Monday, 17 August 2009

Gee-Gees Strive for Consistency

After a maddenly-unpredictable journey through the playoffs and CIS Nationals last season, uOttawa Gee-Gees will look primarily toward a pair of fifth-year seniors and an emerging sophomore to bring a more reliable effort and results to a program in which the only consistency was their inconsistent almost from possession-to-possession. To wit, Ottawa dominated the Varsity Blues in winning their OUA East semi-final, then were dispatched easily by national champions Carleton in the East final. When all seemed lost, the Gee-Gees came back with a strong second half en route to a solid win over the Windsor Lancers in the OUA third place game but then were hammered in the first round of the Nationals by Western in what was never really a game before recovering to win the Consolation championship. With the addition of three freshman from Southern Ontario including two who should immediately join the rotation, this season's edition is strong in the backcourt and wings but, with the graduation of 6'9" Dax Dessureault and 6'4" David Labentowicz plus the loss of 6'4" Marvin Bazille, has a glaring lack of experience up front.

By all measures, especially after the Josh Wright experiment which failed to bring Ottawa their first-ever National championship, this is 6'4" Josh Gibson-Bascombe's team. Gibson-Bascombe was named Ottawa's first All-Canadian (second team) since 6'8" Merv Sabey turned the trick in consecutive seasons in the mid-70's. After another summer in Canada's national team program, this time as Captain of the FISU Games entry, G-B has significant experience internationally and has made two CIS Nationals appearances, garnering an all-tournament team honour in 2006-07. He shoots the ball out beyond the three point arc, finds people in transition and rebounds well for a guard. Last season, with Wright and his younger brother Jacob running the point, G-B was able to get more looks from the wing. Both are now gone with Jacob losing his eligibility due to academics. Josh G-B's game would be close to unstoppable if he were to develop a more explosive first step however with all the other talents he brings, Josh remains Ottawa's first legitimate Moser Award candidate probably ever.

Fellow fifth-year senior 6'3" Donnie Gibson has hit several big shots in his career and when he gets his feet set can be among the best pure shooters in the nation. Gibson has learned to play off his fellow classmate Josh G-B, using his understanding of the game to get open and keep defenders honest by putting the ball to the deck when needed. Gibson will be looked up to provide more leadership, play more (30+) minutes each night and most importantly look to take more big shots and make many more decisions on the floor than at any previous time in his career.

Big things are expected from last season's top freshman, 6'6" Warren Ward, who has the offensive package to excel at the "3" but last year generally found the going tough on the defensive end. As with virtually all CIS freshmen, intricate team defensive concepts, with rotations off the ball, switch outs and other responsibilities take time to master and expect Ward to be better in those situations as his overall game develops. Ward is a pure scorer who thrives in transition, can hit the 3 and is improving his mid-range offensive package.

6'6" Nemanja Baletic, now entering his fourth season, is a tough, hard working forward who never backs down around the paint and is streaky with his shooting, some questionable shot selection at times notwithstanding. Expect Baletic to start up front. The loss of the graduated bigs and Bazille means that 6'9" fourth-year forward Louis Gauthier should push for a starting role. He is Ottawa's best finisher inside and should hold the fort until 6'9" Jordan Vig, a redshirt freshman, begins to develop. Vig will likely be the typical slower developing classic CIS five man, contributing initially with his rebounding and shot blocking presence but expect the hard-working native of Barrie (Bear Creek High School), where he played for Barrie coaching legend Paul Hopper, to learn to play offense with his back-to-the-basket and be an effective minutes-eating center in the years to come.

As has been the case for much of Coach Dave DeAveiro's career at uOttawa, the GTA again was the focus of a blue chip recruiting effort and DeAveiro once again has brought in three solid athletes, two of who should immediately play. 6'2" Ryan Malcolm-Campbell from Mississauga Erindale has an offensive skill package that rivals Ward's. DeAveiro also went back to Ward's alma mater in Brampton, St. Marguarite d'Youville, to pull a couple of prospects from the OFSAA "AAAA" quarter-finals club from this past season, most noteable being 6'3" Kameish Edwards, who remains some of a young Sean Peter with maybe a better mid-range jumper and who should also play immediately. 6'5" Akeem Gardner, who with some work will eventually be in the mix in the post, is the third d'Youville product on the Gee-Gees roster.

If Ottawa can figure out how to play through their depth and experience issues in the post and Gibson-Bascombe can squeeze out one more great year, then the Gee-Gees are likely to again be in the running for a first round playoff bye or hosting a playoff game. Nation's Capital fans get their first look at this season's Gee-Gees over the Labour Day weekend as the St. John's Red Storm (Big East NCAA Division 1) visit Montpetit Hall.

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