Huskies guard-forward adds a crucial element of non-stop communication
This year, the Huskies men’s basketball team has as many types of leadership as there are flavours of ice cream. There’s the leadership of lived experience, which head coach Jonathan Smith has in spades, or that of leading points-getter Ajahmo Clarke, a five-year veteran who lets his scoring do the talking.
And then there is Huskies guard-forward Matthew Bukovec, who seems like he was born yelling.
On a veteran-heavy squad, Bukovec brings a crucial dynamic. These Huskies have scoring talent, experience and unquestionable passion. But when it comes to non-stop vocal communication, the Toronto native’s leadership is unmatched.
Bukovec yells like he gets paid by the word. Whether it’s directing his teammates, making players aware of opposition movement or simply keeping everyone involved, the squad can count on a constant stream of communication.
“We have guys here that can all score the ball really well, but it comes down to defensive stops down the stretch, and talking, communicating on defence in order to get those buckets offensively,” said Bukovec, a product of the Etobicoke Thunder Elite program.
A three-year Ontario Collage Athletics Association (OCAA) veteran who models his game after Indiana Pacers legend Reggie Miller, Bukovec is in his first season with the Huskies. The event management student brings top-level experience, having gone to national championships in back-to-back years with the Humber Hawks, winning gold in 2015 and silver in 2016. Bukovec lists defensive intensity and communication as takeaways from his time with Humber.
“No one else on this team that plays has ever been in a national final,” said coach Smith. “We told Matt he’s a captain, told him to take that vocal role and he has. He’s yelling at guys, ‘engage the ball’, ‘talk’, ‘let’s go.’ It does come across as a general, but that’s what we need.”
Far from a one-trick defensive pony, Bukovec has broken out offensively as well. After a self-described scoring slump of 41 points over the first six games of the season, he’s posted 57 over the last four. Through the ups and downs, Bukovec credited the environment created by his head coach.
“(Smith) gives you the confidence to shoot the ball,” said Bukovec. “You miss a couple jumpers, as long as it’s rotated in the offence well, you know he’s not going to get mad at you, not get down on you.”
For this grizzled squad to be successful, it must be aware and accepting of every player’s strengths. While vocal leaders risk rubbing folks the wrong way, there is a clear appreciation of what Bukovec brings to the table.
“In basketball, you need communication, guys are confused without communication,” said Clarke, who has cracked the top-five OCAA all-time scoring leaderboard. “We need a leader, every team needs a vocal leader and Matt’s that guy.”