Saturday, 22 September 2007

Ryan Bell, Windsor, Brandon and Toronto Updates

6'5" Ryan Bell was the lone CIS representative on Canada's Senior National team for this past summer's FIBA Americas Olympic qualifying tournament in Las Vegas. Bell, entering his fifth and final season with the Carleton Ravens, was considered by some as a somewhat-surprising choice for a spot on the Sr. Nats given his statistics and role with the Ravens relative to high profile teammates like Aaron Doornekamp and Osvaldo Jeanty. The culture of our game in many cases values numbers and flash over the ability of a player to do the not-so-noticeable things that help teams win, especially at the guard spot given how much the ball is in their hands. In Bell's case, his scoring numbers have never been spectacular and he will rarely "wow" anyone with athleticism but as someone who has watched him play probably 100 or more times live and on tape, it was not surprising to me that he solidly fulfilled for Canada the role he was given, which was to defend on and off the ball, take care of the basketball, find the right people in transition and rebound - all at 6'5" with long arms, allowing him to match up well physically with the majority of the guards in the Las Vegas tournament, many of who were as big or bigger than Bell. Oh yes, in terms of the ultimate barometer - winning - Bell is 4 for 4 in his CIS career. At the CIS level he is an excellent defender on and off the ball guarding point guards and 2 men with his long arms and excellent positioning; has a tremendous ability to take away a player's strengths (when Ottawa defeated Carleton for the first time in many years two seasons ago, the Gee-Gees were exploiting another Carleton defender guarding Alex McLeod with hand-offs and McLeod had a big first half. But the moment Bell moved over to guard McLeod, he couldn't get an easy look) and he rebounds the ball. Offensively, he is not flashy on the break but is wise enough not to turn it over with high-risk looks, usually finding the lowest-risk but highest reward play. At full speed in transition, he can beat defenders either way. As someone who came into the CIS as a weak perimeter shooter, he has made himself into a solid spot up shooter who makes big shots when it counts and up until this coming season, I would have recommended treating him as a non-shooter when he is coming off screens or has the ball off the bounce, however, after watching him on the Labour Day weekend, Bell clearly has a much more refined skill set creating off the dribble with a more assertive first step and one dribble pull up for those playing the drive. While there are a number of tremendous guards in the CIS, I don't know who else at the guard spot has Ryan's combination of defending, rebounding, savvy in transition and improving ability to finish, all at 6'5". Here is an article on Bell in the Carleton campus newspaper Bell blossoms in Vegas with Canada

Defending OUA champions Windsor Lancers are about two weeks into their preparation for the coming season and, as expected, there is very little turnover from last season's roster that carried the Lancers to their first OUA championship in almost three decades. Still there have been some changes. As many already know, Windsor has added high-impact 6'3" guard Isaac Kuon as a U.S. JUCO transfer, likely to be one of the better scoring wings in the OUA this season. The Lancers also lost a couple of players who were in the rotation last season including 6'3" Kyle Kane, who decided not to play this year due in large part to continuing issues with his knee that has endured three ACL surgeries. Coach Chris Oliver is proud of what Kane accomplished in the face of his injuries: "What Kyle did last year was impressive. We are proud of the contribution Kyle made to our OUA championship team and we know it was a difficult decision for him to make." Also not available at least for the early part of the season is tough 6'6" forward Rich Allin, a solid rebounder and defender who kept defenders honest with his solid perimeter shooting for a big man. Rich made an academic choice to focus on teacher’s college, which he is enrolled in at the University of Windsor. In addition to Kuon, the Lancers also added 6'7" Serbian import Sasha Lazic, who has local connections with his mom and two uncles having lived in Windsor. Lazic is said to have solid fundamental skills and should help the Lancers down the road as he adjusts to spoken English with the help of some coaches in the Serbian community. The talented, experienced and deep Lancers should be the favorites for the OUA West championship.

Thanks to Jeremy Sawatsky from Brandon who has sent along this Bobcats Season Preview: Bobcats Geared Up For Another Shot At Championship Written by: Jeremy Sawatzky, BU Sports Information; BRANDON, MB – A few quick glances into the BU Gymnasium over the past few weeks leaves one with the distinct impression that the Brandon Bobcats men’s basketball team doesn’t need a whole lot of extra motivation for the upcoming season. After falling to the Carleton Ravens in last year’s CIS National Championship game, the ‘Cats are feeling re-focused and re-energized with the start of the 2007-08 campaign just around the corner. “Most of these guys played in that game last year,” said Brandon head coach Mike Raimbault. “They’ve been there, they’ve seen what it takes to get there, all season long, day in and day out.. and they’re hungry to get back.” While the ‘Cats lost a couple of key contributors in 5th year guards Taylor Cherris Wilding and Chad Jacobson, the additions they made this off-season have left them with a roster that, if anything, is a huge upgrade over last year’s model. “I’m really impressed with the guys we’ve brought in,” added Raimbault. “We’re a team that pride ourselves on our cohesiveness as a unit. The new guys have fit right in. Martin Lawrence gives us another big, athletic body in the paint. Tarik Tokar is a veteran kid that can shoot the ball. And our two first year player – Kevin Oliver and Kyle Vincent – these are two guys that are going to contribute as well.” But perhaps the biggest addition to this year’s team is a former ‘Cat who rejoins the squad after a 5 year absence. Nick Quick, a guard who led the Bobcats in scoring and was named to the Canada West All Star team in 2002-03, is back in blue and gold, and his teammates couldn’t be happier. “He is a tremendous player,” noted Raimbault. “He’s obviously very talented, but he’s also one of our hardest workers. He elevates the intensity every time he steps on the floor. Not only that, but he’s fitting in so well with our guys… it’s just a pleasure to have him on this team.” The ‘Cats are still a few weeks away from any live game action – although they will be holding an Alumni Game on Saturday, September 29th – but that doesn’t mean they aren’t chomping at the bit to avenge last season’s heartbreaking finish. “We’re a veteran group this year,” added Raimbault. “The guys are focused, and they don’t need me to give them any extra motivation. They know what it will take to get back to that final game, what it will take to get over that hump, and they’re determined to get there.”

While the Toronto Varsity Blues are busy finalizing their roster for the coming season, there are a couple of veterans with eligibility issues pending who may be available for this coming season. 6'4" Mo Safarzedeh, a starter from last season hoping to enter his fifth and final season of eligibility, is awaiting the results of an eligibility appeal resulting from deferring a summer period exam he missed due to illness. As well, 6'6" St. FX transfer David Stephens is also appealing his eligibility after being the victim of an act of violence late in the second semester of this past school year. Stephens was attacked from behind in a random act that put him into a coma for 8 days, forced him to miss the final weeks of school and all of his exams. As well, the Blues will enter this season without another starter as 6'2" Dwayne Grant will not return to their lineup.

Finally, in the continuing saga of former Canada Basketball Executive Director Fred Nykamp, it appears that he will be taking legal action against the Canadian Soccer Association, an organization with which he agree to an employment contract earlier this season but later was announced he would not be leading Nykamp suing CSA here is another story by Lori Ewing in the Toronto Star Star Article on Nykamp suit plus a more comprehensive article by Peter Mallett in the Globe Nykamp sues CSA, claiming wrongful hiring and firing and here is another article by Doug Smith in the Toronto Star Nykamp suing

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