Sunday April 20, 2014

The Pribilsky connection

Brothers enjoying new roles at TRU
Keith Anderson

Kevin Pribilsky (left), an assistant coach with the TRU WolfPack men’s basketball team, stands beside his brother, Reese, who starts at point guard for TRU.

When the TRU WolfPack men's basketball team tipped off for the first time this season, it wasn't the first time Reese and Kevin Pribilsky had shared a university basketball court.

It was however, the first time they'd done it as a part of the same team.

To clarify, they weren't sharing the court as players. Kevin had played his last game with the WolfPack the previous season, after three years with TRU and another two with the Simon Fraser Clan. In that time they had shared the court as players four times, Kevin, the starting point guard for the WolfPack, and Reese, coming off the bench for the Victoria Vikes.

This time, however, they shared the court with Kevin as an assistant coach and Reese as a player. It has been a year of transition for both brothers - Kevin's first as a member of a coaching staff and Reese's first as a member of the WolfPack.

"It's been fun, it's a very good experience actually," Kevin says. "It's quite a bit different playing than coaching, so it's a totally new experience where you don't have nearly as much control as you do a player, so that's sometimes a bit hard. But it's been good."

Reese, 21 to Kevin's 23, echoed his brother's sentiment and added he has enjoyed being coached by him. The Pribilskys both play point guard and are similar in terms of size, style of play and athletic ability, so he's been able to learn a lot from Kevin.

"He was an extremely smart basketball player when he played, so he's obviously got some good tips," Reese says. "He's very helpful for me, and the rest of the guys, too."

Back when Kevin first started his CIS career in 2008 with the Clan, he played under head coach Scott Clark. When Clark left the Clan in 2010 to become the head coach of the WolfPack, Kevin followed shortly after. He played three seasons with TRU, averaging 14.6 points per game in his final season.

Kevin's first season with the WolfPack was also Reese's first season as a member of the Vikes. They faced each other twice in that season and twice the following year as well. The brothers said those family match-ups were never all that awkward - something to look forward to more than anything - and it wasn't something they really thought about once the game started. Though now, years later, Reese still remembers the cold shoulder he used to get from his big brother on those nights.

"I remember actually, in shoot practice we had just finished and they were coming on and Reese was trying to get all chummy with me and saying 'Hi, how's it going?' and I snubbed him a little bit," Kevin says, with a smile. He later tried to justify it, "It was the day of the game; I didn't want to get distracted."

More awkward than the cold shoulder before the games though, were the dinners they shared with their parents afterwards; especially considering Reese was 4-0 in the Pribilsky match-ups.

After two seasons with Victoria, Reese decided to follow in his brother's footsteps and made the switch to TRU as well. Because of the CIS's rules governing transferring between institutions, he was forced to take a year off. He said it came at a good time for him; he was able to focus on what he wanted to do academically - he's studying business now - and he could earn some money and recharge in preparation for his eventual return to the hardwood.

It wasn't an easy year, but he said a number of things prompted it and he's happy with how things have worked out.

"Kevin had a great experience here, he played three years up here and he liked Scott and everything quite a bit, so he had a bit of influence on that," Reese says. "Playing-wise, kind of getting a change. I was born and raised in Victoria so it was good to get out of the city and experience things on my own for a little bit."

Getting out on his own seems to have agreed with him; in Victoria, Reese came off the bench most nights, whereas with TRU he has started all 10 games this season, averaging seven points and 4.6 assists.

The transition has been good for Kevin as well, and though he says there's been an awkward moment or two in his young coaching career, which was to be expected with a young coach working with players he played alongside just a season before. For the most part, he said the WolfPack has handled the transition just as well as he has - his former teammates are respectful of him, his knowledge and his abilities.

"He's got a natural feel for coaching, when to say stuff, when not to say it," Reese says.

"I think our basketball team has done a pretty good job so far of differentiating between on the court and off the court," Kevin adds. "On the court, it's basketball, it's high-level athletics and it's a competitive environment. Reese might be yelling at one of his best friends on the team or someone else is yelling at another player, and that's on the court, that's a competitive situation. Once you're off the court, that's kind of all forgotten."

With the first half of the WolfPack's Canada West season completed, all the additions and subtractions (five other players on the WolfPack's roster are new to TRU) seem to be working - the team currently holds down the second spot in the Canada West's Pacific division with a 6-4 record. The first-place team is Reese's alma mater, the 9-1 Victoria Vikes.

While the WolfPack and the Vikes have yet to face each other this season - their first games will come on the penultimate weekend of the season - they're sure to be big games, not only for the WolfPack, but, more individually, for Reese.

"Obviously, just competitive nature, I'd like to come out on top, ahead of them," Reese says. His teammates were surprised by his decision to leave the consistently strong Victoria, for the often-middling TRU, but he tried to tell them he was headed to a pretty good team. "It's kind of fun to see how our record's been pretty good, better than a lot of people expected."

Their parents won't have any divided allegiances at the games that weekend either, and dinner afterwards won't be quite as awkward. Just one of the many reasons the Pribilskys seem to have found their fits in Kamloops.

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