By: Isabella Urbani, Sports Editor & Charlene Aviles, Staff Writer
It’s been one year since the SFU men’s basketball team played a game, after opting out of the 2020–21 season. The Peak interviewed two key contributors to the success of the men’s basketball team: Jas Singh and Wilfried Balata before their tournament in LA on November 12. The two shared about their personal basketball journey, their expectations on the season, and the resumption of unfinished rivalries.
While basketball teams’ ratings may shift over time, Singh and Balata cautioned against relying only on their seventh place ranking in the 2021–22 Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) Preseason Coaches Poll. “We know what we are capable of and what we can accomplish. We don’t let outside noise like rankings define us as a team,” said Balata. On the other hand Singh said, “I was offended by being ranked seventh, I know that we are better than that. At the end of the day it’s just a preseason ranking and it doesn’t carry much weight once the season tips off.”
Following LA, SFU returned home to play in the SFU Showcase against Central Washington and UBC — a longtime rival. In order to secure two wins, Singh reckons the team will need to recover, and play to their strength of dealing with tight turnarounds. Balata also emphasized the team’s “recovery from travel and preparation” for the upcoming games.
Both Singh and Balata are looking forward to the UBC Showdown.
“That [game] is definitely circled,” said Singh, “Their assistant coach used to be an assistant for us, there are siblings that will be playing against each other and a lot of local BC talent that hasn’t played against each other in a long time.”
The ever composed Balata pointed out it’s just another game for the team.
Heading into the season these two fierce competitors will look to set the record straight and get SFU off to an electric start, and they have the strengths and skills to back it up.
Singh is a senior on the men’s basketball team. Despite not playing last season, he was unanimously selected for the 2021–22 GNAC Preseason All-Conference Team. This was based on his team leading 16.1 point average from the 2019–20 season.
When asked about being included in the elite team of 15 players, he looked at it as a future teaching point. “I hope I can be a good example for some kids, not many Indo Canadians get a chance to play post-secondary basketball, let alone NCAA basketball.” Singh made the transition to SFU after playing for Northwest University in Seattle, Washington.
Heading into the season, the team will have to make do with a packed schedule that sees them playing in back-to-back tournaments. As a senior, Singh holds himself accountable for the team’s performance. “Our coaching staff expects a lot out of me, whether that’s scoring, facilitating, initiating the offence — I’m ready for whatever they throw my way [ . . . ] we have young guys on the team and I challenge them a lot in practice.”
In an interview with SFU Athletics, SFU headcoach Steve Hanson spoke about his pride over the star forward’s humbleness over his personal accolades. “Jas doesn’t care about the personal accolades. He wants to do what is right for his team to win.” In response, Singh mentioned his coach’s trust as a big indicator of his upward game play at SFU.
Position: Shooting/point guard
Balata is a junior on the men’s basketball team. At the start of his university basketball career, he began achieving milestones by placing 12th in the GNAC scoring, with an average of 13.6 points per game.
Balata explained when you’re fully dedicated to basketball, you make time for practice. As part of his pre-game routine, he eats a light meal, stretches, and listens to New York rap music. “Reminds me of humble beginnings, and goals I’m trying to reach,” he said.
After Balata received basketball advice from his prep school coaches to work hard, basketball transitioned from his hobby to a goal. His motto is “the amount of work that you put into the game will never fail you.” His motivation comes from his dream of being a professional basketball player.
Through basketball, Balata has learned the importance of teamwork. He learned to adapt to different situations by treating his teammates with empathy. “Communication is the key to almost everything in life, I’d say. Being able to take in criticism and give some.”
Mark your calendars! You can see Singh and Balata in action at home on Tuesday, December 7 against Douglas College. Until then, the team will be playing a series of away games starting off in Colorado with the Thanksgiving Classic.