Monday, 14 September 2009

Depth, maturing stars lead Laval

The transition from father to son appears to be going smoothly and les Rouge et Or hope to return to the top of the "Q" after last season's upset loss to UQAM, ending a string of eight consecutive appearances in the Quebec league championship game, including 5 titles. Coach Jacques Paiement Jr., who officially took over from his father on May 1st of this year after holding the interim tag through last season, starts his second season with a solid core of veterans that includes an emerging Moser candidate plus another top recruiting class from the growing basketball talent base in Quebec.

In 6'3" J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux, Laval has a top flight wing who can create his own shot and has range beyond the three point line, with one of the more fundamentally-sound, legitimate jump shots off the dribble in the entire CIS. A former CIS Rookie-of-the-Year now entering his fourth season, les Rouge et Or are now fully Beaulieu-Mahieux's team as he enters his senior seasons. A pair of highly-touted third year combo forwards: 6'4" Jerome Turcotte, a former CEGEP POY and 6'5" Etienne Labrecque, who tried one season at NCAA D1 Quinnipiac before transfering home, set up Laval very well on the perimeter both offensively and defensively. Both can stretch defenses, get on the glass and, when right, are all-league talents. Labrecque suffered a dislocated finger in August against Towson State but should be ready for the start of the exhibition season.

Setting the table for Laval's nice array of scorers is 5'8" point guard Xavier Baribeau, also entering his third season. Baribeau is a solid decision maker in transition and shoots the ball well beyond the arc. His ability to guard the ball in Laval's tough ball pressure "d" will determine how well this group stops teams. Backing up Baribeau are pair of freshmen recruits from CEGEP, 5'8" J.P. Renaud (Sainte-Foy), 1st team CEGEP selection last season and 5'10" Richard Addai (Vanier). Expect the two freshmen to be eased in to the lineup as Baribeau has handled high (35+) minute loads successfully thus far in his career.

Up front, Laval features underrated 6'5" post F.O. Gagnon-Hebert, who works very hard at both ends, runs the floor well, gets solid position and generally makes up for his comparative lack of size and athleticism with strong fundamentals and foot work. Coming off the bench is last season's discovery 6'2" Christian Deslauriers-Trottier, a solid sixth man who brings a bit of everything to the 2/3 spots; Deslauriers-Trottier played at the same high school as Laval's graduated All-Canadian J.P. Morin, who incidentally is completing his M.B.A. at Laval.

Adding depth at the forward spots are a pair of fourth-year vets in 6'8" post Maxime Cloutier and 6'6" Yves Andre Levasseur who can also slide back and play the 3 spot when necessary. 6'7" freshman Simon Mercier (Ste. Foy) will also be in the mix at the 4 spot, initially adding a strong ability to defend and rebound. Also, 6'9" Kevin Crevant, a French import who arrived at Laval last season amid some optimism, finally showed signs last season of developing into a serviceable CIS post player and Laval hopes his progress continues.

There is a solid core of at least four very high calibre CIS players in Beaulieu-Mahieux, Labrecque, Turcotte and Baribeau that last season probably had to play more minutes than the staff may have liked. With the added depth and the maturity of the first four plus Gagnon-Hebert and Deslauriers-Trottier, Laval should be able to play at a higher tempo for longer periods of time. Expect Rouge et Or to be in the middle of the battle for the Quebec league championship.

With several projected Top 10 teams on the pre-season slate, clearly Coach Paiement is ducking no one in prepping his program for league play. In addition to hosting their own tournament which has arguably the strongest field of any pre-season tournament with Calgary, Dalhousie and Western, Laval takes a trip out west to play four games against UBC, Simon Fraser, Trinity Western and Fraser Valley plus a game in Gatineau against Ottawa. Laval also travels to the University of Maine on November 1st to play in the Black Bears first exhibition game of the season.

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