Creighton and Weber State Highlight Labour Day Weekend

Filed under: — Matt Skinn @ 11:19 am

CALGARY – Two NCAA Division I conference champions top the bill for the 2007 Battle of the Border men’s basketball tournament hosted by the University of Calgary Dinos over the upcoming Labour Day weekend.

The Creighton Bluejays and Weber State Wildcats both qualified for the NCAA Tournament in March, each losing their first round games. They will join the host Dinos along with the Saskatchewan Huskies, the Lethbridge Pronghorns, and a team of current and former Mount Royal College Cougars players for the three-day event in the Jack Simpson Gym Sept. 1-3.

“This is a great opportunity for our players to compete against quality opponents who have the ability to beat us on any given night,” said Dinos head coach Dan Vanhooren. “It’s something we can learn from right off the start so we have a good idea what we need to work on for the rest of the year, helping us prepare for the competition we’re going to face in Canada West.”

After losing a pair of contests to the Wyoming Cowboys in the Dinos’ initial foray into hosting NCAA teams one year ago, Vanhooren believes his team will be competitive with the American schools this time around.

“Both teams are excellent opponents, both having been to the NCAA Tournament last year,” he said. “Our expectation is to be competitive and, after that, we’ll see what happens.”

“I’m excited to play against high-level opponents and teams of that calibre,” said forward Henry Bekkering. “And this is important for the basketball community in Calgary. You don’t see a lot of Division I tournament teams coming to play in Canada, so it would be great to see fans out to support us, not just for these games, but to support Canadian basketball.”

Creighton was ranked in the preseason polls last year and was among the favourites to be ‘the next George Mason’ in 2007. After winning their sixth Missouri Valley Conference title in nine years, the Omaha, Nebraska-based Bluejays headed to the NCAA Tournament for the seventh time in the same nine-year period. Seeded tenth, they faced seventh-seeded and No. 15-ranked
Nevada in the opening round at New Orleans, where they went to overtime before falling 77-71. Creighton finished the 2006-07 season with a 22-11 record, its ninth straight 20-win season.

Head coach Randy Rahe of Weber State did a masterful job in his first year on the Ogden, Utah campus, leading the Wildcats to a 20-12 record and the Big Sky Conference championship. The Wildcats, however, were knocked out in the first round of the NCAA Tournament 70-42 by powerhouse UCLA, who went all the way to the Final Four before falling to eventual national champion
Florida. Rahe was named the Big Sky Coach of the Year and recently signed a two-year contract extension that will keep him on the Wildcats bench through 2012.

Three of the four Central Division schools from Canada West will represent Canada at the event. Calgary and Saskatchewan, the defending division champion, will each face Creighton twice and Weber State once, while Lethbridge will have a single match-up with each American school.

Key recruits Tyler Fidler and Jeff Price will see their first game action with the Dinos, and fans will have their first chance to see Henry Bekkering on the floor in the Jack. Fidler, a member of the junior national team, is a 6’9″ shooting guard out of Western Canada High School. One of the most sought-after players coming out of high school in the country, Fidler decided on Calgary after several offers from across Canada and the NCAA. Price was an All-Canadian at Mount Royal College, where he averaged 18.2
points per game en route to his selection as the Cougars’ male athlete of the year.

Henry Bekkering will finally get the opportunity to suit up alongside his brother Ross in a game situation, having missed the 2006-07 season due to the transfer rule. He spent two seasons at Eastern Washington of the NCAA before making the decision to return to Canada. A 6’7″, 245-pound forward, Bekkering was selected by the Calgary Stampeders in the 2007 CFL College Draft as a receiver.

The Saskatchewan Huskies, led by All-Canadian Andrew Spagrud, return all five starters from their 2006-07 team that went 13-9 in conference play and defeated Alberta for the division title. Lethbridge, meanwhile, struggled to a 6-16 record last year and will return only three players. However, head coach Mike Connolly was active on the recruiting front, bringing in several
new faces including Allen Tollestrup, a sought-after shooting guard and cousin to Dinos quarterback Dalin Tollestrup.

All three schools will battle it out with Alberta in the always-tight Central Division this season, with an extra incentive: the Central champion will host the conference Final Four tournament in early March.

The teams will play using FIBA rules in advance of CIS’s national move away from NCAA rules in 2007-08. Key differences include four 10-minute quarters rather than 20-minute halves, a 24-second shot clock, and more limited time out opportunities.

Tickets for the Battle of the Border are now on sale. Individual games are $10 each, while a tournament pass goes for $50. Children under six are free. To purchase tickets, call (403) 220-DINO or email tickets@ucalgary.ca.


All games in the Jack Simpson Gym

Saturday, September 1

11:00 am Creighton vs. Saskatchewan

4:00 pm Weber State vs. Lethbridge

7:00 pm Creighton vs. Calgary

Sunday, September 2

10:30 am Mt. Royal All-Stars vs. Weber State

1:00 pm Creighton vs. Lethbridge

5:30 pm Calgary vs. Weber State

7:00 pm Saskatchewan vs. Creighton

Monday, September 3

10:00 am Weber State vs. Saskatchewan

12:00 pm Creighton vs. Calgary

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