounding. I just challenged them to take that upon themselves. If you're guarding your man you've got to take that on as a challenge, a one-on-one challenge, that he is not going to get to the paint, he is not going to shoot an open jump shot. I think our guys did a good job of rising to that challenge."
Dekleer finished with 21 points and six rebounds and was joined on top of the scoring list by Douglas College transfer Sam Zhang whose 25-point performance included a scorching eight minute stretch in the second quarter in which he scored 14 to single-handedly keep the Blues in the game.
"Sam does a little bit of everything," Selby said about Zhang, who missed a week of practice after suffering a concussion but made it back into the lineup for the Camosun game. "He was ready to go tonight."
Other young players Selby expects to lead the team right away are starting point guard John Leong who led the team with five assists against Camosun - last season Leong backed up superstar James Lum who now suits up for Simon Fraser - and forward Daniel Dubois who so far leads the team in rebounding after grabbing 12 boards against the Chargers.
With the team's collective lack of experience, however, it'll be a bit of a bumpy ride. One day after the Camosun win the Blues hosted Vancouver Island University and were whipped 81-52 to drop to 2-3 on the season.
"I think we're about a month away from us really showing and being the team that we can be," Selby said, adding that he can see new growth and development every time the Blues hit the floor. "I'm excited about the team we have."
In keeping with the youth theme, Selby, who turns 32 on Friday, is also a rookie. He's the founder of the AllBall Academy basketball club but he's never been a head coach at this level.
"It's been fabulous," he said about his new gig. "The Pacwest is one of the best leagues in the country, we've got some great coaches in this league, so preparing and trying to figure out how to out-strategize the other coaches in this league is something that I relish and I look forward to."
The Blues aren't gunning for top spot in the league just yet but Selby is counting on his team making the playoffs and taking their best shot.
"Once you get to the playoffs you can win two games, play your best, and you're going to the show," he said.
This Friday is the last chance to see the Blues at home before the holiday break. Capilano hosts Quest with the women playing at 6 p.m. and the men to follow at 8 p.m.