When Justin King, a guard for the TRU WolfPack men's basketball team, was nearing the end of his high school career in Las Vegas, going to Canada was on his mind as much as was going to Jupiter.
Canada also was even an afterthought for Chas Kok, despite the fact the WolfPack forward grew up in Lynden, Wash., which is about six kilometres from Aldergrove.
Somehow, both of these men have found their way to the WolfPack (2-2), which is scheduled to continue its Canada West season with a pair of weekend road games in Victoria. The WolfPack and Vikes (4-0) will face off Friday and Saturday.
Kok, a fifth-year sciences student, started his postsecondary career with the Skagit Valley Community College Cardinals, before transfering to the Simon Fraser Clan in 2009-10. He eventually made his way to Kamloops before 2010-11, following head coach Scott Clark from SFU.
"Not many people really talk about (Canada), even though we were right next to the border," said Kok. "I'm one of those guys who always wants to play, and when I heard that (SFU) was interested, I thought, why not?"
King also ended up at TRU after spending two seasons at Skagit Valley. He spent much of his childhood in Riverside, Calif., before his family moved to Vegas when he was 12.
Canada must have seemed like a world away from Vegas.
"In my mind, I just wanted to play at a university," King said. "Coming out of high school, that was my goal, but I couldn't get into a university, so I went to junior college.
"Even when I was there, I still didn't think about going to a different country."
The hoopsters aren't the only Americans wearing the WolfPack colours these days.
The TRU men's volleyball team also features a pair, with Jacob Tricarico of Huntington Beach, Calif., and Chris Osborne of Phoenix playing their first campaigns. The WolfPack baseball team, meanwhile, features Kevin Cramer of Camp Verde, Ariz., the same hometown as former TRU player Dillon Morgan, who graduated in the spring.
It's nice to have other Americans around, Kok says, especially when it comes to international sporting events.
"Canadians have really welcomed Justin and me, which is amazing," he said. "When I was at SFU, we played the night the U.S. lost the gold (to Canada in men's hockey at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics). I heard about it from our trainer - she was taping my ankle and gave me a pretty hard time about it."
Both the basketball players ended up at TRU through Clark's connection with Skagit head coach Roger Valentine.
Considering two of his top players came from Skagit, Clark would no doubt be glad to welcome any other players. King would definitely recommend Canada to any other American players looking for a place to play.
"There are a couple of guys back at junior college who might want to come up," he said. "I told coach a few names, in case he's looking for some recruits."
* * *
The WolfPack volleyball teams are at home this weekend, with the Manitoba Bisons scheduled to visit the Tournament Capital Centre on Friday (6 and 7:45 p.m.) and Saturday (5 and 6:45 p.m.).
TRU's women are 3-3, while the men are 1-5.
* * *
After a weekend away from B.C. Intercollegiate Hockey League action, TRU will play host to a pair of games at Memorial Arena.
The WolfPack (2-3-2) will take on visiting Victoria (2-4-0) on Friday at 8:30 p.m., and Saturday at 8 p.m.
© Kamloops Daily News