Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Around the Country: QSSF Update

It has been a challenging pre-season for John Dore and his Concordia Stingers given the need to replace virtually his entire starting lineup from last season's QSSF championship team, the need to integrate numerous new faces onto the roster, early-season injuries to several key rotation players and more talent arriving to his program that previously anticipated, making it very difficult to determine who to cut, redshirt or not get uniforms. To add more challenges to finalizing their roster and rotation, late last week the Stingers learned that two very good players who previously played at Dawson College have had their eligibility reversed and can now play immediately: 6'6" Kevin Loiselle and 6'3" Frank Fiola, both of who returned to school this year after leaving CEGEP a couple of years ago. Loiselle is a definite impact player who, along with Fiola and current Stinger Evens Laroche, helped lead the Dawson Blues to the CCAA national championship a few seasons ago. The rules determining eligibility of athletes who were not academically eligible at CEGEP and subsequently sat out for more than one year appear very difficult to interpret however the bottom line is that both players are now eligible to play. In a year when virtually all targeted recruits committed to coming, Concordia now has even greater numbers on the roster, which is filled with promising young newcomers plus returning maturing upperclassmen. 6'1" third-year guard Decee Krah returned from an ankle injury this past weekend and was named an all-star at the Concordia NIKE tournament as the Stingers dropped a tight game in the championship to Laurier. 6'5" James Clarke, who arrived at Concordia in the same recruiting class as Krah, continues to steadily improve and is taking on more of leadership role while 6'5" second-year forward Evens Laroche continues to ascend into another in the long line of athletic, all-conference calibre four men that the Stingers have produced in the Dore era. 6'0" freshman Duane Gero-Carvery from Halifax looks to assume the mantle at point guard from fifth-year veteran Pierre Thompson. Concordia is also expecting 6'3" Vali Lazarescu, a transfer from William and Mary, back from injury in time for the start of Quebec league conference play which somewhat-fortunately for the Stingers begins late on Nov. 13 against Bishop's. This gives Coach Dore about 4 more weeks to work through which players will form the foundation of his roster and rotation. Concordia host York Lions this coming Friday in an exhibition game and then travel to Winnipeg for a tournament to play the Wesmen and Manitoba Bisons the following weekend... After a slow start, McGill Redmen came back to claim an impressive victory over Laurentian in their opener at home last Thursday and now prepare to host their tournament which has Top 10 possibles Ottawa Gee-Gees and McMaster Marauders plus UQAM Citadins. Redmen's 6'4" forward Michael White carries the load inside for McGill while exciting freshman point guard Olivier Bouchard adds speed and athleticism to the lineup. A pair of fourth-year veterans 6'4" Matt Thornhill and 6'4" Pawel Herra are entering their leadership years as McGill pushes for Top 10 consideration... Fans in the Nation's Capital will get a chance to catch the stable of new recruits at Bishop's during the next two weekends as the Gaiters play at the House-Laughton Tournament at Carleton this weekend and at the Jack Donohue Memorial tournament at uOttawa next weekend. The Gaiters could go at least 10 deep with a pair of veterans up front in 6'5" Damon Thomas-Anderson and fellow 6'5" forward Hermon Tesfaghebriel supported by a set of talented guards from the GTA which include 6'2" guard D'arcy Nash (Toronto Cedarbrae), 5'10" Jelani Matthew (4th year transfer/Sheridan College), who is expected to start at the point and 6'1" Oraine Green (transfer Delta State, NCAA DII). The Gaiters entry for potential national rookie-of-the-year honours is 6'2" Onnex Blackwood, who started on OFSAA ‘AAAA’ finalist Mother Theresa Titans last season. Expect the Gaiters to try to push the tempo, defend aggressively to get opponents to turn it over and run their transition game as often as possible. UQAM... The Citadins came on strong toward the end of last season, upsetting Laval in the first round of the Q playoffs before pushing league champions Concordia and Coach Olga Hrycak continues to add athletic, young talent to a maturing roster. Despite not having 6'6" first-team Q league all-star Jules Diagne (out with a illness caught while in Thailand over the summer - he is seeing a neurologist and is expected to be out until at least the new year) and 6'5" Q league second-team all-star Adil El Makssoud (awaiting decision on an academic course), UQAM more than held their own this past Sunday with St. FX as 6'1" lefty guard Arthur Plesius rose to the occasion with 21 points against X-Men star guard Christian T-Bear Upshaw and 6'4" tournament all-star Gregory Saint-Amand shouldered the scoring load up front. 6'5" Eric Cote-Kougnima, a hard-nosed wing who can shoot it brings plenty of toughness while 6'3" Thierry Justin may be UQAM's top three point shooter. Emerging 6'0" freshman point guard Rasheed Nguinambaye (Montreal via John Abbott and Montmorency CEGEP's) may be the best pure point recruited to UQAM by Hrycak and he is definitely in the mix in the backcourt. 6'4" 250 lbs. Frantz St. Cyr (Ahunstic CEGEP) adds depth to the front line along with 6'8" Mathieu Landry and 6'5" Kevin Bitondo, back after sitting out last season. After this weekend's McGill tournament, UQAM travels to Kingston the following weekend and then hosts Cape Breton and UPEI at home. The Citadins peaked at the right time last season and expect them to continue to contend in the very well balanced QSSF... Laval has shown the CIS that they will play anyone anytime with a very competitive pre-season schedule that if the wild card committee places any merit in should be of benefit to them if they end up requiring consideration. This weeeknd's trip out west is another example of probably the toughest non-conference schedule in Canada. Later this month, Laval hosts arguably the toughest tournament of the pre-season with Calgary, Dalhousie and Western. Laval has already gone to Ottawa and Kingston. 6'3" J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux, a favorite for Q league MVP honours, has battled a leg injury in the early season and his status for this weekends four games in Western Canada is uncertain. However, les Rouge et Or can go another 7 or 8 deep beyond the slick shooting wing as their bench was extended during their trip to Eastern Ontario recently and the results produced optimism that guys like 5'10" Richard Addai and 5'8" J.P. Renaud are ready to contribute in their freshmen seasons. 6'5" Etienne Labrecque is comfortable as the go-to guy offensively and 5'9" point guard Xavier Baribeau continues to gain experience and confidence in his ability to make open shots. Laval's fortunes could hinge on a breakout year from highly-touted 6'4" Jerome Turcotte, a former CEGEP Player-of-the-Year who has the skill set and toughness to dominate on the wing. Laval's stiffest test in B.C. is likely to be in their first game at defending nationals finalist UBC Thunderbirds on Thursday night, followed by games at Simon Fraser, at Fraser Valley and then Sunday afternoon at Thompson Rivers.

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