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Sharp-shooting Diego Maffia has UVic Vikes on the rise

Super sophomore Diego Maffia is rolling and the University of Victoria Vikes, 7-1 and ranked No. 8 nationally in U Sports, are rolling along with him.
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Diego Maffia is averaging 20.4 points per game for the Vikes this season. CANADA WEST

Super sophomore Diego Maffia is rolling and the University of Victoria Vikes, 7-1 and ranked No. 8 nationally in U Sports, are rolling along with him.

The shooting guard out of Oak Bay was named Canada West men’s basketball player of the week for his 40 combined points in the two-game sweep of the UNBC Timberwolves over the weekend at CARSA gym.

“We have started out well and are getting comfortable with each year,” said Maffia, who is third in Canada West ­scoring with a 20.4 points-per-game average.

“We have set high goals for this season and are looking to achieve them.”

The dark pandemic year laid other athletes low but not ­Maffia. He only got better.

“I put in a lot of work into that off year to get stronger and it’s showing results,” he said.

“The key is to be a better all-round player and not just a shooter.”

That was evident in the first game against UNBC as Maffia almost recorded a triple-double with 15 points, eight rebounds and seven assists in UVic’s 83-49 victory.

But a wonderful pure shooter he is, drawing guardedly favourable comparisons with similar Canadian shooting-guard greats of the past such as Richard Bohne and Olympians Jay Triano and Karl Tilleman.

“I try not to pay attention to those comparisons and keep focused and not let it affect me,” said Maffia.

“You have to trust in your own work on the court and not [the media or the past].”

Coming in as a highly-touted high school star, who set all sorts of scoring records, also ­presented its challenges.

“There were questions as to whether Diego could perform at that level in university and he has answered those by finding a way to adjust. He was conference all-rookie team in his first year and then used the COVID year to practise hard and mature,” said Vikes head coach Craig Beaucamp.

“To be honest, I think he could have been selected conference player of the week on a few more occasions this season.”

With fifth-year Vikes veteran Scott Kellum from Issaquah, Washington, taking the traditional point-guard duties off him, Maffia is getting his looks as a shooter. It is much the way the late UVic point-guard legend Eli Pasquale allowed shooter Triano from SFU to get his looks at the hoop in leading Canada to two Olympic Games in the 1980s.

“With Scott [Kellum] as a true point guard, it has allowed me to be a scoring guard,” said Maffia.

“I watched Scott play when I was in high school and now I get to play with him. He has been great to play alongside and I have learned so much from him, about not only how to play the guard position, but in terms of leadership.”

It is becoming clear that when Kellum graduates at the end of this season, the team leadership mantle will fall on Maffia beginning next September in his third season.

This is a guy who looks ready to inherit that mantle.

The Vikes men and women’s teams, the latter 4-4 after sweeping UNBC, have reached their winter breaks. The men have exhibition games in Alberta against the Mount Royal ­Cougars and University of Calgary Dinos on Jan. 6-7. The women have not announced their ­Christmas break schedule.

Both Vikes teams return to B.C. Division Canada West play with road games Jan. 14 and Jan. 16 against UNBC and UBC-Okanagan and Jan. 28-29 against the Thompson Rivers WolfPack. The next home games are Feb. 4-5 at CARSA gym against the UBC Thunderbirds.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com