Saturday, 8 August 2009

Tigers look to build on Nationals appearance

Completing an impressive turnaround from program dormant earlier this decade, basketball became important again at Dalhousie last season as for the first time since 1995-96 (13 seasons) John Campbell's troops brought home an AUS championship and made a CIS Nationals tournament appearance. Despite a lopsided loss to UBC in the first round at the Nationals, the Tigers, led by fourth year guard and emerging Moser candidate Simon Farine, have taken the first steps toward establishing themselves as a perennial upper echelon CIS program. Even with the unexpected rotation-quality losses of 6'4" sharp shooter Josh Beattie (gave up basketball to focus on academics) and athletic 6'3" Yannick Walcott (back home in Toronto training to be a fire fighter), Campbell has built a solid front court and brought in very good wings and guards to complement Farine. Targeting a second consecutive AUS crown is a very reasonable goal for the Tigers.

It was apparent very early on in Dal's first round Nationals loss to UBC that completely taking away Farine, especially off the ball, was the key to thwarting the Tigers offensively. The T-Birds ability to expose the limitations of Dal offensively when Farine is out of the picture was quickly addressed by Campbell in the most recent recruiting season. "We needed to find others besides Simon who can create off penetration around the foul line", explained Campbell "and we think with the addition of Marcus Wong and Chris Owor, we'll be more versatile that way." Both Wong and Owor bring experience and physicality as they are older (early 20's) and more mature athletes. 6'3" Wong, a strong, physical wing who has had a couple of stops after being a key member of Pickering H.S. 2005 OFSAA "AAAA" championship team including one season at the now-defunt Toronto Area Prepartory School (TAPS) and then most recently at Palm Beach JUCO in Florida. Wong brings that needed ability to attack the lane off the dribble, rebound from the wing position and the ability to get after it defending. The lefty 5'10" Owor, a native of Houston, TX, is a bit of an unknown because he has not played organized basketball for several years and academically has already earned an undergraduate degree from Stephen F. Austin University. But Campbell liked what he has seen thus far from Owor as a quick, attacking, lefty point guard. Owor, who aspires to go to law school, hopefully at Dal, on the floor has shown enough skill to likely push for significant minutes at the guard spot.

Wong, Owor and 6'9" Calgary transfer Joe Schow immediately address another perceived team need. As Campbell intimated, "I think the whispers around the league were that we were on the soft side. With this latest class, we've added what we feel is much more toughness and physicality inside and on the wings, especially defensively and on the glass". In Schow, not only does Dal get a legitimate go-to scorer offensively, but as importantly another presence on the glass. Combined with developing 6'7" Sandy Viet, who appears healthy again after playing through last season with a mobility-limiting ankle injury, the Tigers can put a much bigger lineup on the floor when necessary. Viet, who when healthy is a sneaky-good athlete, was especially effective in the AUS tournament inside, consistently ripping down big defensive rebounds as the Tigers may have been the best overall defensive team in the AUS by the end of the year.

Others in the rotation mix include 6'2" Stephen Lopez, a high school teammate of Wong's at Pickering, who really began to adjust to CIS play toward the end of last year, especially understanding Dal's crisp defensive rotations off the ball. Dal should be able to gamble and press much more when necessary with Lopez and Wong leading the way. Don't forget that one of the better offensive players in the AUS, 6'0" off guard Andrew Sullivan, Dal's only 5th year player, is back and again expected to log major minutes playing off Farine for open looks. Dal also has more depth up front in 6'7" third year forward Jason Wang (Ottawa), 6'6" third year forward Robert Nortmann (Toronto) and 6'4" freshman Chris Hunt, who has the offensive skills to play the "3" in a supporting role and who's time will be dictated by how well he can defend other 3's.

The Tigers can throw at least 10 solid players at opponents and with the added muscle and athleticism can be even more aggressive defensively with presses, traps and ball pressure. Dal can also be very comfortable with a bigger lineup, giving Coach Campbell the versatility to show the nation that the Tigers can build on last season's AUS championship.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

First time poster - this website is great for CIS fans. CIS basketball is very under appreciated.

Saw DAL play last weekend at the Laurier tournament - you can see the effect of Dave Nutbrown (assistant coach, retired former Acadia head coach)- they play extremely tough defense.