Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Final 8 Players to Watch + Pre-tournament stories

For only the second time in many years, the McMaster Marauders are not in this year's tournament. Still, Larry Moko from the Hamilton Spectator previews and the tournament including thoughts from Mac Head Coach Joe Raso, who will be the colour commentator on TSN's coverage on Saturday night and Sunday along with Rod Black Swish goes tradition

The Winnipeg Sun has a short piece on the Manitoba-area connections to the tournament Bobcats hope history repeats

Here is a link to an audio clip with Howard Bloom guesting on Tuesday night's Prime Time Sports on Rogers Sportsnet. In the clip, Howard talks about the recent news that all games not televised by TSN at the CIS Nationals will be available via live webcast Howard Bloom spot on Rogers Sportsnet's Prime Time Sports

Jim Lang from provides his thoughts on CIS sports and offers his solution on how popularity might increase Proudly Canadian

An article from earlier this week from Chris Cochrane of the Halifax Chronicle-Herald nicely reviewing the recent AUS tournament Weekend of AUBC Surprises

This season's Final 8 has a plethora of the top players from across the CIS including all 4 Moser-candidate conference Players-of-the-Year, 2 of the 4 top defenders in each conference and countless division all-stars. Top players include those appearing on most game reports and previews as the stars but there are also many others who take very important supporting roles on each team who are others to look for during the weekend.

Carleton's 5th year 6'2" guard Osvaldo Jeanty, the defending Mike Moser Memorial trophy winner as the top player in the CIS and three-time OUA East POY, leads this impressive cast of stars. Jeanty, who is four-for-four and has won 4 consecutive championship game MVP's, has to be considered in a very select group as one of the most successful CIS/CIAU players ever. At no time was Jeanty's brilliance on better display than last season's Final 10 tournament when he singlehandidly put the Ravens on his back in the absence of Aaron Doornekamp, as the Ravens ran 90% of their offensive sets for Oz, basically never sat him down in any of the 3 games and he still took the most charges and grabbed the most loose balls of any player in the games he played, leading his team to another championship. He has 5 seasons of wear and tear on his body yet continues to play as hard or harder than ever on every play. You have to go all the way back to the UVic teams from the early 80's led by the incomparable Eli Pasquale to compare anyone with the results Jeanty has produced in his almost five years as a CIS player.

Canada West MVP Casey Archibald, a smooth shooting 6'4" guard capped off a brilliant five year career by leading the T-Birds in scoring and ordinarily among his club's leaders in rebounding and assists. UBC will look to Archibald to lead them, especially down the stretch of big games. The smooth shooting Archibald has range beyond the three point line and can go by aggressive close outs in a flash and get to the rim with his size and quickness. The well-schooled Birds run many nice sets that result in a number of good looks for their leader Archibald.

QSSF MVP Patrick Perrotte, another fifth-year player, is an anomoly as a 6'2" (some say 6'1") post player who gets his with a combination of speed, finesse and strength. He can face up taller opponents, knock down 3's and has a deadly turnaround jumper from the low block. Perrotte again led the Stingers in scoring as an undersized post who, despite his lack of size, uses his strength and positioning to hold his own defensively against taller checks. Perrotte averaged a team-high 18.1 points and 4.6 rebounds per game and had several huge efforts including a 36 point effort against Laval allowing the Stingers to come back from a 7 point deficit earlier in the season. Look for the Stingers to find Perrotte and his solid array of offensive skills against virtually any matchup at key times in games when they need a hoop in the quarter-court.

AUS MVP 6'1" Paolo Santana, a sophomore and the only non-fifth-year player in the running for the Moser, is definitely the best athlete among the 4 Moser candidates and during the season usually pushed a triple/double each game. Like many players from the City, Santana loves to attack the rim, especially in transition, and will look to beat his man off the bounce as a first option. But Santana can also knock down the three and has an improving mid-range game. Santana, who plays with plenty of emotion and aggressiveness, did not have a tremendous AUS tournament but did lead his team to the title so expect more this weekend from this former Toronto High School Player-of-the-Year out of Central Commerce H.S.

When Windsor announced in the summer of 2005 that 6'5" Kevin Kloostra was transfering back from the U.S. to play for the Lancers, many touted Kloostra as an immediate All-Canadian impact player. Kloostra was a spectacular athlete in high school at Chatham McGregor H.S. and authored many highlight reel dunks during his prep days but knee injuries took their toll and Kloostra had to adjust his game. His first season as Lancer had flashes of promise but CIS coaches were able to take things away from him and expose him defensively in many games. This season, Kloostra took the next step offensively and defensively culminated in his OUA Wilson Cup MVP performance as he was named Kitch MacPherson Trophy winner for his 23 point effort against Carleton. Quickly becoming known as a Raven killer, Kloostra went a tremendous 9 for 14 from 3 and averaged 24.5 ppg in two league meetings against the Ravens this season.

6'4" sophomore point guard Josh Gibson-Bascombe represented the first major recruiting coup by Ottawa Head Coach David DeAveiro from his hometown of Toronto out of Jarvis Collegiate. Gibson-Bascombe did not disappoint in his freshman season, leading the Gee-Gees to a 10-2 record before breaking his wrist in a game at Guelph, causing him to miss the remainder of the regular season. He was clearly not at his sharpest as DeAveiro reinserted him in the lineup for last season's OUA East semi-final against York. The Lions dominated that game against a listless Gee-Gees club but Gibson-Bascombe has more than offset last season's disappointment with a First Team All-Star calibre season, including leading the Gee-Gees to a pair of victories against Carleton. His jumper with 4 seconds remaining at Scotiabank Place before 9,710 fans to give Ottawa a two point win over Carleton in the Capital Hoops Classic could have been the signature moment for his career up to now. Gibson-Bascombe, as a big guard who can guard the ball and shoot over smaller opponents, is Ottawa's top overall player with his combination of scoring ability and distribution on the break and in the half court.

Emerging from the shadows of more heralded team Aaron Duncan, St. Mary's 6'2" sophomore shooting guard Mark McLaughlin is the main reason why the Huskies, despite an under .500 record, have qualified for the Final 8. McLaughlin is deceivingly quick off the bounce, has range beyond the three point line and plays with an edge, always wanting the ball at key times and not afraid to attack the rim or take the big shot. McLaughlin's steady improvement into one of the top players in the AUS is the main reason why coach Ross Quackenbush's team put on a late-season charge without Duncan, who had been St. Mary's go-to guy before his unfortunate off-court incident that curtailed his 2006-07 season.

Coming from the Caribbean island of St. Lucia, 6'3" Dany Charlery didn't start playing basketball until later in life in his adopted home of Montreal. But the man they call "Rip" (for uncanny resemblance to the Detroit Pistons star forward), made up for things in a hurry and on a Brandon team with a number of great athletes and top players, has been identified by more than one CIS coach as the Bobcats top player. Charlery, another City player who loves to get out in transition, run and attack the rim, compliments his off-the-dribble game with range beyond the three point line and an understanding already early in his career that he must take the big shots in big games. Charlery saved his best basketball for the Canada West semi-final against UVic when he had 27 points, 9 rebounds and 7 steals in the game that officially clinched a Nationals bid for the Bobcats. Look for "Rip" to rip it up again this weekend.


The Buckley Brothers (6'1" Damian and 6'3" Dwayne), Concordia Pressure "d" and transition basketball have been the trademarks of the Stinger program under long-time mentor John Dore and the tradition continues with third-year forward Dwayne Buckley and his brother Damian, the catalytic point guard. Damian, who turned down several U.S. scholarship offers to low D1 and D2 schools to stay home, pushes the ball at every instance and his ability to create for teammates off the dribble is the key to Concordia's offense. Dwayne Buckley, the "Q's" defensive player-of-the-year, is a lock-down defender who can make shots when his feet are set and is at his best going to the rim. The Buckley brothers greatest asset is their ability to together wreck havoc on opposing guards defensively as witnessed during last week's victory over Laval. Damian also had a career-high 36 points in the Stingers QSSF semi-final win over UQAM two weeks ago.

6'7" Aaron Doornekamp has not enjoyed his finest year but still is considered among the top players in Canada and remains arguably the most difficult matchup in the country. Although he or his coach is reluctant to discuss, Doornekamp has had to deal with an array of injuries, some rumoured to be more serious than simple aches and pains and his long season, which included a full summer with Canada's National team program, may have taken its toll on him toward the end of the season. Doornekamp never takes a play off, stands in and takes charges (unfortunately, his prior reputation as a bit of a flooper has come back to haunt him recently as some legitimate charge calls appeared to have gone against him recently), gets on the floor for loose balls and is always battling for rebounds. His outside jumper has not been as consistent as in prior years but look for him to try and make up for not being available last season with a performance similar to that of his freshman season two years ago when he arguably was Carleton's best player at the Final 10.

Speaking of playing with injuries and dealing with pain, 5'11" Alex McLeod, Ottawa's fifth-year guard and Ken Shields Award nominee, has been getting by under the most trying of painful circumstances, again the result of five years of sacrificing his body and playing through all injuries, including a painful back injury that has limited his mobility and forced him to play in pain. McLeod has made several big shots in his career and represents Ottawa's most experienced and fearless three point shooter. He has benefited from Gibson-Bascombe's presence at the point, allowing him to work the summers exclusively working on his shooting guard skill set and the result has been a more well-rounded game including a solid mid-range skill set and ability to get to the rim. Defensively, McLeod has improved significantly guarding the ball and is one of the keys to the Gee-Gees chances of winning their first-ever CIS title.

6'1" point guard Yul Michel is the one surviving member of the Brandon Bobcats who saw significant time during Brandon's last visit to Halifax two seasons ago when they were defeated in the play-in round by Ottawa. Michel has matured into a top floor-leader and ball hawk, having been named Canada West defensive player-of-the-year and leading the Bobcats in assists while emerging as one of their top scorers. Michel is an intelligent distributor of the ball but can get to the rim when needed and wants the ball at the end of games as illustrated by his end-to-end, Tyus Edney-like trek through the UVic "d" for a buzzer beating layup in January that propelled the 'Cats into the #1 ranking in Canada, a spot they held for 5 weeks before losing in the Canada West championship two weekends ago against UBC.

It hasn't been until the last 3 weeks or so that 6'5" Ike Uchegbu has developed into a legitimate offensive threat for the St. Mary's Huskies. But, like teammate Mike McLaughlin, Uchegbu has taken it upon himself to replace some of the offense previously provided by Aaron Duncan and the strong, burly post player has elevated his back-to-the-basket game in time to lead the Huskies back to the Final 8. This past weekend at the AUS tournament, his tremendous effort against Cape Breton gave St. Mary's the upset win and look for the Huskies to load up the husky, durable Uchegbu inside in their effort to win a CIS crown.

Transfers can sometimes work and other times can upset the chemistry on a team. UBC's 6'3" Chris Dyck is an example of the value of getting the right transfer into your program, something UBC coach Kevin Hansen has been very successful at. Dyck has fit in very well on the wing in UBC's offense, sharing touches very efficiently with star Casey Archibald. Dyck has averaged over 30 minutes a game during the playoffs and adds another 3 point threat to the T-Birds arsenal. Dyck had 17 points in the T-Birds Canada West championship game victory over Brandon about 10 days ago and look for Dyck to get a lot of run beside Archibald in UBC's backcourt during the Nationals.

Others to watch: Windsor's 6'8 post Greg Surmacz, another NCAA transfer the Lancers were able to coax back home in time for this season, providing Windsor with solid inside scoring and rebounding. 6'2" combination guard Ryan Steer, who Lancer coach Chris Oliver cites as pound-for-pound his most competitive player, through much hard work over the summer transformed his game into that of an all-star who can now ordinarily create his own shot off the dribble, get to the rim, shoot 3's and find people. Brandon's underrated 6'5" post Adam Hartman, who has a great feel for the game in and around the low post but can also step outside and knock down elbow jumpers with consistency. The Bobcats 6'0" shooting guard Chad Jacobsen, who transfered back to Brandon after 3 years at Minot State in North Dakota, helps keep the lane free from weak side help with his ability to knock down long 3's as he exhibited in game one of the Great Plains division final against Regina when he went 5-6 from three point land. UBC's great run defensively in the latter half of the season has been helped with solid inside work from 6'8" Bryson Kool. Offensively, Kool has stepped it up in the playoffs, averaging 14.7 points and 6.5 rebounds, well above his season averages of 10.6 points & 5 rebounds per game. Defending champion Carleton would likely have had a much more difficult time to get back to Halifax had it not been for the solid play of 6'3" third-year guard Stu Turnbull, who is playing with the confidence of a 5th year guy, taking favorable checks off the dribble, getting into the lane and either finishing or finding people and, most noteably, sacrificing his body getting on the floor for loose balls and taking charges while usually operating against the other teams' top scorer. Turnbull has completely evolved his game from high school when he entered Carleton as freshman with a reputation as simply a three-point shooter. Concordia's underrated Ben Sormonte is the perfect complement to the Stingers athletic backcourt and strong front line, keeping teams honest with long-range bombs, primarily from his favorite spot in the left pocket on the baseline. Sormonte was identified by Laval coach Jacques Paiement as an underrated weapon prior to the QSSF championship game and Paiement's forecast was accurate as Sormonte got free to make 7 of 8 threes to lead Concordia. 6'5" fifth-year forward Curtis Shakespeare minded his time as sixth man for virtually his entire career before being inserted into the starting lineup late this season and is finishing his career very strong, consistently knocking down perimeter jumpers and scoring off favorable matchups in the low block. Shakespeare has also solidified Ottawa's defensive rebounding down the stretch, helping the Gee-Gees get out and run much more. Acadia's forward duo of 6'4" Luckern Dieu and 6'7" Achuil Lual provides a perfect complement up front for the Axemen with Dieu's ability to operate around the high post and Lual's inside finishing and offensive rebounding capabilities. Lual was the AUS championship game MVP with 11 points and 17 rebounds.

There are a number of tremendous players across the country and lucky for the fans in Halifax and elsewhere, many will be competing this weekend on the national stage.

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