Monday, 21 September 2009

Gilpin rapidly rebuilding Gaiters

After winning a national championship in the late 90's and generally being one of the formidable programs in the country for the better part of a decade or more, Bishop's Gaiters have been retrenching for a few seasons recently as the transition from legendary coach Eddie Pomykala, who brought instant national exposure to the Lennoxville university with the 1998 CIAU championship, to new Coach Rod Gilpin happens. Gilpin, a native of Sudbury, ON, who played for Coach Peter Campbell at Laurentian in the late 80's, early 90's, begins his second season in Lennoxville and it is clear that he has worked the recruiting trail hard, especially in Southern Ontario, in an effort to bring the Gaiters back to the playoffs.

Gilpin, who must replace 6'0" Junior Nicolas, a "Q" league all-star and one of the better Gaiters of all time through his career and 6'5" Cam Mowat - representing the majority of their three point shooting from last season, had the Gaiters in early this season to prepare for an NCAA game subsequently didn't happen, but, with so many newcomers, the practice time was well spent, assessing a group that has at least 7 newcomers. Bishop's has experience returning up front in 5th year forward Damon Thomas-Anderson and fellow 6'5" forward Hermon Tesfaghebriel. Thomas-Anderson averaged 9.5 ppg/4.5 rpg as the usual starter up front while Tesfaghbriel (11.4 ppg/4.3 rpg) is probably the wild card on this roster. When he is right and not in foul trouble, he can carry the team offensively but must do a better job on the glass and embrace the role of scorer. Both forwards can stretch defenses from the perimeter occasionally and give Bishop's a veteran front line.

Gilpen's first recruiting class last season garnered a pair of all-conference rookie team selections in 6'7" Tim Hunter from John Abbott CEGEP, who started 14 of 16 league games and played 26 minutes per game (second on team) and 6'2" guard D'arcy Nash (Toronto Cedarbrae), who averaged 8.1 ppg in 9 starts. Both figure very prominently in Bishop's future and are definite rotation guys although Nash is currently playing for the football Gaiters as a two-sport athlete.

Other returnees who look to push for time on the wing are 6'2" Tim McAleenan (5th year) and 6'3" Kevin Selman (3rd year). Former Toronto Oakwood star 6'5" Ryan Steele also enters his second season as a swing forward. 6'9" center Jesse Feith, entering his sophomore season after arriving at Bishop's from the NEDA program, is currently sidelined after recovering from shoulder surgery in the spring.

Gilpin followed up last season's strong class with another top notch set of recruits, focusing primarily on Southern Ontario to get another stable of rotation-ready players including a pair of transfers for the back court. 5'10" Jelani Matthew (4th year transfer/Sheridan College) is expected to start at the point should have an immediate impact given his success in the OCAA over the past 3 seasons. Another transfer originally from Southern Ontario, 6'1" Oraine Green (Ajax, ON) is a combo guard who transfers in from Delta State University in Cleveland, MI, NCAA Division II program in the Gulf South Conference. A lock down defender and deft passer, Oraine, who can also score when needed, will help make up for the unexpected loss of Donald Lindo, who was hired by the Durham Region Children’s Aid society and will be working full time there while finishing his degree part time in Toronto.

In 6'6" wing Chris East, a transfer from ASA Institute in Brooklyn, NY, the Gaiters get an ultra athletic forward who at 215 pounds has the body to be effective inside or on the perimeter. East will likely be out until after Christmas recovering from knee surgery. 6'5" Capilano College transfer Pat Shier, a strong and physical presence inside who does all the dirty work inside as a potentially very important complement to the incumbent forwards.

Not to be outdone with 4 solid transfers, Gilpin brings in a trio of Ontario high school freshmen, most impressive of which could be 6'2" guard Onnex Blackwood, who started on OFSAA ‘AAAA’ finalist Mother Theresa Titans last season. A great finisher around the basket and on the break, Blackwood could be one of the fastest players in the conference filling the lanes out on the break. 6'4" Jeremy Leonard-Smith, a hard nosed defender and physical presence from a perimeter position, won an OFSAA ‘AAA’ title at Ottawa St. Matt’s last year and should push for time. Another Ottawa product, 5'11" Jamil Abiad is a fantastic athlete finishing 4th at OFSAA Track last year in the 400 m and was part of the gold medal winning 4 X 100 m relay team. Abiad's has tremendous upside and should mature into a nice CIS player as his career evolves.

Finally, the Gaiters expect 6'5" Chris Kuete, a native of Cameroon who was the Most Valuable Player in Malaysian National Basketball League in 2008, to join the program at Christmas as another potentially high-impact newcomer.

Gilpin feels he has improved the overall talent and athleticism of his group and once roles are defined and the group gels, the Gaiters should be in the mix for a playoff spot in the tough "Q", a spot which last season they missed only due to a tie-breaker. Bishop's has back-to-back tournaments in Ottawa in October, first at Carleton for the House-Laughton tournament and then later at the Jack Donohue Memorial Tip-off tournament at uOttawa.

No comments: