By Brad Halasz
Henry Bekkering wants Villanova to win the NCAA March Madness tournament. Unfortunately, he says, the University of Conneticutt and North Carolina look too strong and will probably meet in the championship game.
Almost three weeks after his final game with the Dinos the six-foot, 240 pound star forward still has the sport on his mind.
He takes it seriously, that basketball game he likes so much. And after finishing a storied varsity career, first with Eastern Washington University of the NCAA, then his last two years with the Dinos, Bekkering is just as excited about his future game as he was with the past five years.
“It depends on country to country,” he says of the quality of ball overseas and his chances of playing in a pro league. “Greece, Italy, and Spain are the main top three that are very good, then you have the mid leagues such as Germany, Austria and France. Right now I’m just dealing with my agent just trying to get some tapes over there and garner some interest for me.”
As Bekkering looks to Europe to start his post-varsity career, you can bet he hopes that the memories created there are as good as the ones he’s enjoyed in his home province.
He’s learned that it stings just a little harder when you lose to a rival team, as witnessed in the 77-69 loss to the University of British Columbia Thunderbirds a year ago in the West semi-final.
But where the lows are low, the highs must be high too.
“Beating UBC on their home floor and waving the Canada West Championship flag after they beat us last year in our own gym was the biggest moment as a Dino,” he said of the 80-76 victory that gave the Dinos the Canada West title earlier this year. “Retribution, revenge, it’s good.”
Bekkering has been a pivotal part in the quality of the Dinos program over the past two years. Just a quick glance at his numbers (he averaged over 20 points a game this year) proves he’s a franchise player. But more than that, his positive attitude and love for the game shines through.
Of course, he’s had some help along the way. Help from a strong farm hand he grew up with in the golden hay-filled plains of Taber– his brother Ross.
“He’s my best friend, we get along so well, we compliment each other well on the court,” said Henry. “Just playing and having those wins with him and having those losses with him, just being around him and being able to play with him, it’s kind of special. We’re only two years apart and we can play with each other.”
Through thick and thin the brothers Bekkering have had each other’s back, as one would expect brothers do.
Of course, as brothers do too, they don’t let each other off the hook too easily.
“We get on each other’s ass once in a while, bugging each other in practice, getting on each other, but it’s all in good fun and I think we have a good relationship so we have no hard feelings when we get mad at each other,” he said.
Although the Bekkerings won’t be playing together next year, Ross will try and lead the team to another Final 8 appearance, and you can bet Henry won’t let up in the constructive criticism department.
“I totally expect our team to be in this position next year,” he said after the semi-final loss in this year’s Final 8.
Bekkering has high hopes for the future of the Dinos team and the CIS league as a whole. He highlights beating Weber State last season and almost beating the University of Montana Grizzlies, two mid level NCAA Div. 1 teams in exhibition games as a real testament to how Canada stacks up against the college-crazed U.S. culture.
“I just don’t think there’s that culture here in Canada and I think the U of C is one of the best schools, but I think there needs to be a lot of work to go until we get that winning culture,” he said. “It might not ever happen because Canada might not be that way with basketball and CIS sports in general.”
One thing is for sure, the CIS program is weaker with the absence of Bekkering, but he is not dwelling on what was, but rather future opportunities overseas.
“It will be tough at times, but it’s an opportunity I can’t really pass up,” he says. “I’m going to miss my family but it’s something I think I got to do or else I’ll regret it when I’m older and can’t play basketball anymore.”
It was, after all, his friends and family, his brother Ross, his teammates and coaches, and the U of C student body that has pushed him to do his best all along.
“Everyone here supported me well while I was here and welcomed me with open arms and it was just awesome playing in front of the students and the fans of the University of Calgary.”