At 6-foot-8, Jeff Foreman appears as though he could still rattle a few bodies under the boards at the University of Winnipeg's Duckworth Centre. Well, he's back for the 44th annual Wesmen Classic, but this year's special guest will be relegated to cheering rather than shooting the lights out.
After graduating from Windsor Park Collegiate, Foreman played five seasons for the Wesmen basketball squad from 1989-94 and was a three-time All Canadian and the CIS Player of the Year in 1993-94.
At the end of his career he was second overall in Wesmen scoring with 3,190 points.
As a member of Canada's national team he competed in the under-20 world championships. He also helped Canada earn a silver medal at the World University Games.
Among the highlights of his career, Foreman lists the five years he played in the Wesmen Classic.
"The honour kind of sent tingles down my back," he said yesterday at a press conference to announce this year's tournament. "When I played I never really thought too much about that. You just go out and try and do the best for your team. I had an opportunity to play with a lot of good players and the friendships I made along those years, you know, I still try and keep in touch with them but sometimes it's difficult. Everyone has their own families and they move on."
The Classic, the biggest tournament of its kind in Canada, is anchored by the university section, which runs Dec. 28-30. The opening-day draw has the Minot State Beavers playing Saskatchewan Huskies at 2 p.m., Lakehead Thunderwolves playing Brandon Bobcats at noon, the Wesmen taking on McMaster Marauders at 6 p.m., and Manitoba Bisons playing the Jamestown Jimmies at 8 p.m.
The varsity boys high school tournament begins on Dec. 27 with the Kelvin Clippers playing University of Winnipeg Collegiate at 2 p.m., Garden City Fighting Gophers taking on Daniel McIntyre Maroons at 3:45 p.m., Oak Park Raiders and Miles Macdonell Buckeyes tipping off at 5:30 p.m., and Sturgeon Heights Huskies and Fort Richmond Centurions playing at 7:15 p.m. Both the high school and university section finals will be played Dec. 30, with the high school final at 6 p.m. and the university final at 8 p.m.
"We have a lot of new guys and we have a lot of growth to undertake," said Wesmen coach Mike Raimbault. "The next couple of weeks of practice is going to be hugely important for us to continue learning and growing. We need to be able to put it together, and there is no better time than three games in a row on our home court."
Raimbault says their first opponents, McMaster, is in a similar situation as the Wesmen. "They've hired a new coach, and they're going through the rebuilding process as well. But when you look at the matchups in the first round, it really is anyone's tournament for the taking."
The probability of an all-American final looms, in that Jamestown and Minot are on opposite sides of the draw. "Jamestown is a tough team," said Raimbault, "and we'll actually get a look at them next week, we go down there for an exhibition game. Brandon travelled down to Minot (Sunday) and lost by 20 points. The brand of basketball they play is tough, hard nose, and they are usually very athletic. They should add another interesting dynamic to the draw."
The Classic has actually already begun. The International Junior Wesmen/Manitoba Magic Classic wrapped up Dec. 5, and the Winnipeg Sun Community Classic for boys and girls aged 12-14 tipped off yesterday.
Other tournaments, all of which are played in the centre court at the Duckworth Centre, include the Ranger Insurance High School Girls Classic Dec. 13-14, and the Adidas Junior Varsity Tournament Dec. 10-11, with the final on Dec. 28.