Thursday, 8 October 2009

UNB Eric Garland Tournament Preview

With thanks to V-Reds coach Brent Baker and Daily Gleaner sports reporter Bill Hunt... The CIS pre-season schedule kicks off in earnest this weekend with a pair of tournaments including the 2009 Eric Garland Tournament at the University of New Brunswick which offers plenty of story lines and intrigue.

Baker's Boys set to take the Big Stage

To hear University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds men's basketball coach Brent Baker tell it, there's plenty to see at the ARC Financial Eric Garland men's basketball tournament at the Aitken Centre this weekend.

Lee Academy of Maine features a young basketball player, Maxie Esho, who appeared in television commercials with Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Tracy McGrady, and four sky scraper starters - two of whom are six foot ten, and two others who are six foot nine.

The St. Francis Xavier X-Men have done them one - or make that two - inches better, bringing in a seven-footer to go with Atlantic University Sport Men's Basketball Conference Most Valuable Player Christian Upshaw, with renowned coach Steve Konchalski trying to fit all the pieces together.

And then there's Baker and his young V-Reds, in the second year of a rebuilding program which features six more new faces to go with the survivors from the roster renovations of a year ago.

Three core veterans, including fifth year leading scorer Michael Anderson of St. Stephen, fourth year inside presence Colton Wilson and third year Alex DesRoches will anchor the rebuilding effort, along with the second year backcourt tandem of Antoine Parks of Queens, New York and smooth Dustin Anthony.

They'll be joined in the backcourt by veteran Andy Wright - son of FHS coach Phil Wright - after Christmas. Wright played two seasons at Bishop's University in Lennoxville and was the school's rookie of the year a couple of years ago.

Baker has lots of new faces to look at in the meantime and he'll get a long look this weekend as the V-Reds play three games in as many days in the four-team round robin event.

They'll open up against the University of Quebec at Montreal Carabins Friday night at 8 p.m. at the Aitken Centre. Saturday night at 8 p.m., it will be teacher against pupil as Konchalski, the longtime X and former national team men's coach, matches wits with Baker, his former assistant. The V-Reds will close out the tournament against Lee Academy Sunday afternoon at 3 p.m.

For Baker's boys, it will be the start of a busy stretch of five straight weekends of basketball. The ever enthusiastic coach can hardly wait.

"We'll be rip roarin' to go," said Baker, who is anxious to get a look at his six newcomers in game conditions, including Paul Kalala of Ajax, Ont., Dan Quirion of Moncton, whom he considers a top New Brunswick recruit, and six-foot-eight inch Mattias Zankpe of Sarnia, Ont.

"He's quite an athlete," Baker said of the rookie. "He's going to have to adjust to the CIS level. It''s not the high school game, where you can just park yourself under the basket. But he's going to get a chance to play."

Six foot six inch Colin Adams of Toronto is another addition Baker is anxious to look at.

"He's got a great 15 foot jump shot," said Baker.

Wins are important, said Baker -- "that's why we have the scoreboard," -- but it's just as important to get the youngsters some experience.

"It's all part of the growth process," said Baker, who hopes to improve on his first year record of 3-17 a year ago. "I find if you use more players, you have a pretty happy locker room."

The entire tournament takes place at the Aitken Centre, the first time the women have been on the big stage since hosting the CiS tournament here in 2004 and the first time for the men in several years.

"It's a chance for the men and women's programs to showcase ourselves," said Baker. "I think there are enough basketball fans in town that are going to want to stop in and take a look at us and hopefully, they'll like what they see."

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The Garland tournament should offer UNB and Fredericton basketball fans plenty excitement over the Thanksgiving weekend at the Aitken Centre. There are plenty of story lines to cover at this year’s tournament. How does St.F.X incorporate their new seven footer from the Sudan into their pressing run and gun style? Lee Academy returns with Maxie Esho (Yes, that Maxie! From the Adidas commercials with Kevin Garnett, Tim Duncan and Tracey MacGrady) along with two 6’10 players. One from Australia and other from Latvia respectively. Esho, a Washington DC native, as a prep school junior wowed the Fredericton faithful with plenty of highlight reel dunks and blocks at the Garland last year. UQAM comes into the tournament already battle tested having faced two Division one opponents in Towson State of Maryland and St. John’s of the Big East Conference. Look for UQAM to use their trademark tough defense and physicality to dictate tempo and make their presents felt at both ends of the court. UNB in the second year of the rebuilding program will look to improve on last year’s record and get their relatively young squad some valuable experience against three very athletic squads very early in the season.

Lee Academy has retooled with a number of solid players for the 2009-10 campaign.
The Pandas return Esho upfront and Luis Median in the backcourt with the two afore mentioned bigs up front they also have 6’9” Keith Coleman from Philadelphia, PA and 6’9” Kristopher Sherard of Chesapeake, Virginia.

X will return to the Garland with AUS MVP Christian Upshaw fresh off a summer with Canada’s World student Games team. Replacing Tyler Richards would be a
tough task for any team, but picking up OCCA player of year Charlie Spurr.
will surely bridge the gap. Spurr is renown for being a sniper with unlimited range.
This veteran laden line-up will kick it off against Lee Academy at 4:00 p.m. Friday.
This contest will feature size, great perimeter play and two up-tempo teams.

Olga Hyrack will bring her Montreal based squad back to the Garland. The Citadins return their, Mr. Everything, Adil EL Makssoud. His versatility and ability get to the basket and the free throw line make this 2nd year player an important cog in their offensive wheel. The Citadins will have board coverage and a presents upfront with Gregory Saint-Amand . Averaging 11 rebounds and 12 pts a game Saint-Amand does all the dirty work upfront.

The Varsity Reds return three veterans looking lead this team to a playoff birth. 5th year senior Mike Anderson returns after leading the Fredericton squad in scoring last season. The Reds inside presents will come from Colton Wilson. The senior is the squad’s best interior scorer. Alex DesRoche brings his all out –all the time style of play back to the Reds line-up. At 6’4 he averaged a double double in points and rebounds in the last 10 games. 2nd year Pt. Guard Antenna Parks will again run the show for the Reds and is looking to improve his production after his trial by fire freshmen season. Look for the 6 new faces in the Reds line-up to be called upon early and often once the ball is thrown up.

Ditto Varsity Reds men's coach Brent Baker, in Year 2 of the plan to resurrect the UNB program.

As Bill Hunt from the Daily Gleaner noted in a recent piece: "There's nowhere to go but up for the UNB men's program, which began the long road back to respectability with a 3-17 record last season and laid the foundation for what Coach Brent Baker hopes will be another step forward this season. The V-Reds will entertain University of Quebec at Montreal in their opening game at the four-team round-robin Garland tourney Friday night at 8 p.m.; battle Steve Konchalski's St. Francis Xavier X-Men Saturday night at 8 p.m. and close out the round robin tourney Sunday at 3 p.m. when they lock horns with Lee Academy of Maine to bring the curtain down on the dual tourney.

"We still have a lot of Year 1s and Year 2s on this roster," said Baker, himself a sophomore in the men's coaching ranks. "We're still a very, very young team."

The Reds take on UQAM at 8:00 p.m. for the final game of the day Friday. This game should provide a good measuring stick for the Reds as they were manhandled by UQAM last Christmas in Montreal.

2 comments:

centre said...

Thanks for all your work. Just a word to say that the UQAM teams are the Citadins (and not the Carabins, which are the teams of University of Montreal).

Brian French said...

So my old Acadia Summer camp buddy's now have 2 guys making it big in CIS Hoops - Robert Upshaws' Christian, and Bruce Ffrenches Ellis at Windsor.

I shoulda started recruiting back then.

I got a couple of guys coming out of my program in the next year or two I might send down.