The rookies brought their positive vibes from Vancouver to Montreal
On July 27, 2022, Jack Vandenberg flew out from Vancouver to Montreal. The following day, Griffyn Bibbings followed, and the two were probably the only students at Concordia’s campus residence for the next few weeks.
The two British Columbians — Vandenberg, point guard from Central Vancouver, and Bibbings, forward from West Vancouver — bonded and started a friendship that earned them the nickname “B.C. Boys” from their teammates.
“When we got here, he was probably the first person I met,” Bibbings said about Vandenberg. “It was the morning after I landed, and because we’re both from B.C., we’re both on res [residence] as well. So we kind of do everything together. Our teammates just call us ‘B.C. Boys,’ and they just mean me and Jack.”
“Coaches have mentioned a few times, they don’t really see us without each other,” Vandenberg added. “Because we have a similar schedule apart from classes. It’s just practice, and then we go eat, and then we go back to the res [residence].”
Although the two rookies were both only 18 years old at the time, they didn’t feel that moving to a new city on their own was intimidating or particularly difficult to navigate.
“At no point was I just in my room not knowing a single person or not knowing what to do,” said Bibbings. “The morning after I got here, I met him [Vandenberg]. I probably met like 20 people on the first day. So it wasn’t really that hard.”
Vandenberg and Bibbings had the chance to meet the rest of the team at practice before playing exhibition games against NCAA teams in August.
They acknowledged that being part of a team can definitely make moving across the country a lot easier.
“I feel like in our situation, it might be a little different than most,” Vandenberg explained. “Because when we came here we had the support of the coaches, teammates, like we already kind of had a friend group going into it with our teammates.”
Although the pair only met here last summer, they had played against each other in B.C. at some point, so they knew of each other.
Bibbings played high-school basketball at Rockridge Secondary and club basketball with 3D Basketball Academy during the spring and summer time, while Vandenberg played at St. George’s School and DRIVE Basketball.
Like all student-athletes, the two basketball players missed some time due to COVID-19 shutdowns. But according to them, this time off really helped separate the players who had been practicing during the shutdowns from those who hadn’t. They both stayed active with their respective clubs, which held outdoor sessions.
“Before COVID… I wasn’t that recognized [or] that good,” Vandenberg said. “Then I started getting more recognition because I put in more work whenever, I guess, a lot of people were chilling out.”
Stingers’ head coach Rastko Popovic also appreciates how hard his rookie point guard has been working.
“At the point guard position it’s tougher,” Popovic said. “Because we do have two really good point guards on our team, but what I like about Jack a lot is he’s a competitor, he competes, he’s not afraid, and he works really hard.”
Popovic has also been impressed by his two players’ maturity and ability to adapt from a high school setting to university, while juggling basketball and school.
Bibbings is currently enrolled in sociology, while Vandenberg is studying psychology, but they’re both keeping their options open, as they’re not sure if they want to stick to those programs yet.
Another thing that has impressed Popovic is the duo’s work ethic.
“They want to get better everyday, they’re very coachable, they listen, they’re both going to keep improving and hopefully by next year they’ll be able to make bigger contributions to our team,” Popovic said.
But that’s not the only thing that matters. Popovic also looks at the kind of people he’s recruiting and what they’re like off the court, and it was all positive when it came to Bibbings and Vandenberg.
“They’re very very good kids in general, they’re good people, and that’s important to us when we recruit players.”