Mariners Coach Finding His Niche

Written By on December 13, 2015

**Article Courtesy of Nanaimo Daily News**


VIU student, assistant coach Avneet Brar hopes to get the best out of Nanaimo basketball players

Avneet Brar had never been a talented basketball player, he admits.

He recognized that as a Grade 10 player at Dover Bay Secondary School.

His passion for teaching the game, however, outlived his talents.

Brar, now a 23-year-old business student at Vancouver Island University and assistant coach of the Mariners men’s basketball program, decided in Grade 10 he would rather take the rare approach for a high school student to coach the team instead of playing on it. “Basically, I had all these ideas and I wasn’t good enough to perform them,” Brar said, “but I would tell my friends them and they could do them. I figured coaching would be a good idea for me.”

Brar has since turned his passion for coaching into a side project tailored around private tutoring of Nanaimo basketball players looking to play collegiately, and to better their games once they get there. “I just found that there were less and less high school coaches who were teachers,” Brar said of his reason to take on individual clients, “so in the offseason a lot of kids just didn’t have enough places to work on their games.” His private coaching began when he was still in high school, as an assistant coach under Mark Simpson with the Dover Bay Dolphins.

He took high school players under his wing with one-on-one tutoring outside of practice, players who have since moved on to play at VIU. His first students in 2009 were Jason Fortin, a key piece of the VIU conference championship team, and Clayton Billett.

Brar now coaches current VIU players, and ones such as University of Victoria commit Tyus Barfoot, an NDSS graduate, along with other local high school players.

When former Dover Bay assistant Matt Kuzminski was interested in applying for the vacant VIU head coaching job in 2012, Brar pushed him to do so.

Kuzminski was later hired, and he took Brar along with him.

“I was originally supposed to just be a marketing kind of guy, but my role expanded quite a bit,” Brar said.

“I owe it all to Mark Simpson and Matt Kuzminski. They gave me an opportunity and trusted me.” The VIU team won a national championship in the new coaching staff’s first year on the job.

Brar now works specifically with player development for the Mariners, as well as with film preparation and X’s and O’s work.

With that pedigree behind him, he has expanded his student base to close to 25 different players, depending on the time of year. Players are coming to Brar for tutoring that goes beyond what they learn during the high school season.

“I just do a better job of explaining the game to players’ specific needs,” he said, “whereas in a school practice everything is kind of uniform as to what they’re learning.

“A lot of the guys that I worked with last summer have gone on to make provincial teams, guys from Wellington and Dover like Ryan MacDonald, Ryder Jenks and Alex Staniforth.”

Clients are now coming to Brar multiple times per week as his reputation grows, and as the accomplishments of the players he coaches build up, the client base does the same.

**Article Written By Scott McKenzie**