Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Golden Bears Preview from U of A's Gateway student paper

Here is the first of hopefully numerous student-newspaper sourced articles from around the country, this one previewing the Alberta Golden Bears and new coach Greg Francis (the article mentions that the games are this weekend however the trip is not until the weekend after this one - Thanksgiving weekend).

Basketball Bears head east for preseason action

Photo: AIR TIME Scott Leigh is one of the returning Bears who will be looked to for leadership.

With a new head coach patrolling the sidelines, and a number of new faces on the floor, the Bears basketball team will be a young group this season. New head coach Greg Francis will get his first chance to see his team in action against CIS competition this weekend as the Bears fly out to Toronto for three exhibition games against OUA opponents.

The preseason games will be key for the Bears, especially with a new coach and a wealth of new players looking to get much needed experience.

"For everybody — all the coaches, athletes — everybody is excited about preseason games because you get a chance to work against someone else," Francis said.

"We need any game experience. If you've got a group of guys and want to suit up and play, let's do it because we just need to get the reps," Francis joked.

The Bears will face the Toronto Varsity Blues, McMaster Marauders, and Ryerson Rams over the weekend in the team's first trip under the new head coach.

"It's going to be very good for the team, not so much in terms of what the results will be, but in terms of getting out there and getting a feel for game day and travel. U of T will be very good this year, and McMaster is much improved," Francis pointed out. "I look forward to seeing how our guys react, and I think they will use those opportunities to get better for the season."

Francis has been able to bring in some top-end talent in the offseason. Khas Tokar, Jamaal Bucknor and Brett Kallio all join the Bears after gaining valuable experience at the ACAC level, while the Bears will also welcome Harry Ainlay high-school standout Jordan Baker to the team, who played for Francis over the summer.

"Recruiting has been great. Jordan is the familiar guy, he had a chance to play on the Junior National Team this summer and did well there, so I think he's coming in with a bit more confidence than people are expecting."

Along with Baker, Todd Bergen-Henengouwen and Ken Otieno are two young players coming out of high school.

"Todd Bergen-Henengouwen and Ken Otieno, those two guys by themselves would be a great start to a recruiting class, but to add them into the rest of the group of young guys definitely makes me feel good about the future and what we can do this year," Francis said.

The lone recruit hailing from outside Alberta is a player Francis knows well through the Junior National Team: Rob Dewar. Dewar will bring a big-man presence to the Bears standing at 6-11.

Complementing the new recruits will be a solid cast of returning players that are sure to bring much-needed experience.

"The kids that are here from last year's team are probably some of the toughest kids that were on the team last year, and I think they're coming with some maturity and experience in the Canada West that's going to help us."

With a new coach and a host of new talent, the Bears will be looking to establish their brand of basketball starting this weekend in Southern Ontario.

"I'd like to see that our team is a little bit more up tempo," Francis explained. "I think we'll be the type of style that people will like to come and see. Offensively we're going to be pretty good and defensively we're going to be able to use our size to cause difficulty for other teams."

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