Thursday, 27 August 2009

Pronghorns start fresh with Coach from the past

We've been negligent in not providing comprehensive coverage of Canada West schools recently, something we are happy to begin to recitify with the strong support of well-informed and enthusiastic sources.

This morning we provide an overview of Lethbridge Pronghorns, a program which has a very strong and special local following and wonderful facility that usually draws near capacity crowds. Over the off season, the Pronghorns replaced Head Coach Mike Connolly with local coaching great Dave Adams and optimism is high. This is Adams second go-round at Lethbridge as he was interim head coach in 2001-02 when the Horns went 6-14 and lost in the third game of the Best-of-3 division playoff against Saskatchewan (this was the last season that a Canada West and non-Ontario team won the Nationals as Alberta turned the trick). Originally from the U.S., Adams, who at age 51 is the oldest coach in Canada West, moved to Southern Alberta in Grade 11 and later played 4 seasons at U of L (also one year at Lethbridge College). Adams has extensive local coaching experience in high school, college and has coached more provincial teams than anyone else in Alberta by a great margin. An accomplished and successful triathlete, Adams is a member of Canada's national triathlon team (50-54 age-group sprint division) where he has won several national titles, so competition is in his blood. His most interesting and probably challenging coaching task will be to bring championship basketball back to Southern Alberta.

Adams is off to a roaring start transforming the roster with the addition of dynamic 6'0" 4th year guard Jeff Price, a combination guard who many initially felt did not possess the skills to play the lead guard when he transfered in 2007-08 to the Calgary Dinos after two seasons at Mount Royal College (where he teamed with UBC's Josh Whyte). The competitive, scrappy guard almost immediately proved the naysayers wrong again as he was a force in the backcourt leading the Dinos in his only season in Calgary, leading the conference in assists and free-throw shooting percentage. Price shoots the ball beyond the arc, passes it well, is an above average defender and has improved throughout his career at orchestrating the offense (in high school was primarily a two). Price is eligible to play immediately.

Although former Pickering H.S. forward Sephton Spence will not return, a couple of former coach Connolly's better recruits have, including Toronto native 6'3" Danhue Lawrence, a former JUCO transfer entering his fourth year of eligibility. Lawrence primarily plays on the wing but can run the point occasionally and is an accomplished scorer in the City game tradition, trying to get to the rim. Lawrence is also athletic enough to defend when he goes after it. Another one of Connolly's GTA recruits, 6'5" Robin Cooper, entering his fifth year, plays in and around the paint and is usually an active offensive rebounder and scorer. One of the better freshmen last season was 6'7" Derek Waldner, 6.7 ppg/20.0 mpg, who can play both post positions up front, shoots it well for a big and is tough and active. Maybe the Horns best freshman two seasons ago was 6'1" Quinn Van Gaalen, a wing who missed all of last season due to injury. Van Gaalen is a pure scorer who should benefit even more playing with Price. Although Price and Van Gaalen did miss last season, combining the most recent year's scoring averages of these five, it adds up to 62.2 ppg. so there is some potential firepower. 7'0 Remington Stemler, now in his 5th-year, also returns for one final season.

Adams may have found a big wing who can shoot it in 6'4" Randy Davis, a transfer from Red Deer College where he played the past three seasons. Davis's numbers improved each season at Red Deer, culminating in last season's 16.7 ppg and he shot 44 percent from 3 for his career there. The Horns also welcome back third year post 6'5" Brandon Thomas-James, who started 20 league games last season as a sophomore. Thomas-James is noted for his ability to defend.

A couple of freshmen who should work into the mix are 6'7" Taylor Norum, another big forward who can play both post positions and is someone who the Horns can play pick-and-pop with given his perimeter shooting abilities; and 6'5" slasher Sean McCormick, a wing from Vancouver who is active offensively and likes to get to the rim.

The Horns also brought in two other recruits of note, including 6'4" Julian Spear Chief-Morris, another wing, who returns home to Lethbridge from UVIC, but must sit out this season due to transfer rules although he is practicing with the team. Another freshman, 6'6" Kyle Wilson, who has very good guard skills but is still growing into his body, has a bright future and solid CIS genes (both of his parents were Canada West all-stars). His contribution should be dictated on how quickly he can improve his strength and body muscle.

As with any program starting with a new Head Coach, there is optimism and probably more so in Lethbridge given the basketball pedigree in the community and Coach Adams decades long contribution to Alberta basketball. With Price and Lawrence, the Horns may have two of the better players in Canada West and a healthy, scoring Van Gaalen should benefit from this talent. Expect the Horns to take some time to integrate what probably will be new systems and new personnel and get back into the Canada West Great Plains division playoff hunt.

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