Defense first, offense later

John Browne
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Rookie Theo Stanoev earning his place on Benoite’s roster

Theo Stanoev’s impressive showing early in the season earned him a starter’s role in the MUN Sea-Hawks season opener against Cape Breton University. — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram

Theo Stanoev was an above-average student and basketball player in high school, and now he wants to continue that success at the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) level.

Don’t bet against that happening.

The 5-11 guard/wing from St. John’s has shown some early promise and was impressive enough in the pre-season that Memorial Sea-Hawks’ head coach Peter Benoite started the rookie in the team’s regular-season openers earlier this month against defending champion Cape Breton Capers at the Field House.

“Theo did well for us in practice all pre-season,” said Benoite. “He was the most consistent rookie in terms of day in and day out performance.”

Like you would expect from a freshman, Stanoev’s performance in the two opening games was a mixed bag of good defence and a few mistakes.

He played 14 minutes in the opening game of the series with four points and two assists and a couple of rebounds. He managed two points, four rebounds and two assists in 22 minutes in the re-match.

“His edge over some of the other guys is his defense, and that’s the main reason why we chose to start him,” explained Benoite.

“Once he gets more comfortable and settles in, there’s no doubt he’ll be able to contribute on that (offensive) end as well.

“He lost focus a couple of times on (Tremaine) Fraser, and allowed him to drive,” noted Benoite, “but, overall, he made him work pretty hard. He understood his role on the defensive end.”

Benoite said Stanoev is also steady on offence. Last season, he was a key contributer to Gonzaga’s provincial 4A championship team.

“He is a particularly good defender,” said the Sea-Hawks’ coach. “He’s strong and moves his feet extremely well. He has been very committed all summer long and shows an incredible desire to compete. 

“I thought he did a pretty good job … some mistakes here and there, but I felt he helped us on the floor. He didn’t hurt us at all.”

Benoite also noted Stanoev is very strong academically, and he isn’t kidding. The impressive young man came out of Gonzaga High School with a 90 per cent average, and hopes to major in physics at Memorial.

A versatile athlete, Stanoev did well in a number of sports growing up.

His father, George, is the well-known and well-respected Newfoundland and Labrador Track and Field Association technical director, who came to this province from Bulgaria in the early 1990s.

Theo competed in various track and field events such as long jump and high jump and was good enough to achieve a Canada Games standard.

“Rugby and soccer, along with track and field, were always options for me and many of my friends ended up playing rugby, but I enjoy basketball the most,” said Stanoev, who has been to his father’s homeland a couple of times.

“It was nice to see the different culture and to see my relatives. I feel as if it is a part of my life, but my home is here,” he said.

As far as his basketball play is concerned in the AUS conference, Stanoev said, he’s had to adjust his game from high school, although the same work ethic remains.

And although he is getting a less minutes with the Sea-Hawks than he did with the Vikings, Stanoev said he feels like he’s making the most of his floor time.

Stanoev said the biggest adjustment is, “the pressure the teams bring at this (AUS) level.” The adjustment would have been more difficult if Stanoev hadn’t practised with the varsity team all summer.

“I got a feel for the guys because of that, but there are a lot of little things we’re still trying to figure out,” he said.

He felt his first couple of games were “productive” and “building blocks” for the future.

He said coach Benoite is more concerned about his defensive play than his offence.

“As a rookie, you play defensively and if you get something on the offence, it’s a bonus, really,” said Stanoev, who is not without confidence.

“We’ve had a few mental lapses in games, especially against UNB. I think we have a definite shot against any team in this league and I think we'll have a good shot at SMU.”

The Sea-Hawks play host to the Huskies 8 o’clock tonight and 1 p.m. Sunday.

Organizations: Atlantic University Sport, Field House, Gonzaga High School Newfoundland and Labrador Track and Field Association Canada Games Vikings

Geographic location: Bulgaria

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