Bison men’s basketball team plays first exhibition game

On Wednesday Aug. 12 the Bison men’s basketball team took part in the first annual Hoops From The Heart fundraising exhibition event. The University of Winnipeg Wesmen started the evening by taking on a university/college all-star team and then the University of Manitoba Bisons played a second team of university/college all-star players. In two very close games at the U of M Investors Group Athletic Centre, both home teams defeated their all-star opponents.

The exhibition game was significant for the Bisons because it was their first game with new head coach Kirby Schepp. Also, the majority of the team consisted of newcomers who had not yet had the benefit of significant practice time together. Yet the Bisons did a fabulous job during the game, keeping a small lead at the end of each quarter. An elated Kirby Schepp said, “I couldn’t be happier right now. The team exceeded expectations — they played the right style and they played well.”

In addition to providing the 400 fans in attendance with exciting basketball action, it is perhaps even more significant to mention that the Hoops From The Heart event raised $1,000 in support of heart research at the St. Boniface Hospital and another $1,000 for the Basketballs for Inner City Kids Project. Each player from all four participating teams donated $20 towards both causes and each player also signed a basketball that was given to inner city youth who were in attendance at the game.

Dennis Bayomi, founder and coordinator of the Winnipeg-based non-profit, volunteer-driven Basketballs for Inner City Kids Project reported that some of the kids who were given basketballs at the game slept with their basketballs in bed that night. It was obviously a significant experience for the youth in attendance and Grant Pierce, one of the event’s organizers, hopes to have a bus sponsored for next year’s event in order to bring more inner-city youths out to the games.

The focus and enthusiasm towards community involvement and social responsibility that the organizers, players, and coaches showed with Hoops from the Heart should be applauded. Even the officials at the game and photographer Richelle McCullough donated their time to be there. Returning Bison forward Damian Drzewiec, who personally took the initiative to raise an additional $50 for the event’s two causes, was pleased with the event. He said, “it was nice to come out as a team and play well with one another and to give the kids something to remember. It was especially good to see the excitement in the kids’ faces.”

This inaugural event has been deemed a success by all involved. Plans are already in the works for next year, to make Hoops from the Heart an even bigger event.

Playing for the Wesmen were Nick Lother, Andrew Rowan, Mike James, Brayden Duff, Peter Lomuro, Ben Kingdon, Tyler Kohut, Mark Ridd, James Horaska, Ryan Willerton, and Eric Zimmerman. Their all-star opponents consisted of Kevin Oliver, Craig Sharpe, Drew Sharpe, Kevin Oman, Chad Posthumus, Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, Tarik Tokar, Khas Tokar, Ryan Froese, Marc Badiou, Jordan Reaves, and Trevor Scheurmann.

Playing for the Bisons were Nathan Dixon, Jonar Huertas, Cam Norrie, Trevor Assels, Eric Garcia, Richard Reimer, OJ Opap, Nick Miller, Dan Purvis-Collins, Kurtis Sanregrat, Braeden Speer, and Damian Drzewiec. Their all-star opponents consisted of Xavier Smith, Abe Daniels, Kyle Vince, Tim Rossy, Colin Tibbs, James Elias, Matt Pierce, Tyler Pierce, DJ Levy, and Nick Loewen.