Wednesday, 18 April 2007

AUS Pre-Summer Outlook

The AUS tournament displayed the tremendous parity that has now emerged in the conference as each playoff game was extremely close and action packed with all six teams ultimately showing they were capable of contending for the conference championship. Acadia, after coming on strong in mid-November, took a gigantic leap back to national prominence with their tournament championship. St. Mary's again showed that come tournament time, coach Ross Quackenbush, despite a very short bench this season, usually has his troops mentally and physically prepared to compete while St. FX, trying to work 6 freshmen into their lineup this season, still had the talent and depth to rise to the top of conference by the end of the season. The X-Men will need another solid class to augment what is now an even younger team. Cape Breton was upset in the semi's and loses a number of top players but returns a solid core. UPEI is another team with a hard-working, young coach who must replace 3 fifth-year startes and Dal should continue their improvement toward the top of the AUS. With the Nationals leaving Halifax for at least the next 3 seasons, let's hope that next season's AUS season and playoff tournament brings the same or greater level of excitement that National tournaments have brought in the past to reward the loyal CIS basketball fans of Atlantic Canada.

Acadia Axemen Key Losses: 6'2" Jordan Sheriko (accepted to Dalhousie medical school) Key Players scheduled to return: Paolo Santana 6'1" (3rd), Achuil Lual 6'8" (5th), Luckern Dieu 6'4" (4th), Peter Leighton 6'1" (3rd), Andrew Kraus 6'2" (2nd), Sean Berry 6'4" (4th), Alex Traikov 6'6" (3rd), Mike Folker 6'6" (3rd). Comments: The defending AUS champions return their entire starting lineup and much of their depth. Santana, the reigning AUS Player-of-the-Year, is a potential triple-double threat each night who, when he adds a perimeter jumper off the dribble, will be even more difficult to defend. Big and long Lual is a defensive presence up front and is complemented perfectly by another strong, experienced forward in Dieu, who operates well in and around the high post offensively. Leighton is a top three-point threat who usually is the recipient of draw-and-kicks from Santana and rising sophomore Kraus, who was steady with the ball in his first season and looks to add more offense to his game as his career evolves. Off the bench, sixth man Berry provides instant offense including three-point range. Folker is a hard working post player and Traikov adds more depth up front. Recruiting Focus: With virtually the entire roster in tact, the Axemen don't need much however waiting in the wings is explosive 6'5" Leonil Santil, who sat out last season while transfering from Memorial and should immediately enter the rotation up front as a top scorer and rebounder, especially on the offensive glass. Acadia could also look to add another shooting guard and/or small forward off the bench who can play immediately to replace Sheriko. Expect Coach Berry to continue to improve his roster with top players.

St. Mary's Huskies Key Losses: none; status of 6'3" Aaron Duncan (suspended) uncertain pending outcome of personal issues Key Players scheduled to return: Mark McLaughlin 6'2" (3rd), Ike Uchegbu 6'5" (3rd), Clint Bateman 6'6" (4th), Mark Ross 6'0" (5th), Cordell Wright 6'3" (3rd), Eric Glavic 6'5" (2nd), Mike Poole 6'5" (2nd). Comments: Despite the loss of probable conference all-star Duncan near the end of this past season, the Huskies shortened their bench and made another improbable run to the CIS semi-finals behind the slick McLaughlin, who is one of the better pure scorers in Canada and Uchegbu, who has dramatically improved his offensive game from the low post. Point guard Ross is a steady as they come running a team and will become even more difficult to defend with outside shooting improvement. Bateman can stretch defenses with his long-range shooting and when fit can provide additional support defensively and on the glass. Wright is a steady performer with no fear who is a strong complementary player. Glavic was a solid contributor off the bench down the stretch and Poole has a chance to contribute more as he matures physically. Recruiting Commitments: For a team that rode 6 players to within one game of the national championship, depth is the key focus to help SMU get over the hump. To that end, up front the Huskies welcome arguably the best big man in Atlantic Canada high schools in 6'7" Luke Reynolds (C.T. Allen H.S. in Bedford, NS) who should contribute immediately with his blend of perimeter skills including three point range and inside play. The Huskies added depth and the possible heir apparent to Ross at the point with 6'1" Jack Gallinaugh (Halifax), who comes in with a strong basketball IQ and solid lineage being the son of an ex-Huskies star John Gallinaugh from the '70's. However, the biggest difference maker could be 6'0" Shane Morrison, who practiced with the Huskies all of last season and is completing courses toward being eligible in the fall. Morrison, a former City of Toronto all-star, is a combination guard with strength and tremendous athleticism who could be a difference maker assuming he becomes eligible. If Duncan overcomes his off-court issues and Morrison becomes eligible, the Huskies will have the talent and depth to compete at the top of the AUS once again.

St. Francis Xavier X-Men Key Losses: Neil MacDonald 6'10" (graduated), 6'3" Garry Gallimore (status uncertain; completed undergraduate program and may return or entertain offers from Europe). Key Players scheduled to return: Tyler Richards 6'2" (4th), Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw 5'11" (2nd), Dwayne Johnson 6'3" (2nd), David Joyce 6'3" (3rd), Terrence Taylor 6'5" (2nd), Will Silver 5'9" (2nd), Remy Simpson 6'5" (4th), Daouli Lengema 6'6" (2nd), Alberto Rodriquez 6'8" (2nd). Comments: The X-Men got very young quickly and, assuming Gallimore does not return, will have only one player from last season's rotation, Richards, in his 4th or 5th year. Richards is a streaky shooter who has learned to create his own shot and makes up a solid backcourt with Upshaw, an exciting lead guard who loves to play in transition. Johnson, the most experienced and arguably highly-touted as an immediate impact player from last season's six man recruiting class, will assume more responsibilities, especially as the top defender if Gallimore does not return. Up front, the X-Men will likely need either or both of Lengema and/or Rodriquez, neither of who played significant minutes as of yet to assume greater responsibility. Simpson, a transfer going into his fourth year, suffered through injuries in his first season in Antigonish, has experience and is likely to assume more minutes while a pair of above average role players in Silver, who can run the point well, and Joyce, who contributes on the glass and defending, provide X with a deep bench. Recruiting Focus: St. FX is young up front and needs at least one and probably two bigs who can step in immediately and contribute. Without Gallimore, there is time available for a strong, athletic wing who can rebound, defend and score. Another combination guard who can fit into the rotation is also another nice-to-have. With the quantity and quality of role players already on this roster, expect any new recruits to be viewed as immediate impact players.

Cape Breton CAPERS Key Losses: Ryan Keliher 6'1" (graduated), Corey Hargrove 6'3" (graduated), Jarrett Timmons 6'9" (graduated), Daniel White 6'10" (graduated), Kerwin Liverpool 6'3" (graduated). Key Players scheduled to return: Eric Breland 6'5" (5th), Paul Blake 6'4" (5th), Phil Nkrumah 6'4" (2nd), Mark McGarrigle 6'2" (3rd), Scott Jaspers-Fayer 6'6" (2nd). Comments: With 5 players having graduated including 3 starters, the CAPERS have a number of holes to plug but still have at least 3 players back who were major contributors to their AUS regular season championship team. Breland is one of the toughest matchups up front in the league with his blend of finesse and strength while Blake stretches defenses from the perimeter and brings experience from many big games. Nkrumah flashed his tremendous athleticism and should step into the starting lineup as a combo forward. McGarrigle is likely to inherit the starting point guard role while Jaspers-Fayer is a promising young post player who will look to seize the opportunity for more minutes. Recruiting Focus: With the heavy loses, coach Jim Charters looks to ideally bring in at least one player at every position with the most glaring need another big guy or two, preferably a strong rebounder to complement Breland. Depth at the point is also a priority while another one or two perimeter shooters and a wing who can defend also being high priorities. The CAPERS have yet to announce any recruits officially.

UPEI Panthers Key Losses: Doug McKinney 6'8" (graduated), Sherone Edwards 6'4" (graduated), Peter Stay 6'5" (graduated). Key Players scheduled to return: Brent McLaren 5'10" PG (5th), Jared Budd 6'0" (5th), Jonathan Cooper 6'2" (2nd), Awale Dualeh 6'8" (5th), Chad MacDonald 6'2" (5th), Shakir Chambers 5'10" (5th). Comments: Despite losing arguably their top 3 players, the Panthers return some experience as five players going into their 5th seasons are back including point guard McLaren, who runs a solid point and shoots 3's. A pair of veteran long-range shooting specialists, Budd and MacDonald, will continue to stretch defenses from the perimeter. Sophomore Cooper, one of the top athletes in the AUS, is already a solid defender and will look to be more consistent with his offense and rebounding as his game matures and responsibilities increase. Dualeh should see more time up front after the graduation of the entire starting front line while Chambers provides depth in the back court. Recruiting Focus: The Panthers need to replace their entire front line so posts and big forwards are the critical target. A strong, physical wing who can score from the perimeter and rebound who can complement sophomore Cooper is another target. Finally, at least one young point guard who can takes the reigns for '08-'09 or earlier is needed. Coach Davies and staff have been working hard on securing commitments to fill these needs and plan to announce their class in the coming weeks.

Dalhousie Tigers Key Losses: Monte Francois 6'3" (graduated). Key Players scheduled to return: Germain Bendegue 6'5" (4th), Drew Stratton 6'7" (4th), Andrew Sullivan 6'0" (3rd), Ryan deWinter 6'5" (5th), Devon Norris 6'3" (4th), Sandy Viet 6'7" (2nd), Jason Jordan 5'9" (4th), Shea Ballish 6'3" (3rd). Comments: The Tigers matured significantly last season, earning a playoff spot after the improved play from center Bendegue who is a nice inside scorer and uses his athleticism defensively but needs to stay away from fouls to become an elite AUS center. Sullivan, who can play both guard spots, is an emerging star in the backcourt and Stratton took a major leap this season as a scorer. deWinter provides more depth up front while Viet, who improved steadily throughout his freshman season, looks to get stronger and make a greater impact as a sophomore. Norris, who made several big game-deciding shots down the stretch, will look to be more consistent offensively. Recruiting Focus: The Tigers addressed a need in their backcourt by welcoming one of Canada's top recruits in 6'1" Simon Farine from Northern C.I. in Toronto via Wisconsin-Green Bay (NCAA D1) who should make an immediate impact in the backcourt after sitting out last season as a transfer but practicing all season with the Tigers. Dal also secured a committment from one of the better big men in Ontario as 6'7" Jason Wang (Ottawa Sir Robert Borden) joins to add depth to the front court. The Tigers look to add another athletic front court player and another pair of wings who can create and score to finalize their class.

Memorial Sea-Hawks Key Losses: Justin Halleran, Evan Constantine, Curtis Power, Colin Power (all graduated). Key Players scheduled to return: Sean Thistle 6'5" (5th), Stephen Singleton 6'8" (2nd - status unknown), Grant Harvey (2nd), Mark English (3rd), Randy O'Reilly (2nd), James Saxby (2nd). Comments: The Sea-Hawks lose 3 starters and 4 rotation players to graduation and, apart from leading scorer Thistle, are scheduled return the majority of their second and third year players. The status of highly-touted Singleton, who won the three-point shootout competition at the adidas All-Canadian game last season, is uncertain after he missed the final few league games this past season. Saxby is the younger brother of former Seahawk star Jeff so he has great lineage. The remainder of the roster is made up of solid, scrappy role players who did not alot of significant action last season with the senior-laden team.

UNB Varsity Reds Key Losses: Oliver Glencross 6'0", Adam Parent 6'10", Ben MacLeod 6'6", Bill Walker 6'6" (all four have graduated). Key Players scheduled to return: Colin Swift 6'2" (4th), Thor Jensen 6'5" (4th), Colton Wilson 6'4" (2nd), Michael Anderson 6'3" (3rd), Patrick Sharkey 6'4" (2nd), Danya Bubar (3rd), Jonathan Maxwell (3rd). Comments: The Reds lose one of the top players in the AUS in Glencross and a solid post player in Parent. Back-up posts Walker and MacLeod could return but it is unlikely with both graduating and goals outside of basketball. The V-Reds return a solid core of skilled wing players in Anderson and Maxwell while Jensen will provide strong inside/out scoring and perimeter shooting. Swift can carry a team with his three-point shooting when right. Bubar will finally get an opportunity to lead the UNB backcourt. Wilson had a solid freshman season as a small forward. Recruiting Focus: The Reds will need a lead guard/ball handler who can start the offense and create to replace the solid decision making of Glencross. The Reds addressed a need in the backcourt with the commitment of 6'2" Mike Bowser from Leo Hayes High School in Fredericton, NB who is a tough defender and capable scorer. A big, strong post player who can keep teams honest inside offensively and provide a presence in the paint is another target. An athletic wing who can create shots for UNB's array of three-point shooters would also be helpful.

Stay tuned for more recruiting commitments as they become available. With our next off-season update, we will work through the 3 divisions of Canada West.

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