KAMLOOPS ---As an elementary school student, Nick Sarai attended summer camps put on by the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack. At that time, he looked up to the student/athletes who acted as instructors at those camps. His love for the WolfPack, especially men’s basketball only got bigger as he grew.
Now, Sarai will get the chance to be one of those WolfPack student/athletes.
Sarai, who graduates from South Kamloops Secondary this spring has become the first recruit of Scott Clark and the WolfPack men’s basketball program for 2018-19.
“Growing up I always looked up to the players on the team and it is still a bit surreal that I will be one soon,” said Sarai who was named the MVP of the recent BC “AAA” high school basketball championships. The 6’2 guard led his South Kam Titans to the title.
“Nick is very familiar to me, the team and our program,” says Clark. “ From being with the Junior Wolves program in grade four to playing in our men’s spring league. We’ve been in contact for the last several years. When his season was over, we sat down and talked. I’m happy he’s decided to come to Thompson Rivers.”
Sarai’s coach at South Kam the last four years was former WolfPack basketball and soccer player Tim Unaegbu, whom Nick met all those years ago while attending a ‘multi-sport’ camp run by the WolfPack in the summer. “Nick was always ahead of kids his age group in skill development and focus,” Unaegbu recalls. “When we reconnected at South Kam, Nick impressed me with not only his dribbling and passing ability but also with his leadership skills.”
“I looked up to Tim as a role model way back at the camp and it was surreal that he got to be my coach the last few years,” Sarai laughs.
Added Unaegbu, “Nick’s work ethic and unselfishness as a player will help him ease into life as a student/athlete at Thompson Rivers. I have no doubt that he will be a character member of Coach Clark’s team right from the start.”
Sarai says his experience with a silver medal finish with the Titans in 2016-17 and this season’s gold medal championship at the BC Finals has only inspired him to move to the ‘next’ level with the WolfPack. “We were a little bummed out after losing last year. But collectively we made a pact to play for each other and it worked out this season. We are so close. Winning it this year in our grade 12 year was like the ‘cherry on top.’ Overcoming adversity and being able to get over the negatives and working hard to get to the top are things that I will bring to the WolfPack.”
“I feel like I am a pretty good shooter,” he says. “I can attack. I can score. I am a good ‘on ball’ defender. I think I am pretty quick. I think my game can fit well into Coach Clark’s system.”
“Nick is a winner,” Clark states. “He played on the provincial team this past summer (under former WolfPack assistant coach and current Douglas College head coach Joe Enevoldson). He has a love of the game. Those are important. You can’t teach the love of the game. The skill level is something that takes years and years to develop. He has done that. “
Sarai is blunt on the aspects of his game he needs to develop in order to make an impact with Thompson Rivers. “I need to get bigger physically. I will be playing against men and not boys. I am hoping to put on some weight (at least 10 pounds) as I work out all summer and am looking forward to my first year.”
He will be taking courses aimed at earning a Bachelor of Arts degree at Thompson Rivers with an eye to eventually taking the Police and Justice Program with the long range goal of being a police officer. “ I know that Coach Clark really cares about his athletes and stresses education. I plan to work hard in school as well. It will be an adjustment from high school but I am ready for the challenge.”
When asked what it will be like to don the WolfPack uniform for the first time and step onto the Warner Rentals court at the Tournament Capital Centre, “It will be surreal. Always coming to the games and hear them announce “Josh Wolfram or Chas Kok” it will be a good feeling to hear my name called.”
DOUBLE DRIBBLES: Sarai on being involved in the WolfPack’s community efforts, “I have always liked help out younger people with sports. I look forward to the opportunity. If I am asked to help out with the Junior Wolves program, it will be like coming ‘full circle. I will take what I learned from former players and look to pass those tips on. Maybe one day I will see one of those players on the WolfPack.”
Clark on seeing one of his former “Junior Wolves” move up to USPORTS, “When I started the program, I just wanted to help promote the sport and help young players with their skills (along with generate a little revenue for our program). I remember Ken (former Athletics Director Olynyk) said that the potential for this to pay off in player development will happen down the road, one of these little guys will want to become a basketball player and come play for you. Now that is the case,” he smiles.
How about any pressure being from Kamloops on the ‘Pack? “Maybe a little from my parents but I think it will be a good five years and we will be successful.”
Sarai becomes the fourth Kamloops area player to join the WolfPack. Joe Davis and Dean Lamphers (Westsyde Secondary) and Devin Halcrow (NorKam Secondary) are veterans on the squad. Halcrow and Sarai played regional basketball together growing up.
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