Mike Barrett, LSSULakers.com
SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. — Following a season in which the Lake Superior State men's basketball team qualified for the NCAA Division II Tournament, the Lakers are looking to remain among the top teams in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (GLIAC) and to reclaim the conference crown.
Helping to lead the team towards those goals is the one member of the squad who has cut down the nets in Bud Cooper Gymnasium: Tim Cairnduff.
Cairnduff, who redshirted his freshman year, was with the Lakers in 2014-15, when they finished 26-7 overall. This included an 18-4 conference mark that saw the Lakers claim the GLIAC regular season title.
"You see all of the work that goes into a season to get something like a ring, and being known as the 2014-15 GLIAC champs is a great honor," said Cairnduff.
The Morley, Michigan, native is one of three seniors lacing up for head coach Steve Hettinga this season. Being around the team as long as he has, Cairnduff has learned a great deal about leadership from past Lakers.
"My freshman year, I had some great senior leadership from guys like Tony Harris, Alex Williams and Mike Smutny," said Cairnduff. "I got to learn from those guys what it means to keep the program at that level and the culture it takes. I have been fortunate to play with some of the best point guards in Lake State history like Harris and Akaemji Williams. It has been such a blessing playing with guys like that in my four years here."
Following his redshirt season, Cairnduff left Lake Superior State for a year. He attended Mid Michigan Community College in Harrison. After a year down there, he returned to Sault Ste. Marie and the Lakers.
"It was a really tough year for me, going from a small town to the University, struggling with things," said the 6-foot guard. "I had to leave and kind of get my head on straight. Coach offered me another chance and I took it because I loved it up here so much."
For Cairnduff, basketball has been a generational affair. His father played in high school and helped get him into the sport.
"When I was younger, I started playing when I was in the first grade or kindergarten. I was a first grader playing on a fifth grade travel team just to play with competition. I did not really play much, but I was always around it and that is when I found a passion for it. In middle school, I managed the McBain boys basketball team where I grew up, so being around basketball every day as a kid got me into it."
Majoring in criminal justice with a focus in law enforcement and a minor in homeland security, Cairnduff indicated his father was a major influence on his choice of major.
"My dad is a sergeant with the state police down in Lakeview, Michigan" Cairnduff said. "Right now, I think he has done that for 23 years, so I see what kind of opportunities that gave him and what it can give me."
"I probably would not have come to college if it was not for basketball, so for that to provide me an opportunity to get a degree, that is what I am looking forward to," Cairnduff added.
While he is not completely decided on where he would like to end up following graduation, Cairnduff has expressed interest in Homeland Security, saying "I think it would be a great field to get into with everything going on with it. One of our team sayings is 'Enjoy the Journey,' so that is what I want to do. Enjoying the highs and lows are what I want to do."
One of the aspects Cairnduff enjoys the most about law enforcement is the unique relationship that exists with the general public.
"Every day in criminal justice, there is an opportunity to influence somebody's day. You can either have a positive influence or negative influence on somebody, and every day in that field you have the opportunity to really make a difference in the community."
As mentioned, Cairnduff redshirted his freshman season. After returning to Lake State, he occasionally came off the bench as a sub during his sophomore campaign. His junior season finally saw him crack the starting lineup, debuting in 11 games in 2017-18, a season that saw Lake Superior State go 25-8, including handing eventual national champion Ferris State its only loss of the season.
So far this season, he has started all nine games, and has averaged nearly 32 minutes per game. His offensive output has increased from last season as well, nearly doubling from 5.2 to 9.8 points per game.
"Tim is a great mentor for all of our young players. He leads by example on and off the floor," said coach Hettinga. "On the court, he is one of our best communicators. He is doing everything we are asking of him."
While the Lakers are not off to the red hot start they had last season, they still have the majority of their conference games ahead of them, where anything can happen.
"I think we can really get on a roll here in the second semester," remarked Cairnduff. "The team is starting to get healthy and some of our young guys are starting to grasp things going on, so I think we have a good opportunity to make a good run and get into the NCAA tournament again."
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