Former Kelowna minor basketball products and Kelowna Owls Grant Shephard (left) and Mason Bourcier are in their freshman seasons at UBC.                                -Image: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics Photo

Former Kelowna minor basketball products and Kelowna Owls Grant Shephard (left) and Mason Bourcier are in their freshman seasons at UBC. -Image: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics Photo

Hardwood homecoming for ex-Owls duo

Grant Shephard and Mason Bourier will suit up in Kelowna this weekend for the UBC Thunderbirds

Grant Shephard and Mason Bourcier both left their mark on Kelowna’s basketball community.

This weekend, the UBC Thunderbirds duo and former teammates with the KSS Owls are coming home.

Shephard, Bourcier and the T-Birds will pay a visit to the UBC Okanagan campus for a pair of Canada West men’s basketball games against the hometown Heat.

“It’s going to be a cool experience, coming home and seeing a lot of the people I played basketball with and grew up with,” said Bourcier, a 6-foot-4 guard who is averaging 24 minutes and 4.7 points per game in his freshman season. “I know in talking to my dad, he said quite a few people are planning on coming. It should be a fun atmosphere.”

Ex-Owl teammate Parker Simson is also a member of the UBC roster but has yet to suit up for the T-Birds this season.

As Grade 11 players, Bourcier and Shephard—along with Simson—formed a potent combination at KSS, helping lead the Owls to both the B.C. 4A boys high school title and Western Canada Basketball Tournament title in 2016.

When Shephard moved to Florida for his senior year of high school, Bourcier remained in Kelowna, guiding the Owls back to the final of the provincial championship and a silver-medal finish.

Both players spent many hours at the UBC Okanagan campus, honing their skills with the Heat program, eventually leading to the start of their university careers at UBC.

Like Bourcier, Shephard is excited to be headed back into familiar territory. Among the players on the hometown UBCO roster is an ex-Owls’ teammate, Owen Keyes.

“I played and trained a lot at UBCO, so it’s a special place for me,” said the 6-foot-10 Shephard. “It’ll be great to see friends and family, kind of bit of a throwback weekend, I guess.

“I think people will be cheering for both sides,” Shephard added. “I think it’s going to be awesome.”

After signing with UBC last spring, Shephard went on to enjoy international success, helping Canada to its first ever gold medal at the FIBA U-19 world championship in Cairo, Egypt.

“It was an amazing experience, something I’ll never forget,” he said.

At UBC, Shephard and Bouricer have been on a learning curve in their freshman seasons with the Thunderbirds (11-3), currently ranked the No. 6 men’s team in the country.

Shephard, who has been averaging 14 minutes and nine points per game this season, said he feels his “development has come along the last couple of months and my shot is a lot better.”

Bourcier, logging 24 minutes and averaging 4.7 points per night, says he’s “learned a lot the first couple of months, not just as a basketball player, but I’ve grown as a person, too.”

As for his new team’s potential, Bourcier likes the T-Birds chances of taking the 2017-18 season deep into the playoffs.

“We have a really good team and lot of good players here,” Bourcier said. “I feel like we really do have a shot at a national title.”

The Heat and Thunderbirds will tip off Friday’s game at the UBCO campus gym at 8 p.m. The teams will meet again Saturday at 7 p.m.

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