For Lliam Wishart, the time is now.
After spending two seasons in a support role, the 19-year-old Kamloops native is ready to lead the Okanagan Sun receiving corps into the new B.C. Football Conference season.
“The first two years were a really good experience, I had a lot to learn coming into the league,” said the 6-foot-2, 195-pound Wishart. “I’m happy to be where I am now, to have the chance to play a lot bigger role. I feel 100 per cent more ready than I was last year. Hopefully I can be a big part of a great year for our team.”
With the graduations of Kyle Patchell, Kyle Kawamoto and Thomas Huber from last year’s club, Sun receivers will have some big shoes to fill in 2016.
Those three players alone combined for 87 catches, 1,691 yards and 15 touchdowns during the 2015 regular season.
Wishart, who had 12 receptions over his first two BCFC seasons, will be looked upon to step up and help fill the void.
“I feel like Lliam’s ready to be a Canadian all-star,” said Sun head coach Ben Macauley. “He’s got a prototypical receiver body, he’s tall and lean and very athletic. He’s a quiet guy but a positive leader. We needed someone to take the reins at receiver and he’s done that. We expect him to continue to grow.”
Still, Macauley said one small challenge facing Wishart is that there are plenty of other capable receivers on the Sun and “only one ball to go around, so that’s a good problem to have.”
Macauley said returnees Shamar Donelson and Pierre-Luc Lord will provide skill and veteran experience, while newcomers Kian Ishani (Halifax) and Nathaniel Anderson (Utah) have earned positive reviews from the coaches during training camp.
“It’s tough to fill those spots (from last year) but we have guys who have been waiting and performing well all the way along,” Macauley said. “This is their chance now, all they needed was an opportunity and they’ve been rising to the occasion.
“Shamar catches just about everything and has a great attitude, P.L. Lord is one of the fastest guys around and Kian and Nathaniel are two young guys with a lot to offer,” Macauley added. “We have other guys who are ready to step up, too, so I think it makes us very dangerous.”
As for the mood and atmosphere surrounding the Sun with Macauley in charge, Wishart said he likes the direction the team is headed in 2016.
“The coaches definitely did a good job of putting the team together, there’s a really good vibe and it’s upbeat,” Wishart said. “(Ben) is a low key guy but knows what he wants. He isn’t going to accept laziness and he’s going to make sure we’re ready to play.”
The Sun kicks off the 2016 regular season this Saturday in Chilliwack against the Huskers.
Okanagan’s first home game will be Saturday, Aug 6 against the Westshore Rebels, coached by former Sun field boss, Shane Beatty.