Sunday, 30 September 2007

Varsity Blues Look to keep momentum going

After a stellar, 19 year career which produced multiple CCAA National championships at Humber College and a decade-plus career with Canada's National team program, in probably his final coaching challenge, University of Toronto Head Coach Mike Katz had his Varsity Blues within one game of getting to the CIS Nationals in only his third season at the helm. After a gut-wrenching one point loss to eventual Final Four participant Ottawa Gee-Gees ended last season, Katz and his experienced staff face another challenge in 2007-08, trying to replace four starters including 6'8" Michael Williams, 6'3" Ben Katz, 6'2" Dwayne Grant and 6'5" Mo Safarzadeh (currently ineligible until at least second semester). However, with a solid, experienced fifth-year combo guard in 6'3" Mike DeGiorgio, a pair of underrated posts in 6'7" Amed Nazmi and 6'7" Nick Snow plus an emerging guard in 6'1" Nick Magalas, the Blues have the foundation for another run at the top of the OUA East. DeGiorgio has shifted between the point and off guard during his career, handling both spots very well and being one of only two fifth-year players (6'4" Paul Sergautis is the other) on this young team, will be relied upon for leadership, scoring and significant minutes. Sergautis had a strong year two seasons ago but battled injuries last season and needs to assert himself, especially offensively, for the Blues to succeed. Snow, entering his third season, was a highly-touted recruit from London, ON and began to show flashes of all-conference potential last season with a solid mid-range and low post game but has also battled injuries including a hip that will likely cause him discomfort for the rest of his career. Nazmi came on late last season as a solid forward off the bench and spent his summer with the Egyptian National team, so expect his level of productivity to increase. The heady, scrappy Magalas has a chance to be an all-conference guard very soon with his combination of playmaking and finishing abilities. Probably the most improved Blues player this season is 6'3" Rob Paris, Katz's first recruit, who rarely contributed in his first three seasons but is an emerging perimeter threat who should be a solid rotation guy this season. The loss of four starters usually sets programs back to the drawing board and into rebuilding mode but with the quality coaching staff and key returnees, if everyone can stay healthy, don't count the Blues out of the apparent race for second place in the OUA East. The Blues kick off their pre-season at the 40th Naismith Invitational at Waterloo on the weekend after Thanksgiving, meeting McMaster on Friday, the host Warriors on Saturday and the Calgary Dinos from Canada West on Sunday.

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