Brandon University Bobcats men’s volleyball head coach Grant Wilson knew it would be tough to replace middle Dan Boutwell, who exhausted his CIS eligibility last season, but he thinks his first recruit of the off-season might go a long way in easing that concern.
James Weir, a 6-foot-7 middle who trained at the Australian Institute of Sport Development in Canberra for the last few years, has committed to the Bobcats next season, and Wilson believes he may be one of the rare athletes who can make an immediate impact in university right after graduating high school.
“In all honesty, we couldn’t have found a much better situation,” Wilson said. “Losing Dan is a huge loss for us, but to be able to find someone who’s that big, strong and athletic and has the experience that he has at his age is a perfect fit. We think he’s going to be able to come in and challenge for minutes on the court right away, and he’s got lots of promise.”
What makes the signing even better is that Weir, who helped the Canberra Heat win a silver medal in the Australian Volleyball League men’s championship, is not an import. The CIS capped the number of import players in volleyball at two and Brandon isn’t allowed to recruit any more international players until it has an opening on its roster. The Bobcats will be grandfathered into the rule for the next couple years as they had five on last year’s roster.
Despite spending the last few years in Australia, Weir is a Canadian. He was born in Saskatoon before his family moved to Australia.
He decided to come home and, despite being recruited by the University of Regina Cougars, contacted Wilson. Weir, however, opted to come to Brandon due to its recent success, which includes the Canada West conference title and a national bronze medal in the 2012-13 season.
“I decided on Brandon because of the success that they’ve had as a volleyball program in recent years,” Weir said in a press release. “From what I’ve heard there is a great team culture within the Bobcats and I am really thrilled to be heading over there in September.”
Weir’s addition gives the Bobcats four middles for next season with starter Frank Jones returning along with rookies Ty Moorman and Daven Pascal. Moorman played in seven matches last season and started in five when Jones was out with a broken pinkie. Pascal, a Brandonite, redshirted last season.
Wilson is impressed with how well Weir moves on the floor, reads plays and closes blocks and thinks he’ll compete with those three for playing time. He also knows depth is a huge factor in being successful in the Canada West and is happy to have four middles on the roster.
“Adding James gives us a fourth middle and we like to train with four middles and it gives us that depth and a good mix of youth and experience in terms of who we have,” Wilson said. “We like where we’re sitting with at middle this season.”
Weir is the first player to join Brandon’s men’s volleyball team in what is expected to be a small recruiting class. The Bobcats’ main concern was at middle and Wilson feels Weir solidifies that.
The class will be smaller because Brandon had a large roster with 17 players on it last season. The team also lost Brandonite Conan Mickey, who transfered to the Guelph Gryphons because of its academic programs, and may lose Scott Vercaigne for the same reasons and will have three fifth-year players next season, but Wilson isn’t in a huge rush to find replacements.
“At this point in time the focus was to bring somebody in the middle and if we’re fortunate enough to find somebody we feel can contribute on the outside, we would look to add them potentially too,” he said.