Holland College Hurricanes rookies Kyle Welton, Kyle Gillis and Jonathon Hovingh have seen plenty of one another on the court over the years.
Welton and Gillis were teammates at Charlottetown Rural High School, while Hovingh played for Bluefield High School.
However, after last Sunday’s victory in Fredericton, they can add a shared experience: Atlantic Colleges Athletic Association (ACAA) champions.
“I’ve never experienced that big a championship in my life, and just to win something like that was crazy. I was blown away,” Welton said.
It was Hovingh’s championship.
“It was huge, and to hear all the St. Thomas fans just be completely quiet, and just hear all the noise they were making fade away, it was great,” he said.
Their efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, said Holland College athletic director Albert Roche.
“It is gratifying to see these three student-athletes thrive in this highly competitive environment. They should be proud of their efforts and commitment to improvement.”
The Hurricanes leave for the Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) championships in Montreal on Tuesday morning. Their first game is Thursday against the Champlain St-Lambert Cavaliers at 7:30 p.m. AT.
This will be the biggest stage all three players have ever played on.
But the familiarity they have playing with one another has helped them adjust to the college game.
“I’ve been stuck with Welton as far as I can remember living here,” Gillis said with a laugh. “Every team I’ve ever been on, he’s been there by my side, so it’s nice having someone you know since we know each other’s game.”
Welton and Gillis also played together on the P.E.I. under-17 team, where Hurricanes assistant Josh Whitty was their coach.
“Having him as a coach did help us ease in, because we knew how he worked,” Welton said.
For Hovingh, it was a nice change of pace coming to the Hurricanes.
“We had fun and we competed, but it was nice to play with guys who I formerly (played) against, so it was good to have them on my back.”
Looking back, Welton said he didn’t know what he was getting into when he committed to the Hurricanes.
“I just said I was coming here and we’ll go from there, and for us to get a championship was just beyond what I thought we were going to get.”
It was a big jump, Hovingh said.
“You come from a team where you’re the go-to guy, and you come here and you have to figure out what you have to do as a player to work in the team system, and how to contribute.”
Hovingh was optimistic about the Hurricanes’ chances going into the season.
“I knew it was going to be possible after I heard all of the other talent who committed to playing here, but I knew it was going to take a lot of hard work.”
Playing with the likes of veterans Leo Morris, Alvin Parker, as well as Mike and Steve Hardy, gave the rookies plenty of learning opportunities throughout the season, Gillis said.
“They’ll pull you aside and say ‘this is what you should be doing, or this is what I would do in that situation.’ The level of basketball they play is crazy, and every day you’re learning something new.”
The experiences will help them prepare for next season, Hovingh said.
“In practice, I’m guarding Chase (Bowden), Mike or Leo, three of the best players in the league right now, and I’m guarding them. So next year, I’m going to be prepared.”
However, this season isn’t over yet and Welton is looking forward to the challenge of playing against the top teams in the country.
“There’s the different level of play, and teams we’ve never seen before,” he said. “This will be the first time for all three of us that we’ve gone to a national competition at this level, so it’ll be interesting to see what happens.”
The Holland College Hurricanes play their first game at nationals on Thursday. Here’s a look at some of the stories The Guardian will be bringing to its readers this week:
u Today – A look at the transition from high school to the Atlantic Collegiates Athletic Association.
u Tuesday – Brothers re-united. Steve and Mike Hardy played together this season for the first time since 2006.
u Wednesday – Playing with passion. A feature on the man who runs the Hurricanes offence, point guard Alvin Parker.
u Thursday – Game day. Breaking down what the Hurricanes need to do to be successful and how they ended up in Montreal.