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Former Island basketball star enters BC Hall of Fame

Eric Hinrichsen was on the 2000 Canadian Olympics team and played professional basketball in Europe
The Canadian Olympics team in 2000. Eric Hinrichsen is wearing number 12. Eric Hinrichsen/Facebook.

Eric Hinrichsen, a former basketball player with Carihi Secondary School, is joining the Basketball BC Hall of Fame as part of the 2023 class.

Hinrichsen started playing the sport around Grade 6 through his brother, Christopher.

“I would tag along with him to the local court on Quadra Island and watch him and his friends play,” he says. “Every once in a while, when they needed an extra player they would ask me to play.”

His brother and John Frishholz, a Grade 9 teacher at Phoenix, were the two biggest influences on Hinrichsen’s love for the game. Christopher always pushed him to be better and grow and made everything competitive. Frishholz was always positive, and focused on making the game fun, but challenged the players to grow.

Hinrichsen went to Carihi Secondary School for his high school education. As a centre, Hinrichsen led the Carihi Tyees to an ‘AA’ Provincial Championship in 1993.

“Man, that was a long time ago. Carihi had a strong basketball program at that time,” he says. “In Grade 11, we had a truly dominant season, where we only lost one game and ended up winning the ‘AA’ Provincial Championship. That team had five to six players that went on to play college/university [basketball].”

In his senior year, he guided the team to a third-place finish at the 1994 ‘AAA’ Provincial Championship, where he was named the Most Valuable Player.

“That semi-final game (even though we lost) would probably be the game I remember the most from my high school playing days. It was an amazing game with many lead changes that came down to the wire. I believe we ended up losing the game by six points. We were all gutted we lost, but we left it on the court, and after the game, the 5,000-ish people that were watching us gave a standing ovation to acknowledge this.”

After graduation, Hinrichsen enrolled at the University of Victoria, where he played for the Vikes from 1995 to 1999. He chose the University of Victoria because it was on the Island, allowing his parents to watch his home games. He did receive some offers from other institutions in Canada and the United States, including Santa Clara and Idaho.

During his time at UVic, he was awarded Rookie of the Year (1994-95 season), the Mike Moser Award twice (player of the year – 1997 and 1999) and the national championship tournament Most Valuable Player (1997). With the Vikes, Hinrichsen won the national title in 1997.

Hinrichsen became a professional in 1999, joining Bree B.B.C., a team in Belgium based in the city of Bree, after signing a three-year contract. The team played in the Pro Basketball League (PBL) until it dissolved in 2010 due to bankruptcy. Hinrichsen was there for three seasons, which included a third-place finish in the 2001-02 season, qualifying for the Champions Cup, a continental tournament.

In 2000, Jay Triano selected the 6’7” centre to play for Canada at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

“I had represented Canada before at other international events (Jr. National, University Games Team) before the Olympics, but this was the pinnacle of my career. Representing your country is truly an honour and something very special, but representing your country at the Olympics doesn’t get any better than that.”

Canada lost to France 68-63 in the quarter-final but topped their group, winning four of the five games and had the second-best record overall. Hinrichson appeared in four of the games, averaging 4.5 minutes and 0.8 points.

“Our opening pool game was against Australia,” he recounts. “I didn’t expect I would get on the court. So, I am sitting on the bench watching the game and it is late in the first half. One of our other forwards (Peter Gaurasci) is playing well but needs a break. Coach looks down the bench, and all of a sudden, I hear my name. I look around to make sure he is talking to me and then make my way up to the scorer’s table to check in. I get into the game and run up and down the court a few times. Not even sure I touched the ball, and then Peter subbed me out as he was ready to go again. Still hard to believe that happened.”

Hinrichsen also recalled how many celebrities they would often see. In one case, Hinrichsen approached a group of people forming a crowd around a table in the cafeteria that kept on getting bigger and bigger. Curious, Hinrichsen joined in, and it was Mohamed Ali sitting at the table enjoying lunch.

After three years in Bree, Hinrichsen decided to move to Saint Thomas Basket Le Havre (STB Le Havre) in France. STB Le Habre was in the LNB Pro A, the top league in France. He averaged 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 30 games.

In the next season, Hinrichsen returned north, but this time in the Netherlands, where he signed for Donar, a club in Groningen. Doner is also one of the most popular clubs in the country. Donar played in the country’s top league, the Eredivisie, which they won that season.

After that season, during which he also suffered from two ankle injuries, Hinrichsen returned to Campbell River for a year before moving to Victoria where he has worked as a jail guard and in construction for the the past 15 years. His son, Justin, is following in his footsteps, turning out for the Spectrum Secondary School basketball team. Hinrichsen is the team’s assistant coach.

In 2011, he was inducted into the UVic Sports Hall of Fame and in 2012, the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Hinrichsen will be inducted at the Basketball BC Hall of Fame Gala on Sept. 7 at the Langley Events Centre. He is joined by Carrie Watts, Dani Langford, Jessica Maheu, Paul Buday, Navi Sekhon, Ed Somers, Paul Langford, Tim Heide, and the 2003-04 UBC women’s basketball team.