Thursday, 5 November 2009

Western Preview from Andy Watson

UNIVERSITY BASKETBALL: Two-time defending OUA West champions focus qualifying for playoffs in rebuilding year in tough division

LONDON, Ont. - It would take an exceptional year for the Western Mustangs to return to the CIS National Final 8 tournament for a third consecutive year. For the Western Mustangs making - and competing in - the post-season is the task at hand.

In what will be a highly competitive OUA West Division once again, the Western Mustangs lose four starters and will have to rely on rapid development of quality recruits to be in the mix again for an OUA West Division title.

Gone are guards Matt Curtis and Alex Brzozowicz and forwards Brad Smith, Colin LaForme and Keenan Jeppesen. The latter is playing his fifth and final season at McMaster.

"Mac and Windsor will be at the top of the league this season," said head coach Bradley Campbell, entering his fourth season. "Our goal is simple, to make the playoffs."

Returning forwards Garrett Olexiuk (Burlington, Ont.) and Andy Wedemire (Sarnia, Ont.), and guard Ryan Barbeau (Belleville, Ont.) will immediately be thrust into leadership positions.

"Garrett and Ryan are still young and developing and now have new roles this season," Campbell said. "Andy continues to be a reliable scorer who is a potential all-star in our league. These three will lead us this season."

"Our greatest strength this year will be versatile forwards Garrett and Andy," Campbell said. "Our biggest area of concern is our depth."

The new point guard will be Barbeau who has shown flashes of brilliance at the collegiate level. Now in his third year, the winner of multiple OFSAA championships at Nicholson Collegiate will take over for Curtis as the quarterback of the Mustangs offence.

Jason Milliquet (Sarnia, Ont.), who split duties between football and basketball last year, is fully concentrating on the hardwood in 2009-10.

Newcomers include freshman guard Zack Angus (Burlington, Ont.) and senior guard Marcus Barnett (Hampton, Va.) and forward David Harder (Gentofte, Denmark).

Senior guard Brett Lawrence (Welland, Ont.) will be expected to take a bigger role with the Mustangs in the 2009-10 campaign, while forward Josh Windsor (Hamilton, Ont.), who sat out the 2008-09 season, will be an experienced freshman.

Other rookies include freshman forwards Josh Robertson (Vancouver, B.C.) and Greg Edelsward (Burlington, Ont.).

Adam Jespersen (London, Ont.), who was at Hawaii and chose not to stay with the Carleton Ravens program, will redshirt at Western this season. The 6'7, Beal Raiders product is expected to make a major impact with the Mustangs in 2009-10.

With the starting five likely changing game to game, Campbell knows this year will test his coaching ability.

To start, the Mustangs will face two young, solid programs in Laurentian, coached by a young, rising talent in Shawn Swords, and York, coached veteran bench-boss Bob Bain.

"Both teams are young and have several new players. Yet both have talent and are well coached."

The Mustangs host Laurentian (Nov. 6 at 8 p.m., Alumni Hall) and York (Nov. 7 at 3 p.m., Alumni Hall) this weekend. To get your seats, click the tickets tab and order online at

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