Metro Vancouver…..As the KPU Eagles men’s basketball team continue to prepare for the 2014/15 PACWEST CCAA regular season under first-year head coach Vladimir Nikić, their defensive strategies were given a tune-up courtesy of former Canadian Senior Women’s National Team (SWNT) head coach, Allison McNeill.
Coach McNeill worked with the team during practice at the Eagles’ Nest in Surrey, BC on October 25th for two action-packed hours. Joined by her husband and former assistant coach Mike McNeill, McNeill gave the Eagles and coaching staff valuable instruction, immediate feedback, and strong insight into the strategies and skills used to propel the SWNT into their Top 8 finish at the London 2012 Olympics and Top 9 FIBA ranking in the world.
McNeill coached 16 years with the National program, which included 11 years and 184 games as the head coach. Under her leadership, the SWNT steadily improved and gained valuable international experience at various FIBA tournaments and Olympic qualifiers. No stranger to the university-level in both Canada and the US, McNeill held coaching positions with the University of Oregon Ducks (NCAA Div I) and with Simon Fraser University (CIAU and NAIA) where the Clan were regular contenders at both conference and national championships while in the NAIA. As a player McNeill was also a two-time National champion with the Laurentian Voyageurs (OWIAA, CIAU) as well as a starting guard for the Oregon Ducks.
KPU Eagles men's basketball's (LtoR) Trevor Schulz, Devan Haynes, and Matt Cooley take in Coach Allison McNeill's lesson at the Eagles' Nest
“When you have an Olympian who is one of the most prestigious coaches in the world, and in FIBA basketball, come to your gym, its priceless,” stated Coach Nikić, “ For them to come and watch your game is special, but for them to be involved in your practice it means even more.”
This is the first time the Eagles’ men’s basketball team have been coached by McNeill, and the response from the players and coaching staff has been overwhelmingly positive. Fifth-year Eagles point guard and captain James Bradshaw, Delta, BC, and first-year forward Nick Smith, Surrey, BC were thrilled with the opportunity to work with elite coaches and saw the benefits of the practice right away in their next pre-season exhibition game.
Bradshaw noted, “It was a great experience for the team and we picked up a lot of valuable tips that will help us out in the regular season. We focused a lot on ‘man-on-man’ as well as the importance of communicating with teammates. On behalf of the team I would like to thank both Allison and Mike for coming in to work with us.”
Smith added, “The session was very helpful in that it improved our basketball IQ. We worked on defensive rotations that made us more disciplined as we execute our movements. We had to read and react better during the play, in order to adjust more quickly to the opponent’s attack.”
At the forefront of the Eagles goals are to create a culture of excellence that includes emphasis on respect, hard work, and accountability on the court, as well as off. To Coach Nikić, the values and example that McNeill sets in the basketball community is what he wants to implement within his own program. “In addition to the impeccable knowledge, Allison’s positive attitude and outstanding character exemplifies the integrity she brings to the Canadian basketball community,” he said. “Allison’s determination and desire to help, teach, and mentor young coaches like myself, this not only improves basketball in Canada but more importantly it inspires ourselves and our players to work harder and be better people.”
In regards to the Eagles, Coach Nikić sees great improvement in his team in their short months together. The practice with McNeill gave his team valuable skills, and the coaches have already seen this work in action in the remaining games in the preseason exhibition season. ”A lot of learning took place in the gym, from both the player and coaching perspectives,” he stated, “She showed us that we are on the right track. It was very rewarding for us to receive her insight as it will contribute to making us a better team.”
The 2014/15 KPU Eagles men's basketball team and Coaches Allison and Mike McNeill
Coach Nikić and the team look forward to the start of the regular season on the road tomorrow in Abbotsford versus the CBC Bearcats. The women’s team tips off at 6:00pm while the men’s team tips off at 8:00pm.
For photos of the Allison and Mike McNeill’s practice with the Eagles, please visit our Flickr link: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kpueagles/sets/72157648823048855/
Photo Credit: KPU Sports Information
Additional Sources: Canada Basketball, Allison McNeill
For more information on the Department of Athletics & Recreation, please contact Junelle Mah, sports information and marketing, at 604-786-0804 or at email@example.com.
The KPU Eagles Department of Athletics & Recreation enters its 14th season of interuniversity competition. The Eagles are members of the PACWEST conference and play in the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) with 100 student-athletes participating on eight varsity teams in men’s and women’s basketball, soccer, badminton and golf. KPU athletics plays its home games at the Eagles’ Nest (Surrey Campus), Northview Golf & Country Club, Newton Athletic Park, all located in Surrey, BC and the Ace Badminton Centre in Richmond, BC. The Eagles are active in the conference with staff members on various advisory committees and competing to host both provincial and national championships. The student-athletes are mainly from the lower mainland but KPU’s rosters have included student-athletes from North America, South America, Asia and Europe.