Print Edition: January 28, 2015
Kadeem Willis transferred to UFV from Lakeland College in 2012. After two years at UFV, Willis will be done his five years of post-secondary basketball.
Willis is a power forward who leads by example and brings energy to the court. Willis sat down with The Cascade to talk about his experience at UFV and his team’s impressive season — the men’s team has kept up a Canada West regular season 28-game streak. Not only that, but last weekend in their game against the MacEwan Griffins, UFV reached a 123-point high.
You played at Lakeland College before transferring here — what made you choose UFV?
I saw UFV play at Sask in the playoffs, and I just saw that they were playing as a team. I knew two of the guys who’d previously played at Lakeland, Kevon [Parchment] and Mac [Aaron McGowan], so that made my decision better, because we had chemistry on the court from Lakeland, so coming here would be a good decision for me — we’d just keep the battle going. And the coach, too, he’s pretty down-to-earth.
How’s playing for Adam Friesen?
Our relationship has grown. We’ll talk about things: my position on the team as well as just me as a student at UFV. He’s very helpful … If I need help in classes or if I need something administration-wise, he’s there to help.
What are some highs and lows of playing at UFV?
I would say the biggest low is not having a crowd here. I wish this was more of a fan-base school. I know it’s a commuter school, so not everybody’s into the sports spirit, but I think that’s definitely one of my lows. One of my highs is playing with these guys and winning 26 games straight! That’s definitely an awesome high!
Tell me a bit about how your team kept the momentum up this season.
We push each other in practice every day, and we know what our goal is. This team has been to the nationals in previous years, and some of the guys that played there push us to do what we have to do in practice. We just try to keep each other level-headed, humble, and we try to make each other better every day — if it’s in the classroom or on the court, we’re pushing hard to become successful. We’re really looking forward to ending the season on a good note, with the streak still alive. We want to let the other teams know that we’re here, we’re coming for that spot, and we’re trying to win it all.
You talked about having a weak fan-base at UFV — how would you go about improving the crowd?
I think it’s about getting more into the community — I know the women’s team, they do their fundraising, they do their stuff in the community, but for the guys it would be good for us to hit the schools, and get the kids out. Because they’re going to be the ones bringing their friends and parents out. And just being more community-involved, that would help.
Let’s talk about your career as a student and an athlete — how do you keep a balance?
My time management skills are not the best, but over the years I’ve learned that school comes first. We practice every day, so I’ve got to set aside time in my schedule. I make sure my schedule plays into my practice schedule. I don’t want to be ending practice to go to class, and I don’t want to be leaving class early to go to practice. So I make sure I have time to do homework and get myself organized in between. I have a two-hour window between all my classes and basketball so that I can make sure I’m on track and not falling behind on assignments. I’m taking three courses and I don’t want to [fall] behind [in case] we get somewhere far and then I can’t make it because of something academic. I feel like if I fall behind, I’m letting down my team, so I try to make sure I balance it where I’m a student first, and then I’m an athlete. Every week we have [games], and it’s tiring — it is pretty intense when you have a full schedule.
What’s next for you, basketball-wise, after the Cascades?
I’ll do what I can to keep playing basketball. I like the personal training, keeping fit. So I’d like to do those things on my downtime. I like helping people, so I’d like to help kids, giving back to high schools — not really as a coach but more as a mentor. More giving back and helping out — like my brother, he’s 16, [and I want to show] him that if you work hard, you can get out of Toronto. Basketball definitely opens up a lot of doors for you.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.