While the seasoned starters on the Dinos men's basketball team deserve recognition for the best year the squad has had in a long time, one of the team's greatest strengths as a group was its depth. With 228 minutes of playing time and 41 points this year, rookie Brendan Groat was an integral part of that support system.
Earlier this winter, the first-year engineering student was able to spare a lunch break to sit down with the Gauntlet and reflect on his budding basketball career.
Groat started off in his hometown of Lloydminster, where he was involved in football, track and field as well as basketball with the Lloydminster Composite Barons. In grade 10, Groat went on to star at Ross Shepard High School in Edmonton where he won a provincial championship. Although that was his only provincial victory, the Barons were in the provincial top 10 the following two years, giving him plenty of playoff experience.
Although experience can't hurt, one might say basketball runs in Groat's blood. With an ex-University of Alberta Golden Bear for a father and a sister presently playing high school ball, it appears Groat's athletic prowess might be genetic. Either way, his familial support system has been a major benefit to his career.
"My dad has been my coach for almost all my life," said Groat. "[My parents] started up the basketball league in Lloydminster that thousands of kids have gone through."
With everything going for him, Groat drew the attention of scouts from all over Canada, as well as recruiters from American schools including Princeton and Brown.
"I had no idea where [I would play] until April when I finally made the decision," he said.
Groat cites the Sixth Man Program as one major reason for choosing to attend University of Calgary. The program allows him to play on a scholarship this year, and matches players with mentors who provide career advice and assist in finding summer work. The U of C engineering program also appealed to Groat, not to mention the basketball team.
"[I felt] I could step in and contribute," he reflected. "I really didn't know what to expect, but being a 6ïz
Once here, he was amazed at how many guys score and at the depth of the team's bench.
Then, as all athletes fear, Groat was hit with an injury in his second game.
Dislocating and breaking his thumb, he found himself out of practice for a month and out of the lineup for six weeks, making it hard to learn the team's offensive plays. This setback makes it all the more impressive that Groat was so dominant once he returned. With the physical build of a more mature player, Dinos Head Coach Dan Vanhooren described him succinctly as "ready." For now, however, Groat has modest goals.
"I need to get the ball to guys who can score," he said. "[I need] to rebound and play defence."
In the future, Groat hopes to play in the pro leagues of Europe, but for now his focus is on nationals. With players like him coming off the bench, the Dinos have little to fear.