Thursday, 10 September 2009

Davies pushes Panthers toward the top

One of the better fan/alumni supported sites in the country is the UPEI Panther site which provides unique team updates and nostalgic stories on Panther history. We appreciate the work the folks who support this site do and also to Coach Matthew Davies who stays in touch and recently spent some time discussing his Panthers and the coming season.

Coming off an impressive showing at last season's AUS tournament, which included a nine point upset win over St. Mary's, UPEI Panthers return a solid core of veterans and have enough depth via solid recruiting and players returning from injury to again push for a spot toward the top of the AUS. The Panthers usually have a solid stable of athletes who love to play up tempo, entertaining basketball going back to the days of Dennis Smith, Peter Gordon, Mike Morgan, Curtis Brown, Trevor Willock, Curtis Robinson and Sherone Edwards to name a few. Expect this group to again play in the Panther tradition.

One of the biggest challenges Head Coach Davies had was the need to replace two time AUS all-star swingman Andrew Black, who graduated. With the arrival of highly-touted 6'5" 220 lbs. Matt Fennell, the Panthers get a strong, hard-working scorer in the mould of Black. Fennell, who Davies recruited three years ago out of London Oakridge, initially chose to stay closer to home and was an OCAA 1st Team All-Star with Fanshawe before deciding to make the move to the CIS with the Panthers. Maybe the best pure shooter on UPEI, Fennell is expected to pose matchup problems for opposing threes and fours with his blend of perimeter and inside skills.

The Panthers feel their backcourt is as good as any in the AUS with 6'0" Nick Toews, settling in to his second CIS season after transfering from Capilano College in B.C. A strong burly combo guard who shoots it and can slash is a proven scorer as his 30 points in one half last season against Acadia will attest. Where last season Toews slid between the one and two, Davies can now focus Toews on the off guard position with the arrival of 6'1" Terrence Brown from Nassau, Bahamas, a mature point guard who should push to start at lead guard with his blend of athleticism and strong decision making. 6'1" fourth-year co-captain Tim Butler is a high IQ point guard who will come off the bench and provide veteran leadership. 6'2" Jon Cooper, a starter the past two seasons, had a strong '08-'09 on the floor however off the floor Cooper had to deal with some significant personal issues. Cooper remains very close to the program and is focusing on his academics in an effort to become eligible soon. 6'3" Geoff Rogers, a big guard from the Bahamas, who despite missing much of training camp last season, contributed off the bench with the Panthers last year and adds depth in the backcourt.

Up front, Davies is expecting a big year from 6'6" Manock Lual, entering his third season. After playing the "5" for this first two seasons, Lual will move over to his more-natural position at the "4". Lual spent much of the summer in Sudan with family and comes to camp in tremendous shape at 205 lbs. after playing much of last season at heavier weights. He has tremendous scoring instincts around the basket, can dominate on the offensive glass and uses his 6'10" wingspan to his advantage defensively. The Panthers must replace 6'7" Gamaliel Rose who is not eligible this season due to academics and is back in the Bahamas. However, Davies is excited by the progress of a pair of now-veteran posts: 6'7" Vlad Farcas and 6'8" Mitchell McQuaide, who should share time at the five spot. Both are versatile posts who can mix it up inside but can also step out and shoot perimeter j's. McQuade has put on about 40 lbs. of muscle in the off season and as third year guys both he and Farcas are projected to be rotation ready players.

Also back in the mix is 6'3" swingman Anthony McDougald who missed virtually all of last season after tearing his ACL on a breakaway layup against Ottawa at the Jack Donohue Tournament in October. McDougald, who will provide veteran leadership at the wing and post positions and does much of the tough work off the ball and on the glass that winning teams need, continues to rehab the knee and is expected to be ready for the AUS regular season. Another medical redshirt from last season, 6'4" Nick Kaminsky, coming off a broken foot, should be in the mix on the wing owing to his ability to shoot the ball. A third wing who has battled injuries and is expected back is 6'5" Mike Hardy, coming of a series of concussions. 6'4" freshman Calvin LeBlanc will also be looked upon to challenge for minutes.

Davies also will have a new-look coaching staff as joining the coaching staff is Bob Maks who previously coached at Concordia U. He will add veteran experience to the team, with over 30 years of coaching background. The team lost assistant coaches Greg Lucas ,who took over the Executive Director position with Basketball Saskatchewan and Jared Cheverie, who was named head coach of the women’s team at Crandall University in Moncton. Mike Leslie also left the program due to work commitments.

The Panthers will open up their exhibition season at the House Laughton Tournament October 16th-18th, hosted by Carleton University which will include Saskatchewan Huskies and Bishop's Gaiters. Later the Panthers will tour Quebec along with Cape Breton to face UQAM, Bishop's and McGill before beginning their AUS campaign in early November.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I wouldn't be very optimistic if I were a Panther fan this season. Unless Terrence Brown and Matt Fennell are a modern day Stockton Malone, this is a team with a pile of holes in it. Zero Depth, a lack of any truly worthwhile CIS experience. Again, unless Brown and Fennell are incredible. Cooper being in-eligible, Rose gone(also in-eligible), Andrew Black gone. A bench full of guys who wouldn't make most CIS Roster and will be counted on to play minutes. Manuck Lual will need to make a major step in the right direction to help them get into play-offs.