The University of Northern British Columbia’s Men’s Basketball team has bolstered its backcourt with a major dose of experience and skill, officially announcing the commitment of college all-star guard Payton Tirrell for the 2020-2021 Canada West season.
“I have watched a lot of film and seen games in person, and I feel like the next step for me is to play at the U SPORTS level, and show what I can do. I have done that at the CCAA level and I want to turn it up now. Play against better competition and play in better systems. Coach Jordan gave me an opportunity, and that is what sports is. Someone gives you an opportunity and you run with it.”
Tirrell played his fourth season of university basketball in 2018-2019 at Grande Prairie Regional College, where he starred for the Wolves. After a year away from the game, he knew he wanted to return to the court for a final season and play the game at the highest level in Canadian university sport.
“I am really excited to be a part of the community in Prince George. I am looking forward to it. The biggest thing for me was where could I find myself a spot where I fit in? Where is there a coach who is going to coach me hard, but at the same time, let me be me. Ultimately, it led my here, so I am grateful. That year off taught me a lot about myself and allowed me to make sure I am ready for this opportunity in my last year.”
In 2018-2019, Tirrell was an Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference All-Star, following a season where he averaged 16.9 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game. The six-foot-three guard finished top ten in ACAC scoring and top 15 in rebounding, assists, and steals.
“My best attribute is passing. I am a bigger guard so I can see over the defense, and I am looking to get everyone involved. I’m known for a flashy pass or two. A no-look or alley-oop, just stuff to get people hyped and get the crowd involved. I am pretty well-known for my scoring ability, especially from three. I shoot from three at a high level. I am going to read the game, and if I am not shooting well that night and somebody else is, we are going to get them the ball.”
Following the 2019-2020 campaign, the Timberwolves graduated swings Saje Gosal and Anthony Hokanson. TWolves coach Todd Jordan saw an opportunity to bolster his lineup with Tirrell, who provides an on-ball talent with an eye for distribution, but also an off-ball threat; Tirrell shot 39.6% from beyond the arc in 2019.
“We are really excited to have Payton join our program. He really understands the game and does a lot of things right. He comes to our program after an extremely successful year at Grande Prairie where he was a league all-star. It was a goal of his to play at the highest level in Canada and I am excited that he has chosen UNBC as the place to finish his university career. He will bring an immediate influx of talent to our team.”
A native of Woodinville, Washington, Tirrell has used the past year to hone his game while also coaching multiple levels of youth basketball with Local Hoops, the same club he grew up playing in. He also served as a coach with Shoreline Community College, where played his first year of college basketball. The General Arts student says teaching the game to younger athletes has given him a fresh outlook, and confirmed his desire to play his fifth season at UNBC. He expects the preparation and attention to detail to be at a higher intensity than anything he has experienced.
“Playing in Canada West, I am expecting a high competition level. A lot more spacing than I am used to, which is a blessing offensively and a curse defensively. That level of discipline and structure will be really good. It’s just a higher level.”
Tirrell joins a TWolves backcourt that has 2020 Canada West leading scorer Tyrell Laing and impact guard Vova Pluzhnikov, along with a number of hungry, young athletes ready to take a step forward. He is confident he will find his spot on the roster, and contribute to the Timberwolves returning to the conference playoff.
“If you want to play at a high level, you have to love the game, because it’s going to test you. It’s going to test you day in and day out. Nobody cares if you’re not winning. You can be cool and be pretty, but nothing is cooler than winning. It’s simple as that. As long as you can go into an environment and put your ego aside, and be ready to do what it takes to win and compete, then you’re going to be alright.”