Saturday, 22 August 2009

Editorial from this morning's Ottawa Citizen

Eastern Ontario's team

There is much to like about the Carleton University Ravens men's basketball team. Six of the last seven Canadian Interuniversity Sports national championships come immediately to mind.

But there is more to it than that. There is the sportsmanship that the team shows in its wins and rare losses. And there is also the pedigree of the players. If you look down the Ravens roster, you will see, not unlike other years, that of the 14 listed players on the program, only two are from outside Eastern Ontario. They are not the Carleton Ravens but the Eastern Ontario Ravens. They are players grown at home.

Times were that some Canadian university teams had a pipeline from the U.S. to their home courts. Once many years ago, little Brandon University in rural Manitoba was a conduit for players from New York and the Bobcats' performance reflected that.

In contrast, the Ravens' conduit appears to be Odessa and Bloomfield, Ontario, areas where coach Dave Smart's family and friends produce some of Canada's best basketball players. It might not be the Big Apple, but no doubt they grow some big apples there in that rural heartland.

This year's crop of Ravens has a new player at its core, freshman Tyson Hinz from Ottawa, who looks as if he will be able in part to fill the shoes of departing senior stars Stu Turnbull, Rob Saunders and Aaron Doornekamp who left after their five years of eligibility expired. Hinz joins fourth-year guard and team quarterback Mike Kenny who can shoot the eyes out of a rattlesnake from the three-point line and fifth-year forward Kevin McCleery who had a break-out season in 2008-09. But how far this team goes will depend on the backup cast of Elliot Thompson, Kyle Smendziuk, Cole Hobin, Anthony Ashe and Luke and Aaron Chapman without last season's stars.

But the Ravens have lost many great players over the last seven fruitful years, and the recruits have come through again and again. It is that bird-dogging of talent by Smart, who moonlights as the assistant coach of Canada's national team, that keeps the Ravens' basketball machine running. Smart is a tough man and expects a tough team to play for him. U.S. college squads that come north for exhibition games are always surprised by the trademark tenacious defence the club shows. It reflects Smart's personality.

If you are expecting a fuzzy, warm, new-age manager running the Carleton men's basketball program, you would be wrong. Smart suffers no fools, accepts no mistakes, will not countenance any bad sportsmanship on the court. He rides referees like cowboy on a bronco. He is single-willed and accepts nothing less from his players. You must be a patient man to play for Smart but the rewards are great and he garners respect from his charges. He makes his players better people.

On Tuesday, the Ravens had their way with an undisciplined NCAA club, the Towson Tigers 95-83. The score flattered the visitors.

A sterner test will come on Sept. 6 when a top notch NCAA squad, the St. John's Red Storm, plies the boards of the Ravens' Nest. St. John's plays some home games at the 20,000-seat Madison Square Garden. The team toils in the vaunted Big East conference with the likes of Louisville, Connecticut, Villanova, Providence, Georgetown and Notre Dame.

If you enjoy watching great athletes up close, you would be making a mistake missing that game and the rest of the Ravens' season.

© Copyright (c) The Ottawa Citizen

6 comments:

sager said...

Nice stuff, so long as they remember the phrase, "flinty Eastern Ontario toughness" is trademarked.

Ken said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

what a piece of crap, this entire article..

Anonymous said...

what a hunk of crap, this entire article does nothing.. coach smart is great, but the whole slant is bullcrap

Anonymous said...

I guess the editorial could have gone on to mention that this kind of success doesn't make everyone a fan. Notably the previous commenter who managed to add 3 comments in 4 minutes with a vocabulary that doesn't extend much beyond "crap"...
For me, it's a great time to be a basketball fan in Ottawa. We're regularly treated to some of the best amateur basketball you'll find in Canada.

Anonymous said...

Uh, Ken...speaking of "crap"...how did YOUR team do last year?
Seriously, my man...Carleton is the worst place in the world to be a visiting team?
As bad as Cameron, or worse?
Come on...you ought to get out more.
In the OUA. the St Denis Centre in Windsor is FAR more intimidating than the Raven's Nest.
And even though Laurentian isn't a great team, their fans can drive you insane with the pots and pans brigade.
You want to know where "the worst place for a visiting team in the world" REALLY is?
Try Buenos Aires, Argentina.
Just ask some of our National team veterans...they were just grateful to get out of there alive.
Finally 'KEN'...yeah, we get it.
The article is crap..you don't need to post 3 times to express ONE thought.