Wednesday, 26 August 2009

Athletic Recruiting Class to keep Lancers contending

After getting a taste of playing in the Nationals a couple of seasons ago, the Windsor Lancers fell just short of qualifying the past two seasons yet have firmly established the program as a perennial Top 10 team. Coach Chris Oliver, one of the hardest working recruiters in the country, has done a stellar job again for this coming season bringing in a nice stable of high profile, athletic talent. As training camp opened earlier this week in preparation for two weekend game with Ohio State, the Lancers are faced with the challenge of integrating as many as 9 new players into the lineup and not having 6'8" All-Canadian Greg Surmacz (graduated) in the lineup. Oliver recently commented on his early approach: "With so many new players we are focusing on lots of teaching and simplicity in our system so we can get organized the best we can for some of the possible things we will face vs. OSU."

Windsor does return a solid core of veterans in 6'6" fourth year forward Andre Smyth, 6'7" fifth-year post Nigel Johnson-Tyghter, dynamic 6'3" fourth-year guard Isaac Kuon and 6'2" 5th year captain Matt Handsor.

Smyth, a former U.S. Division 1 transfer who is aspiring to attend medical school and if successful is likely in his final year as a Lancer, is athletic around the rim and will be viewed as one of the team leaders. Johnson-Tyghter is a solid, back-to-the-basket post player who is explosive going to the rim and should be featured more with the graduation of Surmacz, who has moved on to play professionally in his native Poland. Kuon is at his best in transition getting to the rim and shaking defenders off the dribble - when right, he gives Oliver the luxury of a big time scorer if/when the offense breaks down. Handsor is a solid perimeter shooter who can knock down 3's with as much consistency as anyone in the OUA when he feet are set.

After watching Ryan Steer commandeer arguably two of the best seasons a point guard at Windsor has produced in decades, with Steer's graduation it was primarily "point guard by committee" last season for the Lancers and 6'1" John Waldu was given significant opportunity to run the show as a freshman. Waldu should see good minutes at the point again this season supported by one of the five blue chip recruits Oliver brought in: 6'0" Josh Collins (Vaughan S.S.), who has a high basketball IQ and could start almost immediately as a freshman.

Another impact freshman guard is 6'1" Enrico Diloreto , a tough, physical guard who played for London coaching great Tony Marcotullio who helped lead London Beal to OFSAA "AAAA" Bronze medal this past spring. Diloreto is more of a scoring combo guard and will likely mature into a decision-maker on the floor for the Lancers. As well, local product 6'3" RJ Wells, originally from Windsor Herman who spent the past two seasons at U.S. JUCO (last season with New Mexico Military Institute), has returned home and will definitely be in the back court mix as well, displaying his slick passing skills.

With Surmacz and 6'6" Matt Day (completed his MBA last year) both graduated, there are minutes available up front in support of returning rotation players Smyth and Johnson-Tyghter, starting with prolific 6'6" Justin Wiltshire, one of the stars of the great Pickering H.S. teams that have dominated Ontario high school basketball recently. Wiltshire has returned to Canada after one season at Lincoln Trail JUCO and his skill and athleticism should put him in the minutes-mix immediately. The rotation up front will also be fortified by 6'8" Lien Phillip, originally from Grenada who started his high school career in Toronto and then finished at IMG Academy in Florida. The long and strong Phillip has a nice combination of strength and finesse with his back to the basket.

With the benefit of an early start to prepare for Ohio State, the Lancers are taking a look at 16 players at this week's training camp and Oliver expects tryouts in mid-September to be very competitive with the final roster sorting out after tryouts. "We believe with the diversity of talented players on this season's roster that we will have a wider array of scorers", highlighted Oliver, "and that we will be a much better passing team. With our added athleticism, we have a ton of options offensively and defensively".

This weekend provides the Lancers an early chance to start figuring out where everyone fits. The talent is definitely available and Oliver has proven that his ability to teach, prepare, motivate and game coach is among the best in the country. Expect Windsor to again make their now-perennial run at an OUA West title and a spot at the Nationals.


Anonymous said...

Quite easily the most athletic team in Chris Oliver's tenure. I for one will be watching the pre-game warmups! However, the major question marks are point guard, scoring and team chemistry. If this team finds a reliable consistent 1 and replaces Greg Surmacz's 20 ppg...they'll be in the mix for the West title.

Anonymous said...

Ah, that's the rub.
Who indeed will replace Surmacz and his 20 ppg?
Last year, it became painfully obvious that Oliver did not find an adequate replacement for Ryan Steer.
Ellis Ffrench, so highly touted coming out of NS, certainly wasn't the answer.
In fact Ffrench became a forgotten man last year and now is no longer in the picture.
So forgive me if I take all the hyperbole coming out of the City of Roses with a grain of salt.
Even though the Lancers have been relatively successful the past three years, the team had never once demonstrated an ability to win key games on the road.
The Wilson Cup triumph in 2007 on home floor was followed by a nondescript performance in Halifax, where the Lancers dropped both games without showing any of the energy they had in the OUA championship.
Last year, Windsor started the season with a bang handing Carleton a 12 point loss, the Ravens only CIS defeat all year.
At season's end however, the Lancers bowed out meekly with a playoff loss...on the Ottawa, squandering a 2nd chance to qualify for nationals.
With Surmacz gone, I wonder if this team can even match the disappointing results of the past two years, let alone ascend to new heights of achievement.