Kok flourishing in new role with Bellingham Slam

THE BELLINGHAM HERALDJuly 4, 2013 

Bellingham Slam forward Chas Kok's emergence has been key to the Slam's successful season.

JON BERGMAN — Courtesy to The Bellingham Herald

Chas Kok's shot is fundamentally sound with a hint of effortless confidence, resulting in the indistinguishable whip of the net.

The dimensions of the basketball court are all that suppress the Lynden grad's shoot-it-from-anywhere ability.

"I love to shoot," Kok said without hesitation in a phone interview.

And with a range that rivals any in the International Basketball League, Kok has forged a role in the regular rotation for the Bellingham Slam, helping guide the first-place Slam to a 16-2 regular-season record and a berth to the IBL playoffs. As the top seed, Bellingham, the reigning IBL champion, will face the winner of the Japan Tornadoes-Salem Sabres game in Portland on Thursday, July 4, with the winner of that game advancing to the championship game on Friday, July 5.

Kok's emergence as one of the Slams most reliable and consistent scoring threats, as evidenced by his 14.6 points per game, is a testament to the power of confidence. He just needed a chance and for some shots to fall to make an impact, Bellingham coach Rob Ridnour said.

"(Chas) has all the fundamentals, it's just you have to be consistent and confident, not timid and hesitant," the Slam coach said in a phone interview. "He came in with that mindset, and he was a totally different player ... All of the sudden he comes in and comes out of the blocks and was playing tough. He has been a big key to our success."

Kok came to shine in the absence of others. Paul Hafford, last year's leading scorer for the Slam at over 25 points per game, decided not to return, and others who were thought to be joining the Slam decided against it, leaving a void needing to be filled, Ridnour said.

Kok averaged 21.3 points per game over the first four games this season, snuffing out any lingering doubt about whether he could fill the void left by those who were no longer there.

"I looked at my assistant coach and said, 'Geez, Chas is a different guy,'" Ridnour said following Kok's offensive eruption at the beginning of the year. "He had a job to get done and he did. This was his opportunity, and he took it and ran with it."

The ascension to meaningful minutes was a far cry for the 24-year-old swingman who presided over the end of the bench for most of his first season with the Slam. Ridnour admitted that when Kok first joined the team, he had no intention of playing him unless he needed to. But despite only playing when games got out of hand, Kok never allowed the lack of playing time to consume him. Rather, he used it to motivate and pick others up.

"If a guy was feeling down, I would bump them up," Kok said. "I didn't want to be a guy that distracted the team."

His resilience in a situation many might consider difficult only speaks to his mental fortitude, Ridnour said. That and he's a bit different than your average basketball player.

While still in school at Thompson Rivers University, three hours north of Bellingham in British Columbia, Kok would use the drive to visualize situations in the coming game - scenarios he could imagine unfolding.

"I play with a great point guard in Mo Anderson, and on the road, I just envision Mo throwing it to me on the wing and hitting a jumper," Kok said. "(I envision) simple plays that might happen during games in different circumstances.

"It's unbelievable when it comes through for me."

As a guy that openly accepts his lack of elite athleticism, Kok's guile and sound fundamentals are what separate him from others who may have said skillsets, Ridnour said, harkening back to the way Kok sees things on the floor unfold.

"He does have a good feel for the game," Ridnour said. "Certain things he says, like, 'That guy doesn't have very good feet on him,' Chas has that mindset. He sees the small intangibles that make a good basketball player, not just the athleticism."

Kok is a realist - he knows he can't play basketball forever. But playing is just one form of staying connected with the game he has come to love. As an assistant coach at Thompson Rivers University, the transition from player to coach is one he looks to embrace.

"I enjoy teaching something and seeing the joy on their faces when they learn," Kok said of coaching young children the game of basketball. "I love to inspire. I just try to impact as many kids as I can."

That's a ways off, he admitted, acknowledging the possibility of winning back-to-back IBL championships being the only thing on his mind. That and knowing this year, he won't be watching from the end of the bench.

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