Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Holy slamma jamma, Wesmen Classic season is upon us '...and a Corvette, and a trophy...'

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THE Wesmen Classic, billed as "A Winnipeg Christmas Tradition," has officially surpassed the status of 'event' and is now considered a 'season.'

The "Wesmen Classic season" will include 118 teams playing 178 games from Dec. 1-30 at the U of W Duckworth Centre.

"It's gone from one or two, sometimes three tournaments to now six," said Doran Reid, acting U of W athletic director. "When you start at the beginning of December and end on the second-last day of the month, that's what I call a season."

The Classic began Monday with the Free Press Community Classic (Dec. 1-4) with 24 community club teams.

Other events include the International Classic from Dec. 5-7, including players aged 10-17 years from 58 club teams. The Flanders Insurance High School Girls' Classic will be played Dec. 9-10 with four teams, followed by the Converse Junior Varsity Classic on Dec. 12-13 with 16 teams. The High School Varsity Boys' Tournament will run Dec. 27-30 with eight top teams, including the 2007 champion Garden City Fighting Gophers.

As the university men's tournament Dec. 27-30 is considered the marquee event of the Wesmen Classic 'season,' Wesmen head coach Dave Crook didn't hesitate to hunker down on the knee of Santa Claus and ask for a championship win as his Christmas gift.

But Crook's team has a challenge right from the opening tip-off, as they face the powerful Alberta Golden Bears on Dec. 28.

"There's so many strong teams in this event... you find a tournament in the last 25 years where the host team plays the Alberta Golden Bears first, you'd call that coach crazy," Crook said, laughing. "We're going to have to play great, way better than we've played so far."

The Wesmen have a 2-8 record in Canada West conference play so far.

The Wesmen last won the Classic in 2006. The 2007 winner was the Brock Badgers, who aren't participating this year.

Other teams participating include the No. 4-ranked Calgary Dinos, No. 6-ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees, Saskatchewan Huskies, Fraser Valley Cascades, Minot State Beavers and Brandon Bobcats.

Reid said the annual slam dunk competition, dubbed Santa's High Flyin' Slam Jam, has been opened to include two winners from an open competition in addition to one player from each of the eight university teams. See www.wesmen.ca for details.

ashley.prest@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition December 2, 2008 C5

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