Written by: Duncan Forbes
Sven Stammberger didn't take the conventional route to being a star on the Tigers men's basketball team. He didn't come to Dalhousie as a heralded prospect who was expected to be the next face of the program, let alone be a starter.
The Halifax native that starred at Halifax Grammar School has his fair share of ties to Dalhousie. His sister Tessa is a star with the women's team and his mother Anna is its Head Coach. Basketball and Dalhousie is something the Stammberger family has always had in common, so it seemed natural when Sven joined the black and gold. In his first year at Dal, Sven watched from the bench as a red shirt. His potential was obvious: At 6'5" and oozing raw athletic ability, it was obvious he was brimming with potential.
It was just a matter of time.
Entering his second year at Dalhousie, Sven was in his first year of eligibility and was primed for a breakout year. The team was in a transitional period under new head coach Rick Plato and competition was open for minutes, though the Tigers sported a deep frontcourt which forced Sven to battle for every minute of floor time.
"Having to fight and compete every day in practice mainly as a non-contributor really helped me and brought me to the level I am at now," explains Stammberger.
His first year of eligibility didn't end quite as planned, either. He broke his wrist and ended up missing the last two months of the season as the Tigers stumbled their way to a seventh place finish that saw them miss the AUS playoffs.
Despite only seeing a total of 30 minutes in his first year of eligibility, the experience he gained was invaluable.
"Even though I didn't get much run in the games, I was improving weekly and started feeling a lot more comfortable," says Stammberger.
Fast forward to his second year of eligibility, and Stammberger's play has completely transformed. He's a regular starter in the Tigers lineup and he's been an absolute force on both ends. The former redshirt plays with confidence and he's been one of the Tigers best players as they've started the season with a 5-1 record.
It all started with his off-season training, where he put in more work that he ever had in his life.
"My off-season consisted of many individual workouts and shooting sessions as well as working with our assistant coach Anton (Berry)," explains Stammberger. "I went to Germany at the end of August and trained with the Telekom Baskets of Germany's top basketball league for two weeks. My family knew the coach of that team and he said I should practice with them before their season started. We practiced twice a day and not only did it get me game ready before our season started, but I learned a lot from the older players who played basketball for a living."
His progression has certainly made an impression on head coach Rick Plato, who had nothing but great things to say about his starting forward.
"Sven is absolutely one of the most tireless, dedicated and hardest working student-athletes of whom I have had the privilege of coaching in my 35 years," says Tigers head coach Rick Plato. "I can remember when he was in high school at the Halifax Grammar School and as a coach of MSVU at the time, I did not pursue Sven as a possible recruit because he was thin and lacked athleticism, boy was I wrong. From that time to now, nothing short of a Spartan work ethic and a year-round commitment to being the best he can be has resulted in his role as a starter with the Tigers."
Stammberger has been a huge factor in the Tigers hot 5-1 start to the season. Through six games, Sven is fourth on the Tigers in points and rebounds, averaging 8.8 points per game and 5.8 boards per game. He's averaging 28.5 minutes per game, which is just shy of his total minutes all season last year.
Coach Plato says that whilecoaching Sven is an absolute pleasure, it doesn't stop him from drawing comparisons to his sister Tessa, who was an AUS first team all-star with the women's team.
"Last year I always joked with Sven that he was the third best player in his family behind his mom, Anna, and Tessa," jokes Plato. "Well, I am happy to say, that he, in my eyes, is the BEST player now in the Stammberger family. And I am quite sure that his proud mom and sister don't really mind relinquishing that standard. The future looks very bright for the Tigers with the likes of Sven in the lineup in the coming years."
Despite his success, Stammberger is quick to mention his teammates, and says that it's a team effort that has led to their success.
"Everyone is buying in to the system, and the defence we play," he says. "We also have a great leadership group lead by our two captains who not only teach by example, but are able to be extra assistant coaches on the court for our younger players to learn from."
The sky is the limit for Stammberger and the Tigers, who are poised to compete for the AUS championship. They'll be back on the court when they face the UPEI Panthers on January 9, 2015.