Jefferson Hagen / MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – The path was a rare one when Kelly Olynyk went from a third-year redshirt at Gonzaga to first round draft pick of the Boston Celtics a year later in 2013.
To play limited minutes the first two seasons, decide to step off the active roster for a year and then return to play at a high level is a journey that few university players make.
In the Canada West ranks, MacEwan Griffins guard Deonte Doslov-Doctor has done exactly that, though, and the transformation is mind-boggling.
When last on the court for MacEwan in 2015-16 as a sophomore, he was averaging just 7.4 minutes and 1.1 points per game. After sitting out a year to practice, work out and hone his craft, Doslov-Doctor has become one of the Griffins' top players, leading the team with 19 points in 21 minutes in last Saturday's victory over Thompson Rivers.
"I took those two years and looked back: 'what's not working and what is working?' I just tried to make it better and find ways I can be more effective on the floor," he said. "I think I found it right now. I've just got to continue shooting the ball well and playing good defence."
It wasn't that difficult of a decision in hindsight, especially since the Griffins had five fifth-year seniors in 2016-17 and Doslov-Doctor would have spent a lot of time on the bench anyway. But with those players graduated and leading scorer Thadius Galvez not back, there's a lot of playing time to be had on a Griffins team that heads into its home-opening weekend against Lethbridge on Friday (8 p.m.) and Saturday (3 p.m., both games in Atkinson Gym).
"He came into last year and realized with us having such a veteran team that he wasn't going to necessarily have the role that he wanted," said Griffins head coach Eric Magdanz. "We decided it was going to be better for him to save eligibility. The important part about saving eligibility is that you make use of the year and the increased practice time that's available. He took that to heart, working on different aspects of his game and some of the nuances he could improve on. It's taken for him now."
That included a lot of work in the weight room and the gym as well as observing how the veteran Griffins players handled themselves.
"One thing he really focused on last year was just correcting his shot and improving the speed and accuracy with which he could shoot the ball," said Magdanz. "And to see him go 4-for-9 from three (against TRU) and be able to get into the lane and make some creative shots over defenders, that's just a testament to his practice."
Doslov-Doctor played basketball at Edmonton's Archbishop MacDonald, but he was more famous at the high school level for his track prowess. In Grade 10, he was the Alberta high school long jump champion and was also competitive at the provincial level in both the 100 and 200-metre dashes.
But when it came time to focus on a sport at the post-secondary level, basketball won him over.
"I think I just had more exposure to basketball than track," he said. "And I didn't really train enough in track to go too far in it. I spent more time on the court instead of the track.
"I learned a lot from it, though, like how to work out properly and how to take care of yourself, so there's a lot of positives there."
Doslov-Doctor also learned the proper way to prepare and train from watching graduated seniors Denzel James, Keith Gerdes and others – another side benefit to red-shirting last season.
"I've learned a lot from them – bringing intensity to practice and intensity to games and taking care of yourself throughout the year," he said. "How to read defences and how to read offences – I've learned a lot from them."
So, although he was a redshirt a year ago, Doslov-Doctor has already proven a leader to a young team with eight players in their first year of university eligibility.
The Griffins split their opening weekend with a dramatic improvement from one night to the next, going from losing by 21 to winning by 13 against TRU in the span of 24 hours.
"It's the good and bad of having a young team: the resolve is there but the consistency isn't quite yet," said Magdanz. "A great part is if you play one day you never know what to expect the next. But the same can be true sometimes in opposite way.
"For us, it's just trying to stay consistent to the process and learning the little nuances of the game that will help to make us more consistent."