Athletes

Three-Point Whiz Jalalpoor Aims To Pace T-Bird Offence In Final Season

UBC Thunderbirds' guard Phil Jalalpoor, right, will be looking to shoot a lot more as he plays his final season for the Vancouver cagers. RICHARD LAM / THE PROVINCE

Moving to shooting guard is putting extra shooting into Phil Jalalpoor’s game.

Jalalpoor played mostly point guard last season for the UBC Thunderbirds men’s basketball team and was 26-for-97 (. 379 shooting percentage) from three-point range in 29 games.

With transfer Jauquin Bennett-Boire and incoming freshman Mason Bourcier adding to UBC’s ball-handling abilities in the off-season, Thunderbirds coach Kevin Hanson has shifted Jalalpoor mainly to the No. 2 guard spot and through five pre-season games he’s gone 16-for-33 (. 485) from outside the arc.

That included an 11-for-17 from three-point land in a 92-72 win against the host Saskatchewan Huskies in an exhibition tilt a couple of weeks ago. Jalalpoor finished with a career-high 41 points in the Saskatoon triumph.

“It was pretty crazy, to be honest. It was a good day,” said the 6-2 Jalalpoor, 24, who’s starting his fifth and final season of U Sports eligibility.

“It was one of those days where there was the opportunity for a lot of shots and the guys were getting me open.”

Asked if the move to shooting guard or added confidence in his ability to score has led to his improved numbers, Jalalpoor offered: “It’s probably a combination.”

And Hanson, who got 6.8 points per game from Jalalpoor last season in 22 minutes a night and is receiving 19.6 points in 28 minutes a contest from him in the early stretches of this season, added: “He’s looking to score. He believes in himself.

“He’s always been so hard on himself. He’d miss one shot and he’d start playing head games with himself. He’s not doing that now.”

UBC opens its Canada West regular season Friday, hosting the Fraser Valley Cascades in the opener of a two-game weekend set. Hanson’s crew created a stir in the off-season with a strong recruiting class, highlighted by adding forward Grant Shephard, who was part of Canada’s win at the Under-19 worlds.

Expectations are high. Complications are, too, now, what with star fifth-year forward Conor Morgan (elbow) on the sidelines for an extended period after getting hurt at that pre-season tournament in Saskatchewan. Morgan finished second in the country in scoring last season, thanks to averaging 23.1 points per game.

Hanson says Morgan’s injury is a soft-tissue one and UBC medical staff are leery to offer a timeline on his return to action because of that.

Hanson contends that it’s “not season ending,” and he’s taking the mindset that Morgan will be back for the second half of the regular season, and “anything more than that will be gravy for us.”

That puts more pressure on other players to score early on, and that includes Jalalpoor, a native of Schifferstadt, Germany who came to UBC initially for the 2015-16 season following a stint at Olds College in central Alberta.

“We’re trying to look at it as a challenge,” said Jalalpoor. “ … It may sound stupid, but this can help us in the long run.”