NANAIMO, B.C. — The 2017-18 season marked the end of an era for the Vancouver Island University (VIU) Mariners.
When last season came to a close, it meant the end of the collegiate career for Usama Zaid, who will go down as one of the best players to ever suit up in the PacWest Conference, regardless of schools. While he only played two seasons with the Mariners, he helped the Mariners assert themselves as the team to beat in the league. VIU won three straight PacWest championships from 2014-15 through to 2016-17, and they finished as the runners-up last season to the Douglas College Royals.
It was an impressive career for Zaid, but as things go in the world, all good things must come to an end.
Now, the Mariners turn the page and get set to start a new chapter in 2018-19. New stars will emerge as the faces of this year’s team, while newcomers will look to assert themselves as future stars with the team as they get their feet wet in the collegiate game north of the border.
The Mariners have had a ton of success in the PacWest Conference in the last 10 years. Since the 2008-09 season, VIU has finished with at least a silver medal in the conference tournament. They have six silver medals to their name over that span, and four gold medals.
After a second-place finish last season in PacWest play and narrowly missing out on another trip to the CCAA National Championships, the Mariners will be looking to continue their string of success in 2018-19 with some familar faces still leading the way.
The 2018 PacWest Championship game saw two of the best players to ever play in the conference square off one last time. Zaid and the Mariners took on Douglas College and the PacWest’s all-time leading scorer in Grant Campbell. Only one player could end their PacWest career on a winning note and punch their ticket to the CCAA National Championships in the process.
Unfortunately for Zaid, his career came to an end earlier than he would have liked.
For the first time in 10 seasons, the Royals claimed the PacWest Championship by way of their 76-59 win over VIU. Despite the loss, Zaid was named the Player of the Game for the Mariners after posting 23 points and seven rebounds in the loss. He was named a Tournament All-Star following the game, as was teammate Jerod Dorby.
Campbell was named the Tournament MVP, and he posted 24 points, four rebounds, and five assists. He was the Player of the Game for Douglas College.
Zaid had himself a stellar career with the Mariners over his two seasons. He averaged 28.4 points per game in 2016-17 across 17 regular season games. Then, last season, he led the league with an average of 26.1 points per game over 18 contests. In total, Zaid recorded 951 points and 275 rebounds across his two seasons.
All good things come to an end at some point, but the Mariners remain in good hands with the returning talent that they have in 2018-19.
Leading the way will be the aforementioned Dorby and second-year forward Tyus Barfoot. Both players were key pieces a season ago, and will become the focal points this season. Dorby will be one of the conference’s best forwards, while Barfoot is one of the league’s brightest young stars.
As a first-year player in 2017-18, Barfoot finished second on the team in scoring, trailing only Zaid. He posted an average of 13.6 points per game while shooting 48.4% from the floor. His 6.3 rebounds per game were also good for the second-best mark on the team, once again behind Zaid (6.7 rpg).
Barfoot was a consistent presence on the offensive end of the floor, posting double-digit points in 15 of the Mariners’ 18 regular season games. Quest University gave Barfoot some troubles last season, as two of his three single-digit scoring performances came against the team from Squamish, B.C.
Alongside Barfoot in the Mariners’ front court with Barfoot will be Dorby, who will be entering his fourth year of eligibility. The 6’7” forward from Duncan, B.C. will be looking to build off last year’s Tournament All-Star selection and carry that level of success into the new season.
Dorby averaged 11.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest last season, while leading the team with a shooting percentage of 58.4% from the floor. Dorby shot 50% or better from the floor in 16 of the Mariners’ 18 regular season games, and he shot better than 70% in six of those games.
From January 19th through to February 2nd, a span of five games, Dorby shot at least 71.4% from the floor in each game. He shot 50% or better in each of VIU’s final 10 games to close the regular season.
Last season, the Mariners had four players start all 18 regular season games, and three of them are back this season, Barfoot and Dorby will be joined by guard Harry Fayle (8.6 ppg, 3.6 apg), and the trio will look to help the Mariners continue their recent run of success in the PacWest Conference.
The Mariners have just a pair of first-year players on their roster this season, in Calgary native Emmanuel Degal and Ryder Jenks from Nanaimo. They will have an experienced roster who will be looking to keep the Mariners on the podium come the conference championships, and they will be looking to propel VIU back to the CCAA National Championships after a brief one-year hiatus.
Over the last 10 years, Vancouver Island University has become the team to beat in the PacWest Conference. With four league championships and six silver medals over that span, there’s no denying that they remain the team to beat in the league.
With the departure of Zaid, new stars will emerge for the Mariners. Luckily, they already have a pair on their roster in Barfoot and Dorby who are more than capable of carrying the team on their quest for more hardware in 2018-19.
– T. Bennett