Thursday, September 30, 2010

Alberta Golden Bears Preview

The Bears continue their transformation into a team in the mould of second-year Head Coach Greg Francis with the core of their team very group supported by a recruiting class high on experience in the backcourt.  Francis, who started three freshmen last season, continues to build a blend of athleticism and physical presence and his Bears feature a top young wing in future All-Canadian candidate 6'7" Jordan Baker, last season's CW Rookie-of-the-Year who as a freshman averaged 13.7 ppg/9.1 rpg in 31.5 mpg.  Baker has tremendous perimeter skills for a big, shoots it and makes others better and should be the cornerstone of the Golden Bears for the next 4 seasons.  Fellow second year starter 6'2" guard Ken Otieno is one of several tremendous athletes on the Bears roster and he had solid numbers of 8.6 ppg/22 mpg as a freshman.  The third freshman starter 6'10" Rob Dewar another blue-chip talent looks to build on his 5 ppg production.

Francis was able to wisely bring in some veteran experience in the back court and wing to help accelerate his young core's abilities to mature rapidly.  The most noteable newcomer is 6'4" Daniel Ferguson, a fourth-year transfer from NCAA Division II Berry College where he was a conference all-star and who should start from Day One.  Ferguson is originally from Mississauga where he played at Lincoln H.S. which incidentally was previously Westwood H.S., a perennial top Ontario program that produced the likes of former Canadian National team member Sherman Hamilton.  Expect Ferguson to give the Bears a top scoring threat from the wing with his slick combination of slashing to the rim and a great medium range game.  The other vet who has overcome injuries that contributed to him sitting out last season after a pair of solid seasons under Don Horwood is 6'1" C.G. Morrison, who played big minutes the last time the Bears made the CIS Final 8 under Horwood.  Morrison can play both guard spots with the ability to stick 3's.  These two vets help make up for the losses from last season's roster of Khas Tokar, Jamaal Bucknor, Sahr Saffa (redshirting this season), Scott Leigh and the graduated Harvey Bradford

Another pair of sophomore bigs 6'5"Todd Bergen-Henengouwen and 6'10" Nik Manojlovic provide depth up front and their maturation helps offset the loss due to graduation of big Jeff Stork.   6'2" Matt Cardozza, an undersized but extremely athletic 3/4 with big ups in his fourth year who can defend and has already fashioned an elite track career will be looked upon to guard top wings, also returns.  5'9" Graeme Mitchell, who transfers over from Manitoba Bisons, should be in the mix competing for supporting time in the back court. 

Expect this group, especially the front line, to rapidly grow into one of the better units in the CIS in the coming years.  Alberta's pre-season schedule is highlighted by the Golden Bear Invitiational in Edmonton in early October with RMC Paladins and Saskatchewan Huskies visiting.  ACAA programs Grant MacEwan and Concordia College will also participate with the Huskies playing twice and Bears and Paladins three times including games against the college teams on Sunday (see CIS schedule).  Alberta will also play in the Saskatchewan tournament.

The Bears should make a move toward the top 4-6 teams in Canada West and could be in the mix for a home playoff round depending upon how the youngsters develop.

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