The next step in the basketball careers of Josiah Cockrill and Lucas Mannes is taking them far, far away from Chilliwack.
Caronport, Saskatchewan is their destination and you can be forgiven if you’ve never heard of it.
With a population of 2,000 or so, it qualifies as a village and doesn’t appear on many maps.
“It’s pretty much a couple houses, a gas station and a Subway,” Cockrill said. “And the Subway is in the gas station.”
But small as it is, Caronport is also home to Briercrest College and the basketball Clippers.
And it will be home to the two Grizzlies who graduate from GW Graham in a little over one month’s time.
“It’s a Christian College, and the basketball team plays in the ACAC (Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference),” Mannes said. “A lot of people say it’s the best collegiate conference in the country.”
The Clippers played in the South division last season, finishing last in the six-team group with a record of 4-14.
Briercrest head coach Rod Adrian was on the recruiting trail early, looking for young guns to help turn his team around. He contacted Mannes early in the high school season and stayed in contact, keeping the Clippers at the top of the Chilliwack kid’s list.
“The atmosphere is a big thing, because I wanted the Christian atmosphere and that community,” said Mannes, who visited the Caronport campus along with Cockrill before committing. “They offered financial help as well, because it’s a pretty expensive school.”
Mannes will be in the mix for a starting job right away, an opportunity he may not have had with one of the top teams.
“The other colleges I talked to said backup and maybe starting, not as promising as Briercrest sounded,” Mannes noted.
GWG coach Jake Mouritzen has no doubt that if Mannes gets a shot at starting, he will seize the moment.
“He shows a passion and dedication to the game of basketball like no other student athlete I have ever seen,” Mouritzen said. “He is the first athlete in the gym at 6:30 a.m. and the last to leave at 10 p.m. every day. Lucas has created a basketball culture at Graham that will continue for many many years to come. I have no doubt that Lucas will go on to do great things at Briercrest and then at the CIS level.”
If bloodlines are any indication, Cockrill should do fine as well.
Two years ago, Josiah watched older brother and former GWG Grizzly Micah go through the recruitment process before finally landing with the University of British Columbia-Okanagan.
“He came out of here as the star and go-to guy and he really had to adjust to being more of a support player,” Josiah mentioned. “He ended up earning a starting spot at UBC-O, and that’s the adjustment I have to make now. He’s told me a lot of small things that will help me succeed.”
Like Mannes, Mouritzen believe Cockrill will fare just fine at the ACAC level.
“The Cockrill family has been a very huge part of Graham Basketball since day one, but Josiah has worked very hard to create his own path,” the coach said. “His leadership on the court is top notch and his defensive abilities are some of the best in the province. His work ethic and dedication has been first class and he has earned an opportunity to compete at the next level.”
Mannes and Cockrill are the third and fourth GWG basketball players to move on to post-secondary hoops, following in the footsteps of Micah Cockrill and big center Chris Thomson.
To both, it seems like just yesterday that they were tiny little Grade 7s.
“It does seem like a flash, a blur when you look back at it now,” Mannes said. “My little brother is one of those Grade 7s, and I’m super excited to watch him grow. Hopefully, watching how hard we worked will have an impact on how hard they work.”
“There’s some Grade 7s here now that are better than we were at that age, so imagine what they’ll do when they’re in Grade 12,” Cockrill added. “We tried to make basketball fun and it was fun coming to the gym every day. Hopefully the younger generation saw that and they’ll try to do what we did, and hopefully do it even better than we did.”