Guard AJ Basi and post Brett Jewell have left a permanent impression on the Bison men’s basketball team over the past five years, and have been fixtures in the starting lineup.
This past season, the two local products helped lead the herd back to nationals for the first time since 1985. While the end result wasn’t what they would’ve hoped, the journey itself was just as fun. The Manitoban sat down and talked to both players; they shared about their time playing for Manitoba.
The Manitoban: What was it like to finish your career off at nationals with coach Schepp, someone you both know quite well?
Brett: I wasn’t really highly recruited out of high school, and I was going to go to U of M anyways for my education and that’s when I met with Kirby. Kirby saw something in me, I gave it a shot and five years later, to still have a role and on a national team, is pretty cool.
M: What was your nationals experience like?
AJ: It’s an unreal experience to be a part of, and it’s an honour just to be here and to be recognized as one of the best teams in the country. Definitely years ago this would have been a far-fetched dream. I think the fact that we took steps every single year to get closer and closer to climbing the situation and to be able to get to nationals and get a Can West silver medal, it’s been a blessing of a last year and it’s really capped off the journey.
B: Just getting here, and realizing the teams that are here, we can compete with them, and now the younger guys travelling can get to see what the competition level is like at nationals, and kind of realizing that we belong here. It’s going to raise the program up.
M: What would you say is the biggest development you made as a player during your university career?
AJ: I think the biggest development I made was maturing over my time here, and becoming a leader. That was something that wasn’t probably expected of me in my earlier years. Coach talked to me in my third year and fourth year and started pushing me to take on more of a leadership role and lead by example for younger guys. Not even basketball-skill related, coach sort of challenged me and helped me develop as a person and as a leader.
M: Aside from nationals, what has stood out for you during your five years with Manitoba?
AJ: I think the relationships and sort of the culture that we formed around this team and around this program now, is really starting to stick out. I thought Coach has done a phenomenal job ever since he stepped foot at the U of M in making it sort of a local core and then build up from there. I think the character of guys and the people that he brought together on the team kind of sticks out.
B: I just remember the playoff games and every year we sort of took a step forward. The last two seasons together ended in Calgary and to go to Calgary this year and beat them in the semi-finals was pretty special. We started to see the kind of team we were and the kind of team we could be and sort of coming in to our potential.