Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Dawn of another season; CIS Top 10 first discussion

Before we present our pre-season kick-off edition, much congratulations to old friend Eddie Pomykala who on October 2nd will be honoured on the Bishop's University RBC Athletic Wall of Distinction.  Pomykala led the smallest school in the CIS to the National Championship in 1998, bringing instant recognition to the school.  Bishop's Wall rises in credibility by adding Eddie in particular but just as noteable is how important it is to have a great Pole grace your Wall.  Congratulations to Eddie on this very well deserved and well earned honour...  The month of October is within our sights and for CIS basketball fans the beginning of the pre-season.  Several games are scheduled between CIS and CCAA teams in late September, early October, a reasonable amount of games will be played in and around the Thanksgiving Day weekend before the pre-season tournament schedule swings into high gear on the first weekend after Turkey Day (see full pre-season schedule on this site and on Martin Timmerman's site - link to the right)... McGill Redmen will have to play this season without U.S. D1 transfer 6'3" Shawn Bowen, who played his junior season at Stetson with Hatters last season (final game was on Feb. 4th, 2010).  Bowen has returned home to Canada and was seeking an opportunity to be eligible immediately on compassionate grounds (Bowen returned home to be with his young family) however the appeal was rejected and Bowen must sit out this season as a redshirt transfer... Another noted transfer, former Hamilton, ON high schooler and Mac Marauder 6"7' Ryan Christie has resurfaced at Saint Mary's and will likely have to sit out the entire season to return to satisfactory academic standing.  Christie played his last game as a Marauder on November 28th, 2009 against Carleton, fouling out in 19 minutes in a battle against All-Canadian Kevin McCleery... This past off season has seen arguably the most churn ever, beginning with the NINE new Head Coaches (Gil Cheung - Brandon, Brad Rootes - Brock, Dave DeAveiro - McGill, Amos Connolly - McMaster, James Derouin - Ottawa, Barry Rawlyk - Saskatchewan, Scott Clark - Thompson Rivers, Mike Raimbault - Winnipeg, Tom Oliveri - York).  However, even more volumunous is the list of transfers from other programs onto CIS rosters, especially Americans and Canadians returning home from playing in the States.  This is a double edged sword in my opinion as the added influx of likely talent and athleticism should raise excitement levels of the games, even if most of these players have only one or two seasons of eligibility remaining.  The other side of the discussion is more of a purist's view that centers around the continuity of having true freshman enter the CIS directly from high school and stay with their programs through to graduation, thus allowing for alumni and fans of the program to identify with a core group of players over the course of several seasons and the lasting legacy that potentially leaves behind.  Regardless, taking a quick look at some of the potential immediate-impact transfers, one is left with the impression that, outside of a select group of teams, across the country, most CIS fans will need a program to reconnect with their respective programs.  Moving from west to east on your computer dial, here is a look at some of the more noteable transfers eligible to play this season in the CIS.   UBC's 6'4" Doug Plumb, who played a couple of seasons in NCAA Division 2 before averaging 8.0 ppg in limited action at Fraser Valley in '08-'09 - Plumb had a nice offensive game for the T-Birds vs. San Diego in August - Trinity Western's 6'8" Kyle Coston, an Amrican import who averaged 6.2 ppg in '08-'09 for NCAA Division 1 Portland State and 6'0" Tristan Smith, another U.S. point guard who should help alleviate the Spartans issues in the back court - Smith practiced all last season with TWU after averaging 14.3 ppg with Fraser Valley in '08-'09 - Thompson River U's 6'5" Chas Kos, another U.S. import who will be eligible immediately after transfering from Simon Fraser where he was a Canada West all-star last season; Alberta Golden Bears welcome 6'4" Daniel Ferguson, originally from the Greater Toronto Area who returns from Berry College in Georgia where he was a conference all-star and averaged 18.2 ppg in '08-'09; highly-touted 5'11" Californian Jamelle Barrett, who takes over the backcourt reigns for the Saskatchewan Huskies from All-Canadian Showron Glover - Barrett comes over from Consumnes River JUCO which plays in a tough conference after averaging 18.7 ppg last season; Brandon's 6'8" Isaish James (San Jose City JUCO; 15.0 ppg last season) who may be the most explosive athlete to enter the CIS this season, Toronto Varsity Blues' 6'5" swingman Alex Hill, originally from Toronto's Eastern Commerce who spent 2008-09 at Cornell with the Big Red;  a pair of transfers from Lake Region State (North Dakota) JUCO orginally from the GTA, 5'11" Manitoba Bisons point guard Josh Ogden (formerly Toronto Henry Carr) and Ryerson Rams 6'1" combo guard Ola Adegboruwa (formerly Toronto Emery) - both were all-stars in their junior college conference; 6'2" combo guard Venzal Russell (Detroit, MI) at Lakehead, who averaged 23.3 ppg at Vermilion (Minn.)  JUCO while being named a JUCO All-American, 6'11" Mike Luby (Kenora, ON) who has been on a basketball oddessy lately (great to have Greg Layson Big Man on Campus back)  Western's 6'8" Adam Jespersen, who returns to his native London, ON after sitting out last season after playing at NCAA D1 Hawaii with the Rainbows in 2008-09; 6'1' Andrew Kraus, playing his final season of eligibility at Brock as a graduate student after playing last season at Brandon and previously running the point at Acadia including during the Axemen's great run to the CIS championship game in 2007-08; 6'0" guard Kareem Malcolm who should get the majority of the minutes making decisions for the Guelph Gryphons after transfering from Sheridan College where he was an OCAA All-Star; a pair of new McMaster Marauders:  6'9" Scott Brittain who played 3 seasons at Boston University and has had extensive experience in Canada's national program as well as 6'0" Kenan Etale who transfers back home to Hamilton from Houghton College (NAIA);  Concordia's pair of slick guards 6'2" guard Kyle Desmarais (Central Connecticut State/transfering home) and 6'4" guard Demetrius Boards, an American who played high school basketball at New Jersey state power Marist H.S. before averaging 17.1 ppg last season at Sussex JUCO in New Jersey (Garden State Athletic conference); Cape Breton Capers latest U.S. import from Baltimore, MD:  6'6" Tavon Nelson who last played five seasons ago at South Plains (Tx.) JUCO where he averaged 9.1 ppg; St. FX pair of likely impact transfers 5'10" Ellis Ffrench who returns back home to Atlantic Canada after a season at Windsor and 6'10" import center Rodrigo Madera from Tulsa, OK.  For decades Saint Mary's Huskies have had U.S. talent on their roster and this season, three more Americans are ready to vie for playing time led by another Baltimore area product 6'5" Tony Fassett who averaged 20.0 ppg at Howard Community College last season.  John Campbell's Dalhousie Tigers look to make a push back toward the AUS title by welcoming three transfers including a pair with GTA ties:  6'3" Juleous Grant (North Oklahoma JUCO) and 6'4" Alex Arthur (Dakota State JUCO), originally from Scarborough West Hill.  Tigers also get 6'0" Peter Leighton from Acadia for his fifth and final year to stretch defenses.  Leighton put on one of the most outstanding shooting performances in the history of the CIS Final 8 three seasons ago with numerous clutch bombs for the Axemen in their thrilling upset victory over Carleton in the national semi-finals in maybe the greatest CIS game ever played.  (Anyone else care to chime in on this one ??).  Yet another transfer from the Baltimore area joins the AUS this time with UPEI as 5'10" point Anthony Baglin, who averaged 18.7 ppg in '08-'09 for Dundalk (MD) JUCO joins the Panthers.  There you have it.. numerous Americans will dot CIS rosters this season; by far the most in recent memory... Finally, it will likely be a few weeks before the coaches announce their first official Top 10 and this site will likely publish something around Thanksgiving weekend but covert discussions among CIS followers have started the process of loosely identifying CIS Top 10 pre-season candidates and some of those discussions yielded the following list of teams from West to East coast.  In Canada West, UBC Thunderbirds lost some of their veteran core, most noteably tough, veteran glue guy Kyle Watson but with defending Moser Award winner Josh Whyte and another top recruiting class added to Birds core group that seems to always have minimum turnover, expect last season's national finalists UBC to be a Top 3 team for most or all of the season.  Last season at this time, most observers had Trinity Western Spartans ranked as a Top 10 team given the strong recruiting class that included several NCAA D1 and D2 transfers but whispers that turned out to be accurate questioned where the key decision making would come from in the back court.  In the end, Spartans achilles heel did turn out to be guard play but with the Spartans debut of Tristan Smith, a transfer from Fraser Valley, TWU gets a proven athletic guard who should be a 30+ minute a game guy.  Another D1 transfer in Kyle Coston, who had several starts and was a rotation forward two seasons ago at Portland State, becomes eligible after sitting out last season as a transfer, joining a highly-touted group of front court stars including former Moser winner Jacob Doerksen and D1 transfer Tyrell Mara plus D2 transfer swingman Calvin WestbrookFraser Valley Cascades already have a pair of victories over NCAA D1 foes San Diego Toreros and Idaho State Vandals despite not having U.S. import point guard Zeon Gray available for those games.  Unfortunately, coach Barnaby Craddock's group lost 6'6" starter and front court stalward Kyle Grewal to what is likely a season-ending injury against Idaho State after losing 6'7" sophomore Jasper Moedt to an off-season injury from which he is unlikely to recover this season.  The two other Canada West Final Four participants from last season are likely to be in regrouping (not rebuilding mode) so expect both Saskatchewan Huskies and Calgary Dinos to be competitive but only rapid progress with mostly new feature rotation players will push either team to CW favorites.  Huskies have Jamelle Barrett who promises to bring the same type of excitement to Canada West as Showron Glover did and Calgary features a Canada West POY candidate in 6'9" Tyler Fidler and slick sophomore point guard Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson.  The OUA West may be the most improved conference in the country with at least 4 teams that arise in pre-season Top 10 discussions led by defending champions Windsor Lancers with POY candidate Isaac Kuon, plus emerging second year point guard Josh Collins and a young, maturing front court.  Authors of numerous come-from-behind wins built on dominating fourth quarter performances, Scott Morrison's Lakehead Thunderwolves did what many thought was beyond their grasp by qualifying for the CIS Final 8.  With much of their roster back and the addition of potential impact American Venzal Russell (Detroit, MI), the Wolves are likely to push Windsor once again.  New McMaster Marauder Head Coach Amos Connolly and staff did tremendous work adding to their maturing talent base with the addition of two late transfers including impact forward 6'8" Scott Brittain, who played three seasons at Boston University and prior to sustaining multiple concussions was a regular in Canada's National team program.  Mac also adds 6'7" Taylor Black who spurned several mid-Division 1 programs to stay home and play for the Marauders.  The re-ascent of the Western Mustangs to CIS Final 8 contenders could occur as early as this season as the Stangs retain veteran senior Ryan Barbeau, arguably the top overall returning point guard in the conference plus 6'8" Hawaii transfer Adam Jespersen.  Perennial Top 3 Carleton Ravens will be right back in the thick of things this season despite an 0-3 showing against NCAA D1 schools.  6'5" Cole Hobin, arguably the top overall defender in the country, looks to lead this group as a senior along with fifth-year guard Mike Kenny as the Ravens look to find a consistent offensive go-to guy when it matters.  New Ottawa Head Coach James Derouin has one of Canada's top pure scorers in 6'6" Warren Ward and also gets 6'2" Jacob Gibson-Bascombe back after a season's absence.  In Quebec, defending champion UQAM Citadins and perennial Q contenders Laval Rouge et Or should contend for the regular season crown.  In Atlantic Canada, Cape Breton Capers return all major components from their AUS championship team and add another potential front court star from Baltimore in 6'6" Tavon Nelson while AUS finalist St. FX X-Men also have their veteran-laden roster back including AUS POY Christian "T-Bear" Upshaw for his fifth and final season plus the return of veteran 6'4" forward Dwayne Johnson and U.S. import 6'10" Rodrigo Madera.  Both Saint Mary's Huskies and Dalhousie Tigers welcome a large stable of newcomers with the Tigers trying to surround their Moser candidate Simon Farine with a championship calibre group for his fifth and final season of eligibility.  Look for more on the Top 10 and other CIS basketball news in the coming days/ weeks.

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