Friday, 13 March 2009

Ravens Swan Song

Ravens Swan Song

by Patrick Kennedy, Kingston Whig-Standard

The Kingston trio is breaking up.

No, not the San Francisco singing group, but three local lads who led the Carleton Ravens in this the team's latest season of imposing success.

Stu Turnbull, Rob Saunders and Aaron Doornekamp, linchpins on a team that has lost but once this year, will soon go their separate ways. They will graduate and leave behind five years of sweat, soirees and ultra-sweet moments on the hardwood, not to mention countless practices and drills and endless reels of video, and, of course, the games -better than 90% of them victories including three consecutive national title tilts. Playing together on the road and at home before raucous sold-out audiences, soon to be just memories with which to grow old.

Not quite yet, though. There is still the matter of this weekend's Canadian Interuniversity Sport championship. Moreover, the trio could very well go out winners, what with the Ravens (21- 1) entering the affair as undisputed top seed.

Carleton opens tonight against the St. Francis Xavier X-Men at 8 p. m. at Scotiabank Place. Preceding that game is the Ottawa- Western match at 6 p. m. at Scotiabank, featuring Gee-Gees forward and Kingston native Donnie Gibson.

The eight-team tournament concludes with Sunday's gold-medal match (4 p. m.).

For Turnbull, a championship final would be the ideal closing act to a collegiate career.

"I was fortunate to be part of three straight nationals titles, but I didn't contribute as much to those teams as I felt I have this year," said the six-foot, 195- pound guard who was named OUA MVP and was nominated for CIS player of the year. "Winning another one would be the perfect way to end it."

Turnbull led the Ravens with 16.7 points per game followed by Doornekamp [14.4], who paced the team in rebounds [6.9] one year after garnering CIS player-of-the-year kudos.

Saunders, the most unsung member of the three, is a defensive specialist and was duly rewarded with the CIS defensive player-of-the-year honours at last night's CIS banquet. [Carleton coach Dave Smart received his third coach-of-the-year award.]

At the 2008 CIS championship, Carleton's mind-boggling run of five straight titles came to an end in the semifinals. Acadia upset the Ravens 82-80 in double OT.

Turnbull, reflecting back on his five seasons, was asked if his star-studded high school career made for an easy transition to a star-studded university team.

"Just the opposite," he said from a cell phone on the Carleton campus. "Truthfully, it prepared me very badly."

The catalyst on that 2003 Falcon flock that copped the city's first triple- A provincial pennant said he made the mistake of believing some of his own press clippings.

"When I got here I thought I was great," added the youngest of three children in a basketball family that includes his father, Tom, a longtime Ernestown and club-ball coach, and two older sisters who both attended U. S. schools on basketball scholarships.

"I quickly found out I wasn't so great," he added candidly. "All that stuff that gets written about you and gets said to you by different people, even though you shouldn't believe it or take it seriously, sometimes a part of you does.

"I started thinking I was pretty good, but after getting torched by [former teammate] Mike Smart every single day at practice, I came to grips with the fact I had to get better, fast. It was a humbling experience."

Turnbull was named a CIS first team all-star for the second straight year.

Turnbull and Doornekamp hope to play pro ball after graduation. They have contacts, beginning with ex-teammate Osvaldo Jeanty in the German Bundesliga and Doornekamp's older brother, Nate, the seven-foot Dutch elm out of Boston College who also toiled in the Bundesliga.

As for Saunders, Turnbull said his good friend is looking forward to a hiatus from hoops and instead embarking on a travel adventure of undetermined length.

But first there are stellar collegiate careers to wrap. The Kingston trio wants to bring down the house one final time.

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