One last helping of Gravy for hoop fansFifth-year centre Graves plans to savour his final home games
|Kyle Graves, the heart and soul of the UCFV men's basketball team, will play his final home games this week. The Cascades host UVic and UBC to wrap up the regular season.|
|photo by John Morrow|
As Kyle Graves prepares to take the floor for the final home games of his university hoops career this week, it's difficult to imagine the UCFV Cascades without him.
Indeed, over the past five years, the hulking six-foot-nine centre out of Sardis Secondary has become the face of the UCFV men's basketball team. Cut him, and you'd almost expect him to bleed the blue and green of the Cascades. He's the fan favourite, the heart and soul of the team, the emotional leader.
"When people think of UCFV basketball, they think of Kyle Graves," said first-year Cascades coach Barnaby Craddock. "I knew coming in this year that it was going to be a big plus for our program having a big guy in the middle who works as hard as he does. UCFV's going to miss him in the future."
Graves, the last remaining link to the Cascades' most recent national collegiate championship in 2004, got a little nostalgic this week as he contemplated his final home games against the UVic Vikes and the UBC Thunderbirds.
"I've been trying to appreciate the last few weeks -- hanging out with the guys before practices and games, stuff like that," said Graves, who expects around 100 friends, family and ex-teammates to be on hand on Saturday for his final home game against UBC. "I'm hoping to go out with one final bang by beating UBC this weekend, and then beating them in the playoffs."
Graves has been with the Cascades through thick and thin, and when he looks back at his five-year tenure at UCFV, two memories stand out. His most cherished recollection is of spraying champagne in the locker room after the Cascades won the national title in 2004.
"A lot of guys said they didn't realize how much the champagne stung in their eyes,” he remembered with a chuckle.
As much as he savoured the victories, Graves doesn't forget the tough defeats. Chief among them was a 59-52 upset loss to Mount Saint Vincent University in the opening game of nationals in 2006. The Cascades were the top-seeded team in the tournament, and the defeat cost them a shot at the national title.
"I've been through both sides of the emotional story," noted Graves, who thanked his parents for supporting him as he chased his hoop dreams at UCFV.
Of the three graduating seniors on the Cascades men's team, Graves is the lone player to spend all five seasons of eligibility at UCFV. Joel Haviland joined the team midway through the 2005-06 season, the Cascades' final year in the B.C. college ranks, while Anthony Lao transferred to UCFV from Langara College prior to the 2006-07 season.
For Lao, his senior year hasn't quite gone as planned. The six-foot-four guard has battled a litany of injuries, most notably a broken jaw, which caused him to miss a long stretch of games prior to Christmas.
Haviland, an Abbotsford product, is best known for his long-range shooting – his signature moment this season came on Jan. 11, when he drained a school-record eight three-pointers in a crucial 89-76 win over Trinity Western. But according to Craddock, Haviland's biggest impact has been his willingness to contribute in other areas of the game.
"We need guys that aren't just one-dimensional, and Joel's shown that with his ability to rebound the ball," said Craddock, noting that Haviland has hauled in double-figure rebounds in each of his last two outings.