Sunday, 11 July 2010

Canada West Coaching Changes

Clearly, the CIS men's coaching churn in this off-season has not been limited to Ontario/Quebec as we have previously discussed - at least 4 Canada West programs will see new leadership this coming season, with maybe the most surprising being at Thompson Rivers where long-time Simon Fraser Head Coach Scott Clark takes over for two-year interim coach Thom Gillespe. Clark spent the past 15 seasons in Burnaby going back to the Clan's time as an NAIA school that regularly recruited many of the top Canadian high schoolers (many from Ontario) to Simon Fraser. The Clan had 6 winning seasons during Clark's tenure including last season's 18-12 overall mark when Simon Fraser was in and out of the CIS Top 10 with a senior-laden lineup before bowing out in the Canada West semi-finals to eventual National semi-finalists Calgary and then dropping the CW Bronze medal game to UBC. Clark's move to Thompson Rivers comes as the Clan prepares for their first season as an NCAA Division II program in 2010-11. Ex-Brandon Bobcat James Blake takes over for Clark. The WolfPack made strides toward the end of last season under Gillespe but could not push into their first CW post-season ever despite defeating playoff participant UVic, pre-season Nationals contender Trinity Western and almost knocking off national finalist UBC at home. Gillespe helped uncover a hidden gem in 7'2" Greg Stewart (5th year, Kamloops, BC) who was born with only half a left arm yet developed into a dominant defensive force, becoming the first player in TRU history to win a major Canada West Award as the Defensive Player of the Year. Stewart plans to play volleyball for the WolfPack this season and his status for basketball is as yet unknown. Clark has already worked to upgrade the WolfPack roster which has lost several front-line players to graduation including 6'7" F Jeff Friesen, 6'1" G Drew Bleth and 6'4" G Sean Garvey, all of who have run out of eligibility. The three represent almost 60% of shots taken and about 45% of the scoring from last season. Clark has already taken steps to fill the void by bringing in five recruits, led by a pair of transfers from his final Simon Fraser team: 6'5" Chas Kok, a fourth-year wing from Lynden, WA who culminated his first season in Canada West by being named a Second Team Canada West All-Star in 2009-10; and 6'0" point guard Kevin Pribilsky out of Victoria, BC (Oak Bay Secondary) who did an admirable job backing up the Clan's stable of big, veteran guards during his freshman season in '09-'10. Both players should be eligible for next season. As well, the Clark has recruited 6'2" combo guard Rob Dhillon (White Rock, BC) and Brett Parker (Langley, BC) to Kamloops. Dhillon, who will be in his third year of eligibility, transfers over from Everett Community College (4-12, 6-18 overall last season in NWAACC JUCO league) where he redshirted his first year and played the last two including a mainstay/occasional starter in the rotation in his final year. Dhillon spurned offers from some NAIA and NCAA Division II schools to join the 'Pack. 6'3" Parker, who is Coach Clark's step-son, comes to Kamloops directly from Walnut Grove Secondary in Langley and will be counted on to stretch defenses with his perimeter shooting. The Pack also welcomes 6'4" forward Brett Rouault, who played his final season at Fulton H.S., leading his team to the B.C. "AA" championship tournament, after his family moved from Edmonton, where he starred for the Jasper Place Rebels and Team Alberta. Thompson Rivers, under Athletic Director Ken Olynyk, an ex-CIS (Lethbridge, Toronto) Head Coach and Canadian National team program coach, have made strides to become more competitive in Canada West since the program moved over from the CCAA a few years ago, most noteably with the addition of a wonderful new facility for basketball... In Saskatchewan, the defending CIS National champions will welcome a new coaching tandem albeit for only one season as long-time mentor Greg Jockims takes a one-year sabbatical after building the program up to bring the Huskies first-ever CIS National basketball championship back to Saskatoon. The Huskies named Barry Rawlyk, a four-year veteran of the Huskies staff who spent more than two decades coaching at Saskatoon's Holy Cross high school as interim Head Coach. During his tenure at Holy Cross, Rawlyk's teams won 11 city titles and three provincial championships. A number of Rawlyk's high school players have moved on to the U of S, including current Huskies John Rochon and Patrick Burns. Long-time assistant coach Nathan Schellenberg, entering his ninth year with the Huskies staff, will also continue with the team. With the core of the Huskies either graduated (including Troy Gossleig, Michael Leiffers) or moving on to professional ranks in Europe (Showron Glover), Jockims ensured that his program will continue to perform at a high level with commitments from seven in-province recruits for the coming season, beginning with three more members of 5A Provincial Champion Holy Cross Crusaders: 6'4" wing Jonathan Harding , a member of Team Saskatchewan at the 2009 Canada Games in PEI and a pair of 6'1" guards Jonathan Karwacki, who's father, David, is a former Huskie and has the school’s highest all-time career three-point percentage and Evan Ostertag, who led Holy Cross this past season with 16.3 points per game including career-highs 42 on two occasions. The top pure scorer in the class may be 6'3" guard Ben Baker, from Saskatoon Aden Bowman where he averaged 19.4 ppg/13.2 rpg from the guard spot. Baker, who also played for Team Saskatchewan, had likely his best game of his high school career in the championship game of the Balfour Classic when he went off for 37 points and 23 boards and was named tournament MVP. Baker's high school and Team Sask teammate 6'1" guard Sam Derksen has numbers that show he plays big in the most important games as he averaged 29.7 ppg in last season's playoffs including a career-high 38 in the City semi-final after averaging only 19.6 ppg during the regular season. Jockims was able to go south and reach into neighboring Regina to pluck another Team Saskatchewan stalward, 6'2" Andrew Henry from Regina Luther where he led the Lions to their first city title since 1993, hitting a buzzer-beating 15-footer in overtime of the championship game. Adding some size up front, Jockims recruited 6'7" Temidayo Jabagun from North Battleford John Paul II, who also represented Saskatchewan at the 2009 Canada Games.

Winnipeg Wesmen were able to attract one of the most recently successful CCAA coaches in the country, announcing Mike Raimbault as their newest Head Coach. At the coaching-tender age of 28, Raimbault already begins his third post-secondary Head Coach posting beginning with his one year interim stint at Brandon in 2007-08 when the Bobcats went 20-2 in CW league play after Barnaby Craddock left for Fraser Valley. Most recently, Raimbault guided Northern British Columbia Timberwolves to the CCAA National championship this past season and was named CCAA Coach of the Year this past season. Raimbault, a native of Brandon and graduate of Brandon University, has succeeded everywhere he has been and will have his challenges with the Wesmen who have struggled in recent seasons... Speaking of Brandon, the Bobcats replaced one former Bobcat player-turned-coach Keith Vassell, who resigned after last season with another alumnus: Gil Cheung, team captain and one of the leaders of the Cats two CIS National silver medals and four conference division championships in the late 90's/early 00's. Cheung was recognized as a CIS Academic All-Canadian in 2002. Cheung, a native of Richmond, B.C., spent the past two seasons as Head Coach at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC. From 2006-2008 he was an assistant coach at Simon Fraser under Scott Clark after getting his coaching start at Brandon as an assistant with the Women’s team (2003) and the Men’s team (2004).

We hope to have more from both Raimbault and Cheung as the summer progresses.

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