OLDS — Former award-winning Olds Bronco volleyball player Thundersky WalkingBear has signed with the Thompson Rivers University WolfPack.
WolfPack men’s head coach Pat Hennelly says WalkingBear is a key part of the Kamloops team as they rebuild toward his goal of at least making the playoffs in the Canada West Universities Athletic Association.
WalkingBear is an outside hitter originally from Thunderchild, Sask. who stands 6’3”.
In his first year with the Broncos, WalkingBear was named the 2018-19 Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) men’s volleyball player of the year and the MVP for Olds College, as well as male rookie of the year.
During his second year, he was named the 2019-20 Broncos men’s volleyball player of the year and the ACAC men’s all conference outside hitter (southern division). In addition, he was also named player of the game several times.
Before joining the Broncos, WalkingBear played for the 16-18 U Huskie Volleyball Club in Saskatoon. He helped Team Saskatchewan win the gold medal during the 2017-18 North American Indigenous Games and was named U18 male beach athlete of the year.
During an interview, Hennelly said before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, the WolfPack had pretty good success.
“Two years ago we missed the playoffs and I thought we should have been in the playoffs. And the year before that, we beat Alberta in the playoffs and got into the top four Canada West so we had a pretty good cycle there and we’ve graduated basically all those guys, going into 2021,” Hennelly said.
As a result, he's been looking far and wide for players to improve his team. In addition to WalkingBear, Hennelly recruited another outside hitter all the way from Australia.
“We basically revamped our entire starting lineup going into this upcoming season, so having a guy with experience, having a guy with proven high-level play was absolutely essential, and I think Thundersky really fits that potential,” he said.
The ultimate goal is to win a championship, but Hennelly conceded the Canada West men’s volleyball conference is highly competitive, so it’s one step at a time.
“It’s always about making the playoffs first and then seeing how far we can go in the playoffs, but Thundersky definitely has the skillset that’s going to make us a better team,” he said.
Hennelly is confident WalkingBear and the Australian will be “impact players immediately and that will change the fortunes of our team for sure.”
Broncos men’s head coach Ryan Marsden is pleased to see his former star player continue on with volleyball at another level.
“It has been a complete pleasure to work with T-sky over the last three seasons. He has been instrumental in our program and in us becoming competitive with the best teams in the league," Marsden said.
“Thundersky is a two-time team MVP as well as rookie of the year. He was an ACAC all star last year as well. Thundersky will most definitely make an impact for the WolfPack program and we look forward to cheering him on.”
WalkingBear sees Thompson Rivers University (TRU) as a chance to continue on with his education while still pursuing the sport he loves. He graduated from Olds College with a business in sports management diploma.
“I selected TRU because my program transferred from Olds and I would like to better or continue my education. As well, I am very interested in the TRU men’s volleyball WolfPack program,” he said.
— With files from Michele Young of strategic communications, university relations, Thompson Rivers University.