Starting Five: Manroop Clair, Mambi Diawara Guide UBC, Calgary to Perfect Weeks

Mambi Diawara, Emmanuel Owootoah
This past week, Mambi Diawara (middle) and the Calgary Dinos swept the Battle of Alberta with the Alberta Golden Bears, pushing their record to 4-0 in Canada West play. (Source: Calgary Sun) (Header: UBC Thunderbirds)

SARNIA, Ontario — The defending national champions have their sights set on keeping the trophy in Calgary for another year.

Last year, the Calgary Dinos secured the program’s first-ever men’s basketball national championship with a two-point win over the Ryerson Rams. This season, the Dinos are off to a hot start, beginning the season with a 4-0 record and they have a sweep of their provincial rivals under their belts to top it all off. This past week, the Dinos swept their two games against the Alberta Golden Bears to remain tied atop the Canada West standings and within striking distance of the Carleton Ravens atop the U Sports Top 10 rankings.

Calgary is tied atop the Canada West standings with the UBC Okanagan Heat with matching 4-0 records. Both teams are off to hot starts, thanks in large part to some of their veteran players. In fact, the teams near the top of the conference standings are being driven by veteran players on both ends of the court.

This past week was no exception. Veterans from across the conference put their teams on their backs and carried them to some impressive victories. Five of them stood out above the rest, and they make up this week’s Starting Five.

Starting Five: Oct. 29 – Nov. 4, 2018

Manroop Clair – UBC Thunderbirds

25 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 1 steal in 89-63 win at Victoria
21 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals in 87-81 win vs. Victoria

Through the first two weeks of Canada West play, the newcomers are paying immediate dividends for the UBC Thunderbirds. Last week, it was Jadon Cohee who took on a starring role for the team. This time around, it was Manroop Clair who took the lead while helping the Thunderbirds sweep their weekend series with the Victoria Vikes. Both Cohee and Clair bring a wealth of experience with them after transferring from NCAA programs, and they have the talent to carry the team on the court throughout the season.

The Thunderbirds were on the road against Victoria to open the weekend, and Clair ensured that they went home with a win under their belts. Clair went for 25 points, seven rebounds, and three assists to help UBC pick up the 89-63 win. Back on their home court, the Thunderbirds found themselves in a closer contest than the first meeting of the week, but the end result was all the same. Clair posted 21 points, four rebounds, three assists, and two steals in the 87-81 win for the Thunderbirds to complete the weekend sweep.

Clair averaged 23.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, and 1.5 steals over the weekend sweep of Victoria.

Aldrich Berrios – UBC Okanagan Heat

25 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal in 84-79 win vs. Brandon
14 points, 5 rebounds, 5 assists, 3 steals in 83-82 win vs. Brandon

Quietly, the UBC Okanagan Heat are sitting at 4-0 on the young Canada West season, a result that few saw coming before the season began. A pair of road wins over the Trinity Western Spartans to close out October saw the Heat open the season 2-0 and reverse their fortunes after going 0-3 in preseason play. This week, Aldrich Berrios and the Heat welcomed the Brandon Bobcats to town, and thanks to another pair of wins, the Heat are one of just three teams left in the conference without a loss to their name.

The Heat found themselves in two close games with the Bobcats during the week. In their first meeting, Berrios posted 25 points, five rebounds, five assists, and one steal to help the Heat keep their winning streak going with an 84-79 victory over Brandon. The next night, UBC Okanagan had to sweat things out down to the final buzzer. The Heat came away with a nail-biting 83-82 victory, and Berrios stuffed the stat sheet once more. He went for 14 points, five rebounds, five assists, and three steals in the victory.

For the week, Berrios averaged 19.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, and 2.0 steals per game while helping the Heat remain unbeaten.

Mambi Diawara – Calgary Dinos

22 points, 9 rebounds, 6 assists, 2 steals in 88-77 win vs. Alberta
23 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals in 74-68 win at Alberta

Rivalry games tend to bring out the best in star players, regardless of the sport. Over the weekend, the Calgary Dinos and the Alberta Golden Bears went head-to-head in the Canada West edition of the Battle of Alberta. Calgary hosted Alberta to open the week, while the Golden Bears hosted the second game on Saturday. Mambi Diawara, the hero in last year’s National Championship game, led the way for the Dinos as they swept their provincial rivals to remain unbeaten on the year.

In the first meeting between Calgary and Alberta, the Dinos held down their home court with an 88-77 win. Diawara flirted with a triple-double, recording 22 points, nine rebounds, six assists, and two steals in the win. From there, the Dinos went on the road to Alberta looking for the sweep in the weekend series. The Dinos came away with the 74-68 win, and Diawara was at the forefront of the attack again. He posted 23 points, seven rebounds, three rebounds, and three steals in the victory for his second straight strong performance.

Over the weekend, Diawara averaged 22.5 points, 8.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists, and 2.5 steals per game. Calgary is one of just two unbeaten teams left in the conference (UBC Okanagan, Lethbridge Pronghorns).

Zac Overwater – Lethbridge Pronghorns

15 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 steal, 1 block in 92-54 win vs. MacEwan
22 points, 11 rebounds, 3 assists, 3 steals, 2 blocks in 96-79 win vs. MacEwan

Zac Overwater and the Lethbridge Pronghorns added to the dismal start to the season for the MacEwan Griffins over the weekend. The Griffins came to Lethbridge on the heels of back-to-back losses to Calgary to open the season, and the Pronghorns extended their losing streak to four games when the week was over. For Lethbridge, the games at home against MacEwan were their first contests of the year, and Overwater made sure that the Pronghorns came away with a pair of convincing wins.

In the Pronghorns’ opener, Overwater went for 15 points, eight rebounds, four assists and one steal in the 92-54 win. The next night out, the Pronghorns recorded another double-digit win, pushing their record to 2-0 with a 96-79 victory. Overwater recorded his first double-double of the season, posting 22 points and 11 rebounds in the win. He also recorded three assists, three steals, and two blocks for a strong all-round performance.

For the week, Overwater averaged 18.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.5 assists, and 2.0 steals per game in two wins for the Pronghorns.

Jovan Leamy – UNBC Timberwolves

34 points, 10 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 block in 84-82 win vs. Winnipeg
13 points, 6 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals in 96-81 loss vs. Winnipeg

Through four games this season, Jovan Leamy has been a consistent presence on the offensive end of the floor for the UNBC Timberwolves. After opening the season with a pair of road wins against the Mount Royal Cougars, the Timberwolves returned home to take on the Winnipeg Wesmen. While the Timberwolves and Wesmen split the two games over the weekend, Leamy continued his hot start to the season.

In the first game of the weekend with Winnipeg, the Timberwolves came away with the 84-82 victory to push their record to 3-0 on the year. Leamy went for 34 points and 10 rebounds on the night. The next night, the Wesmen handed the Timberwolves their first loss of the season, 96-81. Leamy led the way for UNBC, posting 13 points, six rebounds, and three steals in the loss. For the season, Leamy is averaging a team-high 21.0 points per game while shooting 44.6% from the field and 40.7% from three-point range.

Leamy averaged 23.5 points and 8.0 rebounds per game over the course of the weekend.

– T. Bennett

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