THUNDER BAY – It’s not often three high school basketball stars get to continue their careers together at the next level.
Jared Kreiner, Austin Burchat and Jayme Koski are about to find out what it’s like.
On Thursday all three signed letters of commitment to play university ball with the Lakehead Thunderwolves, where newly installed coach Ryan Thomson hopes they’ll help form the cornerstone of a rebuilding plan aimed at restoring the 2-22 team to national championship caliber.
It’s Kreiner, son of Thunderwolves women’s basketball coach Jon Kreiner, who will get the first chance to prove his mettle, with Thomson planning to insert him in the lineup in his freshman season. The 6-foot-10 Burchat and the 6-foot-6 Koskie will spend the campaign red-shirting, working their way onto the team in 2019-20.
The younger Kreiner, a three-point aficionado, is the crown jewel of this year’s local high school recruiting class, and turned down plenty of other offers, including a tempting offer to play for the Waterloo Warriors, to instead play for his hometown team.
“I’m really honoured to come here. I’ll have the support of my family and friends. I feel like coming here will increase my development as a basketball player and also as a person,” Kreiner said.
Getting in on the ground floor of Thomson’s rebuild, along with two of his buddies, makes for exciting times, he added.
“Coach Thomson won a silver medal at the CIS (championship), so he obviously has that experience and I’m looking forward to being a part of the rebuild and to making a championship team,” he said.
“It’s going to be an unbelievable experience, just practicing and training in the gym all the time, and now I’m going to be on that stage.”
Thomson has high hopes for his star recruit, who along with Burchat and Koski, played for Wolves assistant Matt Erdman with the St. Ignatius Falcons.
“He’s going to get an opportunity to compete for a spot right away and probably play a pretty big role for us with his shooting ability and his IQ,” Thomson said.
Burchat, who spent the past season honing his inside game playing for Hamilton’s Lincoln Prep, said it was time to come home to Thunder Bay.
A regular at Thunderwolves games throughout his elementary and high school career, the C.J. Sanders Fieldhouse is like a second home, he said.
“Lakehead and the coaches, everybody there has always been really good to me. They’ve always played a huge role in my development. I was away for a while, I missed home and I felt like I could come back and make a difference here,” Burchat said.
Koski, who blossomed during the Superior Secondary Schools Athletic Association playoffs, said he plans to make the most of his year on the sidelines.
His energy on the court will be his best asset, he said, acknowledging there will be a huge adjustment to the university game.
“It’s going to be great playing against better competition. I’m just ready to play.”
Thomson, named the team’s permanent coach last week, said he’ll nurture both Koski and Burchat for a season and expects big things from them going forward.
“For both of them it’ll be to get ready for the physicality and the speed and make sure they’re ready to play,” Thomson said. “The positive of them doing that is that in practice there’s basically no pressure. If they go out and throw the ball away six times, it’s kind of why they’re out there doing it.”
Lakehead will host Algoma on Sept. 20 and Sept. 21 in non-conference play.