UBC Okanagan Heat Have Playoff Dreams in 2019-20 After Falling Short Last Season

Berrios, Aldrich
Replacing Aldrich Berrios, above, and Triston Matthews won’t be east, but first-year Head Coach Clayton Pottinger returns a group that has its sights set on making the playoffs in 2019-20. (Source: Independent Sport News) (Header: UBC Okanagan Heat)

KELOWNA, BC — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.

To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.

That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.

From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.

Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.

Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the men’s basketball program for the UBC Okanagan Heat.

2018-19 in Review

The UBC Okanagan Heat turned some heads last season with their strong start to the year, but their momentum was short-lived.

Out of the gates, the Heat turned heads in the Canada West. They opened the year with four straight wins, sweeping their weekend sets against both the Trinity Western Spartans and the Brandon Bobcats to start the year 4-0. Despite three losses over their next four games, they posted a record of 5-3 over their first eight contests.

The Heat had the look of a team who could make some noise as the season went along. Instead, they went rather quiet down the stretch.

From November 23rd through to January 12th, the Heat endured an eight-game losing streak to steal away any positive momentum they had from their 5-3 start to the season. Five of their losses over that stretch came by at least 20 points.

The worst of them all came at the hands of the UBC Thunderbirds on January 4th. It was the first game of the 2019 calendar year, and the Heat suffered a 100-29 loss on the road. In fact, the Heat were held without a point in the second quarter. The Thunderbirds outscored the Heat by a 31-0 margin in the second quarter to put the game out of reach with 20 minutes still to play.

Despite their losing streak, the Heat found themselves in contention for the 12th and final playoff spot in the Canada West. They posted a 7-13 record for the year, narrowly missing the playoffs by a game. The Heat finished in 13th place, and at year’s end, the attention quickly shifted to the 2019-20 campaign.

Heading into the new season, the Heat will have a new Head Coach leading the way, and they will enter without their top two players from last season. One graduated, while the other transferred within the Canada West to continue his basketball career.

Who’s Gone?

From last year’s team that narrowly missed the playoffs, the Heat lose two players from their roster. While the number of departures isn’t large, the impact that the players had on both sides of the ball is, and the Heat will be in tough to replace their production.

In terms of graduating players, the Heat will be without star guard Aldrich Berrios (Burnaby, BC). Berrios was key to every facet of the game for the Heat, and his presence will surely be missed. He averaged 38.5 points per contest last season while starting all 20 regular season games. Berrios led the team in assists and steals per game while finishing second on the team in scoring.

For the year, Berrios averaged 14.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists, and 1.9 steals per game while shooting 41.8% from the floor and 33.9% from three-point range. He was an excellent two-way player for UBC Okanagan, giving the team an impact player on both ends of the floor.

On December 1st against the Fraser Valley Cascades, Berrios recorded a triple-double in the Heat’s 80-60 loss. He went for 15 points, 10 rebounds, and 11 assists in 39 minutes of action.

Matthews, Triston
Leading scorer Triston Matthews transferred to the UBC Thunderbirds for the 2019-20 season, leaving the Heat without their top two scorers from last year. (Source: Kelowna Capital News)

In terms of transfers, the Heat lost their leading scorer from last year’s team to another team in the Canada West. Guard Triston Matthews (North Vancouver, BC) committed to the UBC Thunderbirds after three seasons at UBC Okanagan.

Last season, Matthews led the way for the Heat with an average of 17.2 points and 7.2 rebounds per game, both of which were team-high marks. He added 1.6 assists and 1.3 steals per outing, while shooting 418% from the floor and 35.8% from three-point range.

Both Berrios and Matthews will be tough to replace, especially in the back court. With that said, the Heat return several key contributors in 2019-20, a group that includes one of the brightest young stars in the Canada West who will be looking to build off a strong first season.

Who’s Back?

Losing their top two producers from last season will be a tough challenge to overcome for the Heat, but UBC Okanagan has their share of talent back from last year’s team. The returnees will be looking to use their experiences from last season to help the team climb back into the playoff picture this time around.

Leading the way in terms of returning talent is second-year guard Hafith Moallin (Mississauga Ont.). Moallin is the top scorer and rebounder back for the Heat this season. The Mississauga native is coming off his inaugural Canada West season, one that saw him earn a spot on the Canada West All-Rookie Team at year’s end.

Moallin averaged 12.0 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game last season, shooting 38.5% from the field and 36.7% from three-point range in the process. He put together 11 games with at least 10 points, and he closed the season with some of his best basketball of the season. Moallin recorded double-digit points in four of the Heat’s last five contests, and he will look to continue that momentum into the new campaign.

Philip Okanlawon (Calgary, Alta.) will be looking to have a more consistent season on offense in 2019-20. To start the year, Okanlawon posted a combined 51 points in the opening series against Trinity Western. He went for 20 points in the season opener, and then he followed that up with 31 points the next night.

For the season, Okanlawon averaged 11.6 points and 4.4 rebounds per contest on 39.4% shooting from the field. He recorded 11 games with at least 10 points, but most of those came in the first half of the season. Over the final six games of the year, Okanlawon recorded just one game with double-digit points. In 2019-20, Okanlawon will look to be more consistent on offense, especially down the stretch. With the departures, all signs point to a big year for the Calgary native.

Another player looking for a more consistent season on offense is Jacob Stokker (Penticton, BC). Stokker closed out the 2018 calendar year with four straight games in double-figures, and he will be looking to have that same level of consistent play over the course of the 2019-20 season. Stokker averaged 7.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season.

The Heat also welcome back David Okoroafor (Toronto, Ont.) and Jarrett Larsen (Kamloops, BC) to the mix in 2019-20. Okoroafor is coming off a season in which he averaged 5.3 points and 2.4 rebounds per game over his 12 regular season appearances. He will be looking to take on an expanded role this season and give the Heat an increased level of production on both ends of the court.

Larsen saw the floor in 18 games over the regular season, making three starts along the way. He averaged 4.3 points and 2.3 rebounds per game while shooting 40.3% from the floor.

UBC Okanagan will have its share of talent back this season as they look to make it back to the post-season. Pottinger has added three players to the mix in his first recruiting class, and he’s hoping that they can make an impact right away.

Incoming Talent

Starting a new job late in the off-season has its challenges and limitations. For Pottinger, the biggest challenge was filling out the roster.

“Recruiting has been the biggest challenge,” said Pottinger. “I started the process much later than normal due to being hired a bit late.”

Still, Pottinger feels as though the Heat have added some intriguing pieces to the puzzle.

“We have a combination of size, athleticism and experience that should help us to be competitive.”

In the back court, the Heat add guards Prabhtej Deol (Kelowna, BC) and Imoudu Ibrahim (Calgary, Alta.) to the mix. Deol stands at 6’4’’, and is coming to UBC Okanagan from Rutland Secndary. At 6’6’’, Ibrahim gives the Heat some size in the back court, and he joins the Heat from Edge Prep.

Up front, the Heat get a big boost by way of centre Sam Matice (Prince Albert, Sask.). The 7’0’’ big man comes to UBC Okanagan after a stint with the South Georgia Tech Jets in the NJCAA. Matice gives the Heat a big body in the paint, and a size advantage over most other forward rotations in the conference.

Their recruiting class may be small, but the Heat have added three players who add depth and size to the mix. All three should have the opportunity to shine right away as the Heat look to build their new rotation in training camp.

UBC Okanagan started the 2018-19 season on the right foot, but they cooled off shortly thereafter and eventually missed the playoffs by a game.

The Heat are hoping that the 2019-20 season will yield a different result. The bulk of the team is expected back from last year, and with the experience of last year’s up-and-down ride fresh in their minds, they will be looking to use that experience to better themselves this time around.

With one of the top young stars leading the way this season and a new coach leading the way, the UBC Okanagan Heat will be looking to find their way back into the playoffs and bounce back after just missing out a season ago.

Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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