Sunday, 17 December 2006

Best Crop of CIS Freshmen in Years

One of the more reassuring aspects of the first half of the CIS men's basketball season has been the stellar impact of an inordinately large number of freshmen, many of whom already are leading their teams and are setting the stage for All-Canadian-type honours at some point in their careers. This augers well for CIS basketball, assuring a high level of play for many years to come and hopefully attracting more great players in the future.

The impact of top freshman is being seen all across the country as each of Canada's five conferences has first-year players worthy of consideration for the Dr. Peter Mullins Trophy as CIS Rookie of the Year. There are some 40 first-year eligible players across Canada making solid contributions to the teams including 11 who, based on the first half of this season, have a chance to be program difference-makers at some point in their careers.

The 2006-07 Top Freshmen in Canada (in no particular order)

Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw, 5'10", point guard, St. Francis Xavier (Halifax, NS) has stepped into the starting lineup as the primary ball-handler on the nation's #3 team and has played like a vet almost from the very start. Upshaw has averaged 12.3 ppg and a league-leading 7.9 apg in starting every league game and setting the table for X's fine array of veteran talent. He has improved with every game and has saved his best for league play including a season-high 20 points in 40 minutes in the win at UPEI and his first career double-double (16 points, 11 assists) in 36 minutes at UNB. One of his better overall games came on the final night of the AUS season's first half when he had 18 points including 3-6 from 3 and 5 assists in a close victory against Acadia. Without a doubt, one of Canada's top freshman who is a leader on one of Canada's best teams.

Dwayne Johnson, 6'3", forward, St. Francis Xavier (Ottawa, ON) spent a year in the Quebec CEGEP league after a stellar career at Woodroffe H.S. in Ottawa and is now firmly in X's rotation, one of 3 rookies including Upshaw and 6'5" Terrance Taylor (another top freshman), getting major minutes in Steve Konchalski's rotation. Johnson averages about 5.5 points per game but more importantly is shooting almost 60% from the floor, meaning when he gets his chances, he's finishing, making teams think twice about doubling X's top scorers. Expect Johnson to continue X's tradition of having great Ottawa high school players leading their program.

Jean-Francois Beaulieu-Maheux, 6'3", f, Laval (Montmorency CEGEP), Chicoutimi, PQ, is currently the leading scorer in the QSSF at 20.6 ppg. Beaulieu-Maheux is part of a stellar recruiting class for Laval Head Coach Jacques Paiement, who lost 4 of his top 7 players from last season's team. Against one of the top non-conference schedules in the country, Beaulieu-Maheux averaged 16 ppg including 24 against York in his first CIS game, 20 at Mac and 18 against Carleton in the UNB tournament final. Thus far in QSSF play, he had 32 at UQAM and 29 at Concordia. He can stroke it from behind the arc (13 for 36- 36%) as well as putting the ball on the floor for a great pull-up or a slashing move to get himself to the foul line as his 37 free throws attempts (7.5/game) illustrates.

Matthew Thornhill, 6'4", forward, McGill (Dawson College) has quickly become Coach Craig Norman's top threat from the perimeter, leading the Redmen to three key league victories for a team that is getting healthy quickly. After an uneven start in the pre-season, Thornhill has firmly established himself as a starter during QSSF play, averaging 16.7 ppg in 31.3 minutes per game, has been McGill's high scorer in 3 of 4 league games including a 22 point effort in a win against Bishop's and another 22 points including 5 3's in McGill's big overtime win over UQTR just before the break. Look for Thornhill to be one of the keys in the expected resurgence of the McGill men's program.

Mitch Leger, 6'6", forward, Queen's (Kingston, ON) is one of the most important recruits to the Gaels program in many years and if the early season is any indication, Leger is already prepared to assume the leadership mantle and excel as an inside/out threat. Already 6th in the OUA East in scoring at 15.1 ppg, Leger showed Queen's fans a glimpse of the next 5 seasons could be with a 28 point, 8 rebound effort in the Gaels' league home opener, a 3 point victory over Waterloo, and then followed it up the next night with the first of his two league double-doubles, a 22 point/17 rebound effort in a 6 point loss to Laurier. Two weeks later, Leger had a team-high 21 points in an overtime loss to Windsor and then added 18 points and 8 boards the next night at home in a win against Western. Like most freshman, he has had some struggles on the road, with only one double digit scoring effort (14 pts/10 rbs at Lakehead) and he's missed his last 12 3's, but without a doubt, Queen's surprisingly solid 4-4 start is due in large part to Leger's great overall play.

Boris Bakovic 6'7" forward Ryerson (Toronto East York) apparently turned down multiple NCAA Division 1 offers to join his brother Igor in the front court of one of Canada's emerging young programs in downtown Toronto. After a 1-5 start, the Rams swept a pair of road games on the final weekend of interlocking play and Boris was the main reason why as he had his 3rd and 4th double-doubles of the young season: 18 pts/14 rbs in a 15 point win at Laurier and then a 12 pt/17 rb effort in an overtime with at Waterloo. Exceptionally poised for a freshman, Boris made the first 26 consecutive free throws of his OUA career and had a pair of 20 point efforts in his first 3 games including 21 with 7 rebounds and 4 assists at Windsor. With fellow freshman Khrys Montague in tow and another potentially strong recruiting class next season, the Rams should begin to push for a spot in the upper echelon of the OUA East.

Mike Kenny 5'10" point guard Carleton (Ottawa Borden) has not filled up the stats sheet like a number of his fellow freshman but when a first-year point guard is entrusted with handling the ball during significant minutes for a four-time defending CIS championship team that did not lose anyone from last season, one must take note. Kenny is not very strong, does not appear super quick and thus far is only a somewhat-inconsistent three point threat but he beats people off the dribble, draws defenders and finds open shooters; in otherwords, a perfect fit for Carleton's system. He is also extremely mentally tough, not intimidated by more physically imposing defenders and will make big shots when need be. Probably most importantly, his more experienced teammates trust and respect him as the lead guard on the floor. Although probably not a contender for national or even division rookie-of-the-year honours, Kenny could be one of the most important players in the Ravens program in the coming years.

Andy Wedemire, 6'4" forward Western (Sarnia, ON) missed all of last season with a major knee injury but is leading the Mustangs resurgence in the OUA West. A smooth forward with a nice mid-range game who can also get to the rim with great athleticism, Wedemire has been in double figures in 7 of the 8 league games for the 'Stangs including a 26 point effort in Western's upset victory over U of T. He also had 17 points in Western's win at York as part of the Mustangs 4-4 start. Along with Jason Milliquet and Matt Curtis, Wedemire is one of Western's top scoring threats and with improved work on the glass and on the defensive end, has a chance to become one of Western's all-time greats.

Geoff McLaughlin, 6'10" center McMaster (Oakville, ON) started slowly in the pre-season as is the case for many big guys when moving to the next level especially defensively. However, he has improved with each passing week, showing tremendous hands and footwork in the low block, showing some presence defensively in the paint although he is still learning that part of the game. McLaughlin averaged 5.8 points in 17.8 minutes per game in the first half with solid efforts in the final 4 games especially. Again, not yet one of the true elite freshman in the CIS this season but quickly emerging as a player that will turn into an all-conference type player as his career develops.

Jeff Lukomski 6'0" guard Regina Cougars of Canada West is bringing back memories of Vinnie "Microwave" Johnson and "Downtown" Freddy Brown off the bench for the Cougars, highlighted by last weekend's 10-16 effort from 3 in splitting a pair of games at Manitoba. The Cougars rallied from a large deficit in the second game, primarily on the heels of Lukomski's 6-8 effort from beyond the arc, before losing by 1 after a 16 point/4-8 from 3 effort from Lukomski led the Cougars to a victory one night earlier. In all, Lukomski has made 22 of his last 39 threes for Regina while coming off the bench for instant offence. Overall Lukomski averages 15.1 points per game in 23.6 minutes while shooting an incredible 52.3% from 3 point land. Lukomski currently is playing like the top freshman in Canada West.

Kamar Burke 6'6" forward Thompson Rivers Mississauga, ON is one of 3 Toronto-area players who made the trip out west as part of Coach Nevin Glennie's effort to revitalize Thompson Rivers. The Wolfpack has had a rough start to their season but Burke has been doing his part, averaging 10.7 points and 5.5 rebounds in 27 minutes. His top effort was a 19 point, 8 rebound and 5 assist stat line against UBC and another 18 point/10 rebound effort against the T-Birds. Burke came close to his first career triple double by scoring 10 points and adding 8 points and 8 assists against Trinity Western.

Other top freshmen:

Connor Agnew, 6'4", Thompson Rivers
Amino Bello, 5'11", g, McMaster, Hamilton, ON
Shane Bertolacci, 6'8", c, Laurentian, Toronto, ON
Tyler Carey, 6'6", f, Windsor, London, ON
Jon Cooper, 6'3", f, UPEI, Etobicoke, ON
Daniel Demian, 5'8", g, Trinity Western
Evan Eliason, 6'6", f, Laurier, Guelph, ON
Francois-Olivier Gagnon-Hebert, 6'5", f, Laval, Quebec City, PQ
Paul Herra, 6'4", f, McGill, Kingston, ON
Jason Hoult, 5'11", g, York, York Region, ON
Scott Jaspers-Fayer, 6'6", f, Cape Breton, Guelph, ON
Kyle Kane, 6'1", g, Windsor, Windsor, ON
Luke Kieswetter, 6'1", g, Waterloo, Kitchener, ON
Andrew Kraus, 6'1", pg, Acadia, Markham, ON
Nick Lother, 5'10", g, Winnipeg
Brent Malish, 6'6", f, UBC, Langley, BC
Andrew McIntosh, 6'3", f, RMC, North Bay, ON
Patrick McIver, 6'1", g, Acadia, Bedford, NS
Ryan McNeilly, 6'2", g, Ryerson, Toronto, ON
Khrys Montague, 6'6", f, Ryerson, Toronto, ON
Alex Murphy, 6'1", g, UBC, Richmond, BC
Phillip Nkrumah, 6'4", f, Cape Breton, Brampton, ON
David Neufeld, 6'8", f, Saskatchewan
Boris Ondul, 5'10", g, Queen's, Istanbul, Turkey
Joel Pankewich, 6'1", g, Manitoba
Andrew Pennycook, 6'8", f, Laurier, Toronto, ON
Jamie Robinson, 6'4", f, Ottawa, Montreal, PQ
Alberto Rodriquez, 6'9", f, St. FX, Kitchener
Dominic Savard, Laval
Will Silver, 5'9", g, St. FX, Halifax, NS
Remy Simpson, 6'5", f, St. FX, Ottawa, ON
Drew Slaght, 5'8", g, Trinity Western
Jordan Smith, 6'1", g, Western, London, ON
Terrence Taylor, 6'5", f, St. FX, Dartmouth, NS
Samuel Toluwase, 6'3", f, Guelph, U.K.
Sandy Viet, 6'8", f, Dalhousie, Mississauga, ON
Andrew Wright, 5'11", g, Bishop's, Fredericton, NB

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

How will the ability of Ontario universities to offer first year financial awards for the first time, starting in the fall of 2007, affect the recruitibg landscape for CIS basketball?