Luyken signing with UBC T-Birds

Mission’s Nakai Luyken plays for the Yale Secondary School Lions and recently signed with the UBC Thunderbirds.

Mission’s Nakai Luyken plays for the Yale Secondary School Lions and recently signed with the UBC Thunderbirds.

In university basketball recruiting – as in the sport itself – timing is everything.

Such was the case with Yale secondary senior Nakai Luyken.

Sifting through his post-secondary options, the uber-athletic guard narrowed it down to two preferred suitors – the UBC Thunderbirds, and the University of Portland Pilots.

While playing NCAA Division 1 basketball was certainly enticing, Portland wanted Luyken to wait until the late signing period, which begins in mid-April.

Recruiting deadlines aren’t as stringent in Canadian Interuniversity Sport as they are south of the border, and Luyken worried that by the time April rolled around, UBC might have given out all its scholarships. And what if Portland’s initial interest didn’t come to fruition with a scholarship offer?

That timing tension, plus Luyken’s comfort level during a recruiting visit to UBC prior to Christmas, led him to sign with the T-Birds.

“It’s kind of relieving, actually,” said Luyken, who plans to major in business at UBC. “I can go on with the rest of the season and not worry about where I’m going next year. I can just play basketball.”

Luyken also had connections with Abbotsford’s University of the Fraser Valley Cascades to consider. His father Anthony and sister Aieisha are involved with the UFV women’s basketball team as an assistant coach and player. Luyken also played for UFV men’s coach Barnaby Craddock on the provincial under-18 team last summer.

“I wanted to move away from home for a bit, even if it’s just an hour and a half away,” he explained.

Luyken, who transferred from Mission Secondary to Yale two years ago, played shooting guard on the Lions’ provincial AAA championship team in 2010. With the graduation of star point guard Marek Klassen, the versatile 6’1” athlete has served as Yale’s primary ball handler this season.

UBC head coach Kevin Hanson envisions Luyken remaining at the point when he joins the T-Birds this fall.

“I think his basketball IQ is very high, with his dad being a coach,” said Hanson, who noted he’s been tracking Luyken’s progress since his days with the B.C. U15 team. “I think he’ll fit in perfectly with our style of play.

“We really like his competitiveness, the way he pushes the ball in transition. Defensively, he can really get after it as well and cause people some problems.”