Friday, 23 July 2010

Oliveri fortifies Lions

We have already talked about the terrific finish to last season that the young York Lions accomplished in Bob Bain's final go-around. Building on that late success is a top goal of new Head Coach Tom Oliveri, a mainstay with the Lions program for over a decade and historically one of the hardest workers on the recruiting trail. While York returns the core of their group that advanced to the OUA East semi-finals after clinching a playoff spot on the final weekend of the regular season, Oliveri brings in at least 4 new faces including a point guard, a pair of bigs and an athletic wing who returns to the GTA.

In 6'0" Travis Turnbull from Tecumseh (St. Anne's), ON, the Lions add depth to their point guard position where incumbent David Tyndale was logging 35+ minutes on typical nights when not in foul trouble. Oliveri feels that Turnbull can step in right away and play significant minutes without a noticeable drop-off in decision making at the point. Turnbull should allow Oliveri to give his emerging all-conference starting pg Tyndale the spells on the bench to remain fresh not just in games but down the stretch of the long season.

Solid big man play has been a staple of York basketball going back to the early 70's with Lonnie Ramati and Bo Pelech. The Lions again promise to have one of the top front courts in the conference this coming season with 6'10" OUA East All-Freshman team selection Dejan Kravic, 6'8" fifth-year shot-blocking sensation Stefan Haynes and 6'6" athlete Justin Bell. In 6'7" Nicholas Tufegdzich and 6'7" Vlad Velici, York adds another pair of bigs with the potential to continue their legacy of producing top front court players.

Tufegdzich averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game at Windsor Riverside and is a tremendous athlete who plays over-the-rim and has a nice skill set for a big man. The Lions got involved with Tufegdzich relatively late in the recruiting process but were pleasantly suprised to be able to attract a likely rotation stalward as his career progresses. While he is athletic enough to push to play immediately, expect Tufegdzich to work deeper into the rotation as his strength improves. Velici, who comes to York from nearby Woodbridge College, also has an array of skills primarily facing the basket and also will be a factor as he fills out his current 190 pound frame. Last April, he was selected to be part of the Hoop Factory elite Canadian team that travelled to Milan, Italy for an international tournament, where the squad won the gold medal with a victory over a Lithuanian team in the final.

Oliveri may have uncover a diamond in the rough with 6'2" Jordon Campbell, originally from Whitby, ON who played his final years of basketball in Niagara Falls at Westlane H.S. Campbell is a player that grew on the entire York staff the more he performed over time and has the quickness and athletic ability to defend the point and both wing positions. Campbell appears to have the right make up and intangibles to fit into York's up-tempo style as his career evolves.

With virtually his entire rotation back and a nice recruiting class, expect the Lions to improve on their '09-'10 regular season results and push back into the upper regions of the OUA East standings.

For the first time in several years, the Lions will not face any NCAA Division 1 schools in August/September. However, the Lions, U of T Varsity Blues and OCAA programs George Brown Huskies and Sheridan Bruins will participate in an inaugural event in the late summer hosted by long-time OUA referee Mike Currie. The concept, started by Currie, one of the nicer guys in the business, gives teams a chance to compete in more of a controlled scrimmage environment, likely broken down into 8 minute quarters, and also will likely give officials a chance to break into the season in a more controlled manner. More details on dates, location and times to follow.

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