Rookie guard Parnsalu showing signs he’s a keeper for MUN Sea-Hawks men's squad
Davion Parnsalu is just the latest piece in what Memorial men’s basketball coach Peter Benoite hopes will be a building block in turning his woeful Sea-Hawks into a playoff contender sooner than later.
© — Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
Memorial University Sea-Hawks men’s basketball coach Peter Benoite was so impressed with guard Davion Parnsalu, that he made the rookie a starter for his team this season. Parnsalu hasn’t disappointed, averaging 10 points a game and an AUS best 3.17 steals per game.
No one is putting any pressure on the rookie from Ontario to play beyond his limited experience, but Parnsalu seems to enjoy a challenge.
“It’s a good situation for me,” said the first-year point guard, “because I know it can provide me with more playing experience from early in my career.
“I also want to be a part of the team that fixes the struggle and starts becoming a winning team for years to come. I already see much improvement as a team and I know that the program is capable of being playoff contenders and we will be.”
Memorial, which has struggled for years to find a point guard with talent and consistency, may have found what they’ve been looking for in Parnsalu, and it didn’t take long for Benoite to assign the freshman a starting position on the struggling team.
Parnsalu said getting to start immediately was a surprise to him because he really didn’t get to prove himself in the preseason due to a couple of ankle injuries.
“But I was glad that coach Peter (Benoite) believed in me that I would come back strong and confident to provide for the team as best as I could.
“As a point guard, I believe I provide a leadership role on the court in which I must control the offence and make sure the guys are running it effectively in practice and in games.
“Also, I am very competitive and passionate about winning so I believe I can continue to push myself and push the guys to eventually start winning games consistently.”
The rookie also understands what he needs to work on at the AUS level of the game.
“I feel that I must strongly improve my defensive game,” he said. “I’m continuing to work harder to become stronger and faster which will translate to becoming a better defender.”
Right now he’s enjoying his initial Atlantic University sport (AUS) campaign.
Asked to assess the first part of his season, Parnsalu said, “I still feel that I haven’t maximized my potential but after having to play extra minutes due to other injuries in the guard positions I have become comfortable with the pace of the game fairly quickly.
“I’m quite upset with my shooting percentage, but I know that I can bounce back and start making shots for the remainder of the season,” he said just after the Christmas break.
“Other than that, “ he added, “I’m confident in my game and I am confident in the team’s game after seeing we can definitely compete with any of the teams in this league.
His confidence may or may not be misplaced, but it’s clear his enthusiasm is for real.
He’s also pleased with the relationship he has with MUN’s coach.
See BENOITE, page C2
“Coach Benoite and I are on great terms,” said Parnsalu. “He provides a good communication base when it comes to talking about basketball-related issues and even academic-related issues. I feel like communication is always important between players and coaches, so the fact that it’s there is very positive.”
Benoite, meanwhile, said Parnsalu is “tough minded and handles it well when I’m tough on him.”
According to Benotie, “That shows me he can handle tough situations. We saw it in the Brock game earlier the year when he made some big plays for us down the stretch.”
Parnsalu said the calibre of ball in the AUS is pretty much what he expected.
“From being a player who just came out of high school to playing at the university level isn’t an easy transition and it is a way faster game,” said Parnsalu, “but I understood that before I started playing and made sure I prepared myself physically and mentally in order to compete at the next level.
“I’ve have been playing basketball all of my life,” said Parnsalu who took up the game “competitively” in Grade 4.
He had success in high school where his team made the regional finals three out of his four years, winning once. Now he wants to have success in the AUS.
The MUN coach says he likes Parnsalu’s confidence on the floor, which a guard must have to be effective.
“I also like his ability to play against bigger, tougher players,” added Benoite.
“He has great ball handling, very compact, and doesn’t allow the defense to dictate where he wants to go.
And he’s quick.
Quick enough to lead the conference in steals with 3.17 per game at the Christmas break.
Coach Benotie says Parnsalu also has great shooting ability, something he hasn’t really shown yet. Benoite puts that down to the fact that the rookie has been hampered by ankle injuries early in the season.
“But he is a great shooter,” maintains Benoite, “and he can shoot with range. I’m expecting that to really help us the second half of the year.
Benoite said he also likes the young man’s attitude.
“He’s come into our program very open and very excited about the opportunity to play here.
“He’s a hard worker and wants to do well. He has a competitive drive.”
“I think he can grow into a leader for us. He is demonstrating the ability to run an offense and to lead.
“However,” Benoite cautions, “he’s a rookie and he’s still figuring things out for himself. It’s a tough situation to be figuring our your own game and be responsible for everybody else as well.
“But to be put in that position in your first year, will certainly help his development as he moves forwards with us.”
Parnsalu, who is averaging 10 points a game, scored 18 in the team’s 75-70 loss to first-place Acadia Axemen this past weekend.
“I was very pleased with our effort in that game,” said Benoite. “I thought we fought hard and competed very well and, in many ways, deserved the win. We just couldn’t make the plays we needed to make down the stretch, both offensively and defensively.”
The 0-8 Sea-Hawks return to AUS action 8 p.m. Saturday and 1 p.m. Sunday against UNB Varsity Reds at the Field House.