Finding his way in the flock

John
John Browne
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Sea Hawks' rookie Mike Helsby adjusting to new spot on the court

Memorial Sea-Hawks rookie Mike Helsby is honest in his assessment of his early-season play and fitting in with the Sea-Hawks basketball program.

"At the beginning of the year," said the Ontario native, "I wasn't comfortable with my role. Since I've played forward for most of my life, being slotted as a guard was an adjustment for me. It's a challenge that I've enjoyed, however, and I think it's making me a better player."

Mike Helsby

Memorial Sea-Hawks rookie Mike Helsby is honest in his assessment of his early-season play and fitting in with the Sea-Hawks basketball program.

"At the beginning of the year," said the Ontario native, "I wasn't comfortable with my role. Since I've played forward for most of my life, being slotted as a guard was an adjustment for me. It's a challenge that I've enjoyed, however, and I think it's making me a better player."

Helsby is fairly blunt in his evaluation of his play so far this season.

"I feel my play this year has been inconsistent so far," Helsby admitted. "At my best, I've been a good scoring threat and a solid defender. However, at times I make bad decisions with the ball which result in unnecessary turnovers.

"It's still early in the season though, Helsby added, "so I hope to correct these mistakes and get myself to a point physically and mentally where I can play to my potential every minute of every game.

For his part, Benoite is happy with the new addition to his Sea-Hawks' roster.

"Mike has been a real positive addition to our team," said Benoite. "He is a very smart basketball player, and very good with ball. He is wiry and can manoeuvre himself in the lane and finish, but he also is a very good outside threat.

"He has gotten better as things have progressed in seeing his teammates and letting the ball do the work. But we also know we can go to him if we need him to break down the defence and create as well.

"He is still adjusting to the role we have him playing," notes Benoite, "but keep in mind, he is still a rookie and will make his mistakes."

Helsby knows the areas of the game he still needs to work on.

"Mostly I need to work on my athleticism," said the six-foot-four 190 pounder, "especially my quickness, and my decision making. I need to know where I want to go with the ball before it's in my hands, be it passing, shooting or attacking.

"I'm an oversized guard, which has its advantages and disadvantages. I'm not as quick as some of the smaller guards in the league, and this is an improvement that I need to make," he said.

However, he has no problem with coach Benoite.

"Pete is a very approachable, hands-on coach," Helsby said. "He has the advantage of being young and not far removed from his professional playing days. I think this makes it easier for him to relate to the players and understand our challenges and concerns."

Helsby, a 2007 graduate of Sir John A. MacDonald High School, attended the University of Waterloo for a year after going to Wilfrid Laurier University in 2007-08. He did not play for either university but did play for the Waterloo Wildhawk junior boys in 2007-08.

While in high school, Helsby averaged 14 points, eight rebounds and six assists per game and was a Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association all-star in both basketball and football as a senior. The versatile athlete also played rugby, volleyball, soccer, badminton and tennis.

His route to Memorial University was not without a little controversy.

According, Adams State College men's basketball coach Mark Murdock, Helsby had committed to the Grizzly program for the 2009-10 season. Adams State College is an NCAA Division II school and member of the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.

"It was just a matter of choosing the best situation for myself," said Helsby.

"Until I heard from Peter, Adams State was the best offer, but after coming out here (to St. John's) I decided that I'd have to change my decision," Helsby explained. "I like the area and the school better here, and I really liked that I would get to stay in Canada. I haven't regretted my choice at all. I'm very pleased with how its worked out."

As far as living in St. John's is concerned, Helsby says, "It has its ups and downs. I love the ocean view and the traditional feel of the city, but I could do without the weather, though."

Helsby, who has started all six AUS games this season, leads the 1-5 Sea-Hawks in steals (9) and is second in free throws made (19) and assists (3.5 apg.) He's fourth in team scoring (11.2 ppg) and third in rebounds (4.8 rpg.).

One thing that has surprised Helsby is the calibre of play in the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference.

"The team talent-level in the AUS is much higher than I had anticipated," Helsby said. "In Ontario, we don't really factor Atlantic basketball into our conversations too much, but there are three teams in our league (St. Francis, Cape Breton and Dalhousie) that are top-10 in the nation. Playing in this league has been a massive wake-up call for me."

The Sea-Hawks, who are in Nova Scotia for a team camp during the holidays, return to AUS play Jan. 9 and 10 against St. Francis Xavier X-Men, currently ranked third in the country.

jbrowne@thetelegram.com




HELSBY QUICK FACTS

Date of birth: Feb. 21, 1989
Born: Waterloo, Ont.
Height: Six-foot-four
Weight: 190 pounds
Person he admires most (living or dead): "Che Guevera, or less famously Tuvia Bielski." (Note: Bielski was portrayed by Daniel Craig in 2008 movie Defiance.)
Favourite music: "Recent favorites include new Lupe Fiasco, Kid Cudi, and John Frusciante. All time faves include the Beatles, Rage against the Machine, Rise Against and U2.
Favourite movies: American History X or V for Vendetta
Biggest influence: "Craig Nickel, my high school coach at Waterloo Collegiate."
A country he'd like to visit for the first time: Israel

Organizations: Adams State College, Sea-Hawks, Atlantic University Sport University of Waterloo Wilfrid Laurier University Waterloo County Secondary School Athletic Association NCAA Division Beatles

Geographic location: Ontario, St. John's, Rocky Mountain Canada Cape Breton Nova Scotia Israel

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