Wall of Distinction 2024: Career points, rebounds leader Robbie Valpreda led Griffins to two CCAA medals

Wall of Distinction 2024: Career points, rebounds leader Robbie Valpreda led Griffins to two CCAA medals

Jefferson Hagen
MacEwan Athletics

EDMONTON – For 49 years, athletes have proudly worn the Griffin as members of MacEwan's athletics teams.

Over that time, the best of the best have emerged, worthy of recognition for the ages.

For the first time in 20 years, MacEwan Athletics is reviving its Wall of Distinction program, which recognizes top athletes, coaches, teams, and builders for their exemplary contributions to the success of the Griffins.

We're proud to induct four new members of the 2024 Wall of Distinction class during MacEwan Athletics' annual awards banquet on April 6.

Throughout the week, we are unveiling this class one by one.

Tuesday: Scott Reid, men's hockey

Wednesday: Vanessa Trofimenkoff, women's cross country & indoor track

Today: Robbie Valpreda, men's basketball

Friday: TBA


The most dominant player in MacEwan men's basketball history, Robbie Valpreda amassed 1,414 points and 752 rebounds in just three seasons – program records that still stand today, nearly two decades after he finished his playing career with the Griffins.

He will now forever be recognized for his accomplishments as a Wall of Distinction member, one of four in the 2024 and 13 others who were inducted in the early days of the program.

"I guess it makes me feel old now," said Valpreda. "MacEwan's always been a huge part of my life. I wouldn't be where I am without my time at MacEwan. I think for me to be represented on the Wall of Distinction with all the other individuals who are on there means a whole heck of a lot.

"I think you don't really realize it as a student-athlete when you're there, but realizing what you've done afterwards makes it a huge accomplishment."

In 2000-01, Valpreda averaged a program-best 24.8 points/game on a sizzling 66.4 field goal percentage (also a record) and was named CCAA Player of the Year – one of just three student-athletes in school history to win the honour as the best in the nation.

"Being able to achieve that award at a national level, first and foremost, wouldn't have been done without my teammates and coaches," said Valpreda, who played for the Griffins over two stints – from 1999-01 and again in 2004-05. "It's a great honour to be recognized for my accomplishments as an individual on the court, but that wouldn't have been done without my teammates and coaches, who supported me at that time."

Robbie Valpreda shoots a three during a 2000-01 game. He led the Griffins to an ACAC Championship and CCAA bronze medal and was named CCAA Player of the Year that season.

Valpreda considers the team accomplishments more important than his individual achievements and he certainly made a big impact in that department. He led the Griffins to a CCAA bronze medal in 2000-01 and a CCAA silver in 2004-05, while they won ACAC Championships both of those seasons.

"The bronze was a team that was unforgettable," said Valpreda of the 2000-01 Griffins, who beat UC-Cariboo (now Thompson Rivers University) 92-87 at the nationals to secure the medal. "I think we went 22-2 when we had the late Phil Allen as our coach. The guys and talent we had on that team – and the camaraderie – was just exceptional. We worked as a collective unit through adversity and everything that year. 

"Our goal was to get a gold, but I remember it was at Humber where one of the toughest games was the bronze game because you had to play two in one day. That really showed a testament to who we are. Unfortunately, we didn't get gold, but we still finished with the bronze."

The 2004-05 team narrowly lost in the CCAA national final (83-76 to UC-Cariboo), but achieved a program-best result of a national silver medal.

"The silver was a little bit different because we didn't have as much talent (as the 2000-01 team), but we had a lot of individuals who knew their roles and worked hard. 

"I was fortunate to play alongside Alex Steele (the Griffins' second-leading scorer that season) and the coaches again did an exceptional job of setting us up to get to the final. I believe that was at NAIT. We just fell short, but both teams were great and obviously ones I will not forget in my time."

Valpreda's MacEwan tenure came in two parts because he transferred to the University of Alberta in between to test himself at the CIS (now U SPORTS) level. He passed with flying colours, leading the Golden Bears to the top of the mountain in 2001-02.

"That year, we went 35-3 and we won a national championship. I was named Canada West MVP and first team All Canadian (in CIS, now called U SPORTS). That was the last time the Bears won a national championship." 

Although that brings back fond memories for Valpreda, he noted his time with the Griffins is unforgettable.

"Most people are satisfied and content to get to that U SPORTS level, which I was able to achieve, but my best years were with MacEwan and the time that I spent there with the coaches, the teammates, the staff, the professors, the front desk individuals, and the workout area. 

"For me to be recognized as an individual on the Wall of Distinction and with the ACAC (Hall of Fame) now (he will be inducted into the ACAC Wall of Fame in May), it's kind of a huge sigh of relief because MacEwan meant so much to me during my time there."

Robbie Valpreda cuts down the basketball net at MacEwan after the Griffins won the 2000-01 ACAC Championship with an 86-77 win over SAIT.

Valpreda had a chance to go to an even higher level when he tried out for Team Canada in 2005 at Ross Sheppard during a cross-country ID for the team's roster heading to Brazil. New head coach Leo Rautins wanted him, but he turned the offer down.

"I was too much of a momma's boy at that time," he joked. "I rejected that offer because it was time for me to get into the work world and pay back some of my student loans. That would have been a great experience. Had I had another year of eligibility, I would have jumped on board, but unfortunately after that 04-05 season, I was done."

Valpreda instead launched into his career with the Edmonton Catholic School Division working in inclusive education, helping students with social or learning disabilities. He's now been at Louis St. Laurent high school for 19 years.

After an assistant coaching opportunity at MacEwan following his playing career, Valpreda cut his teeth in the coaching realm at LSL, coaching junior boys for two years and the senior women's team for five, culminating in a Div. 2 City Championship in 2011.

"Then I kind of realized I wanted to get into the college coaching realm," said Valpreda, who began sending out resumes.

The Concordia Thunder hired him to coach their women's basketball team in 2013. He's still going strong at the helm of the team.

"During my time there, I've had two ACAC coach of the year nominations," he said. "I'm the longest-serving coach at Concordia and the winningest coach in the women's basketball program. I don't know if it's because it took me that long, but however it is, my tenure at Concordia has been great.

"My time in the ACAC, both as a player and then as an assistant coach in the (Griffins) men's program for a few years, I think I've been around ACAC for a good 20 years now."
The game of basketball has given Valpreda a lot, he's given back a lot and now his name and story will live on MacEwan's Wall of Distinction.

"It's kind of cliché, but the younger athletes whatever sport they're in can look at that Wall of Distinction, who's on there, what they were able to achieve and maybe use it as motivation for their future success," he said. "The memories will forever last. There was never any dull moment. It was always positive. 

"Like I said at the beginning, my life wouldn't be anywhere where it is now if it wasn't for my time at MacEwan and the experiences I was able to have. I think in a nutshell, I'm just grateful for this conversation and to be honoured with this, so thank you."