Monday, 24 August 2009

Thunderwolves pin hopes on second consecutive strong recruiting class

Coming off a 6-16 finish in league play last season, Coach Scott Morrison did another fine job, garnering his second consecutive recruiting class that ranks among the best in the nation and appears to be building a young group that he will look to keep together for four/five years, possibly take their lumps early but mould into a contender when the core group turn into OUA/CIS veterans.

With the loss to graduation of Lakehead's all-time leading scorer Kiraan Posey, the T-Wolves will likely look to spread the offense around among more scorers and improve their overall team "d" led by a pair of sophomores in 5'10" Greg Carter (Ottawa, ON), an OUA West all-rookie selection who already is considered one of the best defenders in the league, and 6'8" Yoosrie Salhia (Toronto, ON), another all-rookie selection who last season won the CIS rebounding title. Carter is well on his way to establishing himself as an all-conference point guard as his career evolves. Veteran Jamie Searle will support the important point guard spot and also play on the wing. Salhia is an athletic post who played the five as a freshman last season but Morrison plans to use him more at the four spot this season to take advantage of his varied offensive skills.

With the loss of Posey (graduation), 6'4" Zac White (focusing on academics - he is a top engineering student), 6'1" Kyle McConnell (academics) among others, there are plenty of minutes available on the wing and Morrison's top three recruits all figure into his plans for the rotation beginning with 6'5" wing Matt Nagy, a native of Arkansas who played at powerhouse Blair Academy and is described by Morrison as a "bubble D1 player" who is big and strong with guard skills. Nagy was drawn to Lakehead by the differences in CIS basketball including the potential for more national exposure compared to NCAA D2. Morrison has known Nagy's coach who has a summer home in PEI for some time and Nagy's grand-father was Coach Lou Henson's long-time assistant at New Mexico and then Illinois.

A second U.S. import, 6'2" Joe Jones played one year for Howard CC under former Dalhousie star Benny Edison, who had previously discovered Posey, the Breland Brothers at Cape Breton and many others. Jones is described a 'gamer' who will do a number of things very well - expect him to be an asset on the defensive end from Day One. Morrison also pegs 6'0" Cam Hornby for rotation time immediately. Hornby played one season at NCAA D1 South Dakota State (ironically his head coach was Nagy's uncle) and later transfered from Winnipeg and should add experience to what will be a very young line-up.

Up front, 6'6" Seb Kasiuk (transfer from Guelph) brings OUA experience and should help the development of young 6'7" Brendan King as he evolves into an OUA paint area player. Kasiuk is versatile enough to play both the "4" and "5" and can either start or come off the bench. Also 6'4" fourth-year forward Andrew Hackner, 6'7" fourth-year forward Andrew Quirion and 6'6" Matt Schmidt all know the system and should push for minutes.

The T-Wolves weren't finished on the recruiting front, adding depth up front in a pair of 6'5" freshmen: Ryan Thomson (Oakville St. Thomas Aquinas) who has the IQ and skill set to be proto-type CIS "4" at some point in his career and Anthony McIntosh (Ottawa St. Patrick's - high school teammate of Carter) who has the raw athleticism to be an above-average OUA player.

Expect Lakehead to announce one final recruit in the coming days.

With such a young group, a push to the program's first playoff spot since 2004-05 will be a reasonable target. Regardless, as Western proved earlier this decade, putting together a group of talented players and keeping them together for four to five years is a proven receipe that can work and Morrison is betting that this will be the case in Thunder Bay.

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