Sunday, 15 August 2010

Connolly anxious to get going

It was great to catch up with new McMaster Marauders Head Coach Amos Connolly recently and the incoming first-year mentor is full of energy as he anxiously prepares for training camp set to begin in mid-September. The well-spoken Connolly steps into the head job at Mac in an environment where there is tremendous community and alumni support and the expectations that come with following Mac coaching legend Joe Raso. Connolly was quick to credit the support he has received to date from Raso and others, especially from long-time Mac assistant Rod Bynum, who he has wisely kept on the coaching staff, crediting the ultra-loyal Bynum with being "instrumental" in the program's plans and his own transition: "Rod was the first person I called". Connolly rounded out his staff with Marauder alumnus Jamie Girolametto, who has architected a wonderful high school coaching career at Hamilton St. Mary's, Ray Kybartas, a star player at Simon Fraser and Ottawa in the 80's and now teacher/coach at Hamilton Cathedral and Dan Meyer, who coached Dundas Parkside to the "AA" OFSAA championship this past March.

Most have heard about the tremendous incoming recruiting class that the Marauders will welcome - unfortunately for Connolly, 6'3" Winnipeg native Keith Omoerah, captain of the Manitoba Provincial team and a slashing combo guard who was expected to push immediately for rotation time as a solid one/two, has decided to remain home in Winnipeg due to family commitments. However, in 6'9" Taylor Black (Stoney Creek Orchard Park), the Marauders get a player who many have described as a mid D1 talent who can handle the ball on the perimeter, shoot 3's and also be a presence inside. With the Marauders lacking size and depth up front, expect Black, who was rated as the #3 graduating high school power forward by Hoopstars Canada, to play the "4" while flashing solid 2/3 man skills. To add depth at the point, Mac brings in tough, smart 6'0" Kyle Giedraitis (Dundas Parkside), Hoopstars #10 graduating point guard and the target of several top CIS programs, another in the long-line of competitive, high IQ point guards that Hamilton basketball continues to churn out.

Expect 6'6" Satar Wahidi, a high school teammate of Black's and rated as Hoopstars #6 graduating small forward, to also push for time in the Marauder lineup as Connolly must replace several players from last season, most noteable being All-Canadian Keenan Jeppesen, who graduated after starring in his fifth and final season of eligibility at Mac. Also graduating up front was 6'8" Geoff McLaughlin.

Mac also has lost the services of 6'2" shooting guard Tyrell Vernon, a Hamilton native who has decided to transfer with several teams in Atlantic Canada apparently on Vernon's radar. Guards Paul Hart and Jermaine DeCosta also will not be back.

The cupboard is hardly bear especially when one considers the emergence last season of 6'5" Cam Michaud, entering his third season and poised to push for all-conference honours with his blend of inside scoring and ability to shoot open 3's. In 6'5" third year forward Scott Laws, the Marauders have a defensive presence who is happy to guard opponents top scorer without regard for needing to get his offensively.

Mac got a tremendous freshman year from gritty 6'3" guard Victor Raso, who very early in his career showed a propensity to take the big shot and accept key decision making roles. Expect Raso to emerge into one of the leaders in this program as his career evolves. 6'6" Matt Wilusz (Hamilton Cardinal Newmann) is set to contribute more consistent offense as he enters his fourth season as the most senior member of this suddenly-young but emerging group.

Connolly is one of four first-year head coaches in the OUA (Brad Rootes-Brock, Tom Oliveri-York, James Derouin-Ottawa) and recognizes the challenges that the coaching depth across the province and country brings to his position but is anxious and ready to accept that challenge. Hamilton and area fans get their first look at the new Marauders on October 8th when the Manitoba Bisons, with new recruit Keith Omoerah also scheduled to make his CIS debut, visit Burridge Gym.

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