Wednesday, 5 August 2009

Mac Reloads

Over the course of the large majority of Coach Joe Raso's almost two-decade long tenure at the helm of the McMaster Marauders, opponents could usually count on meeting a team that offensively shares the ball & takes good shots, gets after it on every defensive possession and consistently across the entire roster plays hard each and every night. For the first time maybe ever during Raso's career, last season, the Marauders did not exhibit that consistency at both ends of the floor, highlighted by their playoff results: defeating a very solid Laurier Golden Hawk group that had their number during the last couple of regular seasons and then following that up with a very disappointing blowout loss to the Windsor Lancers in the OUA West semi-final. It is this return to the program's usual consistency, mentally and physically, that Mac requires to return to the top of the OUA and CIS.

The Marauders lose only 2 players from last season, graduating forwards Marko Gacic and Andrew Losier. With the returning group and a stellar recruiting class, Mac can likely go 10-12 deep this season, ensuring competition in practice and in games for floor time. The recruiting class is highlighted by 6'6" Ryan Christie, who Raso feels could quickly emerge as the top defender in the conference and with his athleticism and wing span will guard virtually any position on the floor. Joe's son Victor Raso is generally regarded as an extension of the coach on the floor, showing great decision-making savvy for such a young player. If Victor can make shots consistently, it will set up his play making abilities all the more. Also, expect the Marauders to announce toward the end of August that 6'6" Keenan Jeppessen, who has been admitted to McMaster's M.B.A., will be joining their roster and, as a transfer immediately into a graduate program, be eligible for this coming season. This would be a major coup for Mac given that they are still relatively young across the roster and Jeppessen's addition would add an experienced decision maker on the floor, a proven upper echelon player. Coming back for a fifth season is 6'8" Mouctar Diaby, who has been battling some knee problems that may slow him down early in training camp. Diaby is a strong, huge presence inside and his ability to draw and pass out of expected double teams to open shooters could set the tone for Mac offensively. Diaby and Jeppessen will be the Marauders only two fifth-year seniors.

The remainder of the roster is littered with high potential players, many of whom must emerge from supporting roles into go-to type players. 6'2" Tyrell Vernon has shown flashes of greatness but has not consistently knocked down open looks enough to eliminate double downs. Look for Vernon to focus exclusively on the "2" guard spot after being given an opportunity to run the point in parts of his first two seasons. Vernon's ability to knock down 3's consistently may be the underlying key to a big offensive year from Diaby. Fourth-year guards Jermaine DeCosta and Amino Bello are athletic, can slash to the rim in an open court type of game and are above average in transition. Their ability to make good decisions and share the ball in tighter, half-court type games will determine the amount of big-minutes burn they get. 6'4" Scott Laws is a big guard who, with last season's selection to OUA West all-rookie team, has shown the potential to be an all-conference type guard when all is said and done.

Up front, a pair of local Hamilton-area products form the foundation of a very strong front court. 6'6" Cam Michaud had a tremendous first two-thirds of the season before hitting a wall that many freshman hit. Still Michaud showed flashes of becoming an all-star later in his career. 6'6" Matt Wilusz can pull out bigger checks with his ability to knock down long-range shots. Another veteran big 6'9" Geoff McLaughlin, now entering his fourth year, has one more year to prove he can be a consistent offensive threat and/or become more influential defensively; up to now, he has yet to fulfill the promise he showed in a dominating high school career and he needs to show he can compete. Raso has much faith in 6'6" Eric Magdanz who is a player that every good team needs: taking charges, doing the dirty work on the glass, not especially concerned about how many shots he takes and generally all about winning.

With a deep and flexible roster, Raso has the ability to put different lineups on the floor depending upon the type of game as Mac can put an athletic team on the floor to press, run and offensive rebound and just as easily a group that defends and runs solid quarter court "o". Already projected to be formidable in the OUA West after their recruiting class was announced in July, the expected announcement in August of Jeppessen joining the fold will likely push the Marauders into favorites role in the West this season.

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