Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Rana set to rebuild Rams

Despite taking over the Head Coaching reigns of the Rams only about 6 weeks ago in mid-August and then fulfilling assistant coaching commitments with Canada's Men's national team in Puerto Rico, hard-working mentor Roy Rana was still able to piece together a strong recruiting class to augment a Rams roster that returns eight players from last season's OUA quarter-finalist squad, a disappointing year which ended with a close home loss to cross-town rival York. However, Ryerson did host a home playoff game for the first time in many seasons and that game attracted a very good crowd with great atmosphere showing that this program can be a player in the CIS. Given his extensive ties in the basketball hotbed of the GTA, Rana provides Ryerson with an excellent opportunity to return to their glory years of the mid-90's when they made one CIAU nationals appearance.

Rana inherits a Rams team, led by 6'7" All-Canadian Moser Trophy candidate Boris Bakovic, who has led the league in scoring the past two seasons. A well-decorated forward who has played in Canada's national team program for several years including the Student team this past summer, Bakovic has taken the majority of the shots in Ryerson's offense during his career and is very difficult to stop from twelve feet and in, getting himself to the foul line almost at will. He also has range beyond the three point line and usually gets on the glass. Bakovic's ability to be a leader on the defensive end and score in volume at key points in games will be a major factor in determining how quickly the Rams move up the standings. Rana comments that Bakovic "has bought into everything we've tried to do from Day One and has been our hardest worker. We are very pleased with his attitude and leadership."

There is other returning talent as well in 6'3" fourth-year combination guard Ryan McNeilly who is maturing into a solid CIS decision-maker as his career develops. The hard-working son of former York Yeomen star Chris McNeilly is a leader-type on and off the floor who will likely spend more time at his natural position at the off guard. Another hidden gem in the backcourt is tough 6'1" Josh Budd (Timmins, ON), an underrated sophomore who understands how to play, gets others involved, shoots it beyond the three point line with consistency, usually making proper decisions and, as a result, is likely to get big minutes at the point. Coach Rana is already touting Budd as a "glue guy and someone who can be a special player in this league as he grows".

6'10" Joey Imbrogno (5th year/Toronto Brebeuf) has shown flashes of brilliance throughout his career with several double/doubles, showing solid finishing skills including running the floor on the break however consistency and fitness has been an issue for this high-potential, athletic big man. However, Rana was very quick to point out how pleased he and his staff have been with Imbrogno's work ethic from the beginning and big things are expected in Joey's final year. 6'3" Steve Williams (Toronto Emery), entering his fourth season as an undersized post, should contribute energy off the bench as a scrappy forward who does alot of little things well. 6'6" Chris Blouin (Carleton Place, ON) returns for his third season with his array of perimeter skills while 6'4" Luke Staniscia, an athletic wing is working hard to grab a rotation spot after missing all of last season due to injury.

The ultra-hard-working Rana combed the recruiting trail even with how late he got the job and the result was at least three or four rotation players on the roster beginning with 6'4" Scott Wheler, who played at high school at Toronto Northern and prior to that at now-defunct Bathurst Heights for legendary GTA high school coach Bob Maydo before moving on to play 3 years at Seneca College several years ago. A former OCAA All-Star, Wheler, a slasher, is the ultimate competitor, bringing an edge at both ends to this group and should see major minutes as a complement to Bakovic. Wheler was on campus and immediately became excited about playing upon hearing of Rana's hiring. Another OCAA transfer, 6'0" Ricardo Dunkley (Sheridan College) is an athletic combo guard with a strong body. Originally from Waterloo, Ont., Dunkley loves to get out in transition, guards the ball very aggressively and is another athlete who adds a level of toughness to the roster. Dunkley should also see some time at the point, spelling Budd where necessary.

Returning from a couple of years away from the Rams program is 6'6" Kris Montague, entering his second year of eligibility (freshman with Ryerson in 2006-07) and someone who has a chance to be an elite defender in the league, guarding opponents anywhere from the "2" to the "4". As an Eastern Commerce grad, Montague is very familiar with Rana and his time will increase as his offensive game including perimeter jumper continues to develop.

In 6'2" Will Campbell from Vancouver College (Vancouver, BC), the Rams get a freshman who, when his feet are set and he gets good looks at the rim, can flat out make shots. Campbell's ability to make teams pay for helping off him will determine how much run he gets early in his career but expect him to contribute throughout his career. 6'8" Matthew Lapointe from MM Robinson in Burlington, Ont. should grow into a solid CIS post player as he matures physically and adapts to the speed and competitiveness of the CIS game. Lapointe has decent face up skills and expect him to be a contributor as his career develops. The Rams also got a high IQ guard in 6'2" Dylan Churchill from Ottawa All Saints High School and the Ottawa Guardsmen club system. Churchill can shoot the ball when open, understands how to make decisions and should get time as he develops physically.

Rana did a wonderful job filling out his roster with some experience around Bakovic, McNeilly and Imbrogno and with the quickly-maturing Budd taking the reigns at the point and several great athletes on the wings with explosive finishing ability, expect Ryerson to push the tempo at both ends and look to run out players to at least 9 deep in the rotation. Rana has won whereever he's been so expect the Rams to turn it up in the OUA East, arguably the toughest conference in the CIS at the top.

With the very late start, Rana had a tough time piecing together a pre-season schedule but did manage to get one home game, against Greg Francis' Alberta Golden Bears in a battle of T.O. rookie coaches (Oct. 11th at Kerr Hall). The Rams will also travel to McMaster, Western and Brock for exhibition games in October. Thus far, Ryerson has one game schedule over Christmas, a home game on December 29th against OCAA/CCAA power Sheridan Bruins.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Go Scotty Wheler!