Sunday, 13 September 2009

Bigger, Deeper Lions poised to revisit contender status

One of the hallmarks of the excellent York Lions/Yeomen teams of earlier this decade was their ability to throw significant size at their opponents, not only at the forward positions but also on the wings. That size allowed bigger players to shoot over guys on the perimeter and defensively, York's zones were long and wide. Over the past two seasons, primarily due to injury and some set backs on the recruiting trail, the program has not maintained the upper echelon status of most of the first 34 years of Coach Bob Bain's career. However, Bain along with assistant coach Tom Oliveri moved to restock their roster with new quality bigs and wings and, as a result, the still-young Lions have the makings of a roster very similar to their Nationals-contender teams of years past.

Everyone from last season's roster returns with the exception of the great Tut Ruach, who leaves York as one of their all-time greats. Ruach, one of those once-in-a-decade players who could carry a team with his scoring and creating abilities, currently waits on some opportunities in Europe. The author of numerous game changing personal offensive runs, Ruach will be remembered by CIS fans as a gamebreaker and a joy to watch when he got going offensively.

Ready to take the mantle as York's next great player is 6'1" David Tyndale, from Ruach's high school Mississauga Father Goetz, who now has the run of this team entering his second season. The OUA East Rookie-of-the-Year is a dynamic combo guard who can break virtually any defender down off the bounce and turned into a legitimate scorer toward the middle and end of his freshman season. Expect any success York has to be tied to Tyndale's ability to score more and get others involved as the main decision maker for the Lions.

York's front line has quickly emerged as imposing led by 6'10" Stefan Haynes, who entered the CIS as a slender, little-known post from Brebeuf College, the high school that Oliveri teaches at. Fast forward to now beginning his fourth year and Haynes has a chance to be regarded among the great big men York has ever had. Haynes has always been an intimadator on the defensive end as the two-time defending CIS shot blocking leader and his offensive package is growing quickly. Like most younger big men, Haynes struggled with fouls earlier in his career, but has matured at both ends and is on track to be one of the top posts in the OUA this season.

Joining Haynes on the front line are a pair of newcomers who should immediately get solid rotation minutes. 6'6" Justin Bell, who spent his freshman season with uOttawa while getting limited time, returns home to the GTA and is stronger with a more mature game after initially finding the transition to CIS basketball somewhat challenging. Bell will see time in the rotation as a combo forward. York's top recruit this season is 6'10" Dejan Kravic from London, ON, who started his career with a double/double against Chattanooga over the Labour Day weekend and is a perfect complement to Haynes and Bell.

The Lions also gained some quality size on the wings with the arrivals of 6'3" Rene-Pier Mathieu from Quebec City via Champlain CEGEP who can stretch defenses with his perimeter shooting and 6'4" freshman Ostap Choliy, a freshman from Burlington. The depth on the wings will create significant competition for playing time and veterans such as 6'6" Vadim Razenberg, 6'6" Chad Bewley and 6'3" Dalton Olinoski will battle for burn along with the newcomers. After a solid freshman season in 2007-08, Olinoski injured his knee, played in only 9 games last season and subsequently had surgery from which he is still recovering.

Support for Tyndale in the backcourt begins with top returning three point shooter 6'2" John Lafontaine, a definite in the rotation who shuttled between the 2 and 3 as a freshman and now should exclusively focus on playing the 2 where he can display his three point shooting abilities and his toughness and strength. The arrival of 5'11" freshman David Boyce, a high IQ point from Hamilton who will likely backup Tyndale at the point allows Lafontaine and two other backcourt returnees: 6'1" Malik Diaz and 6'0" Rieko Ruach to focus on producing on the wing. Diaz got noticeably more comfortable as his freshman season wore on and Ruach, Tut's younger brother, is a strong, physical scoring guard who uses his body to get to the rim - a sharp contrast to how his older brother gets it done.

Virtually the entire roster had to deal with injuries last season and with significantly more depth and the added size, expect York to mould into a solid playoff team by season's end. This remains a very young group with only one player on the roster (Haynes) in his fourth year or higher (no fifth year guys) so the challenge for Bain and Oliveri is to find the correct rotation and roles for a group with much promise.

York's pre-season is highlighted by a trip to Atlantic Canada to play St. Mary's, Acadia and Dalhousie.


Anonymous said...

what happened to Wes and Ty Anderson?

Anonymous said...

Wes stopped playing after career ending ankle surgery, and Tyler is still on the team, currently a backup forward. Feel bad for Wes though.