“Winning is always the priority. That’s the first thing.”
It’s a simple message, but maybe it’s the one the Fraser Valley Bandits need heading into their second season of existence. They were the only franchise to not make the postseason last year, and new head coach Kyle Julius is determined to change things for the better come early May.
“In order to be a playoff team, we’ve got to put together a group of guys that love each other and love winning first,” said Julius talking to BC Sports Hub. “When you love winning, you’ll do things for each other, you’ll play the right way. You’ll come early, you’ll stay late. When you have that chemistry, guys are really willing to make sacrifices.
Winning is tough, and when it comes to winning on great teams there’s a handful of guys that don’t play much. There’s a handful of guys that play small roles and a handful of guys that don’t get a lot of shots. We’ve got to have a group of guys that nobody cares who those guys are, and everybody does their job at a high level.”
And it’s hard to think of a better coach who has the pedigree of creating that winning culture than Julius. He set the National Basketball League of Canada (NBLC) single-season record with a 46-7 mark with the London Lightning. Over in Asia, he managed to turn the Saigon Heat into a consistent franchise in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).
Julius is dead set on getting the best players possible for this new incarnation of the Bandits. And to get that, it’s about offering the opportunity to grow as a basketball player and “add to their game.”
“Say you want a G-League player,” said Julius. “He’s going to have played 50 games in the G-League, he’s going to have taken a good beating during that season. You want him to know that he’s going to have athletic therapy at his disposal, he's going to have recovery tools at his disposal. He’s going to work with a coach who’s going to work on his game and gets better, has a weight room where he can add a little size. All while playing at a high level and get some more exposure.
I think if you have those things, players that love winning, players that love playing with each other, are great teammates and great character, they’re looking for those types of things.”
The style Julius likes to play is a good bet to be highly entertaining to watch. He plans to recruit players who can “play and guard multiple positions and we can play with tempo, switch defensively, and can push the floor.”
And Julius isn’t too worried about the passport of these players either. The Bandits loaded up on local talent in their inaugural season, with six players from BC on their active roster including two from Abbotsford in Marek Klassen and Joel Friesen. Next season, the Bandits may not have too many BC drivers licenses on their team, but still will be able to entertain the loyal fans who come to watch the Bandits in Abbotsford.
“I definitely want to help contribute and help grow the game in BC” he explained, “and I think [if] we can put together a great basketball team, young people and kids will see a great basketball team that plays the right way, high school players and coaches will see that, and I think that will help grow the game.
If that means we have BC players on the team then fantastic. And if we don’t I think we still provide a product where players and coaches, men’s and women’s teams can watch us and learn from us.”
The Bandits first game is May 8th, 2020 against the Saskatchewan Rattlers. Julius is expected to join the team in spring 2020.
Written by: Nick Bondi