Winners of six of the past eight CIS National championship banners has cemented Coach Dave Smart's legacy as one of the two most successful coaches in the history of Canadian university basketball. The program remains at the top of the CIS however with only one championship in the last 3 seasons and the loss to graduation of their main go-to offensive player, All-Canadian Kevin McCleery, unlike most seasons there are legitimate reasons why the Ravens are likely not the consensus #1 pre-season team this year. Much of that stems from a comparatively younger core group with only one fifth-year player and two fourth-year stalwards. Still, there is plenty of quality, experienced depth and as long as Carleton's staples of defending, rebounding and playing hard on every possession remains, expect them to dominate most nights.
Throughout the past decade, the Ravens consistently were able to rely on All-Canadian play, especially from the guard spots, with players like Robbie Smart, Osvaldo Jeanty, Aaron Doornekamp, Stuart Turnbull and Kevin McCleery (from the post) making stellar offensive decisions the vast majority of the time. This season's group will be led by 6'5" Cole Hobin (7.3 ppg/5.0 rpg/28 mpg) and the oft-injured 5'11" Mike Kenny (9.6 ppg), a scrappy fifth-year guard. Hobin has proven to be arguably the top overall defender in the CIS with his length and athleticism. His progression into an All-Canadian candidate will be determined on how consistently he can score in key parts of games and distribute at the offensive end. Earlier in his career, Kenny was a consistent three-point shooter who singlehandidly won games with his shooting. His return to that form is important in Ravens success.
Maybe the Ravens most fearless offensive talent is 6'3" Elliot Thompson (12.5 ppg/5.0 rpg/29 mpg), the fourth-year wing who is always willing to take the big shot, plays with an edge and is poised to emerge into Carleton's leader. 5'11" fourth-year guard Willy Manigat injects athleticism and quickness into the Ravens backcourt, allowing Smart to be more aggressive defensively if needed and Manigat continues to improve his overall decision making. 6'6" Tyson Hinz had a stellar freshman season (11.6 ppg/5.1 rpg) but did appear to hit a bit of a wall later in the season as virtually all first-year players do. Expect Hinz to take on a more featured role offensively.
6'5" Kyle Smendziuk, now in his third season, gets a lot done in and around the paint using his strength and tenacity as a weapon when battling against larger opponents. Smendziuk must improve his free throw shooting owing to the growing number of opportunities his production will likely get him from the charity stripe. Expect 6'7" Dan Penner, originally from Winnipeg, to make a leap to firmly establish himself as a rotation player. An early season revelation against the U.S. D1 schools, Penner has surprisingly athleticism, gets to the rim from the perimeter, shoots 3's and scores with his back to the basket.
This may also be the breakout season for 6'8" fourth-year post Aaron Chapman, who should see more touches in the post and appears to be rapidly gaining confidence with his offense. Chapman is most comfortable between 12 and 15 feet facing up to make shots but is working harder on the offensive glass and running the floor.
Carleton's feature newcomer is 6'3" freshman Phil Scrubb, a nice athlete with NCAA D1 talent and the full array of offensive skills and decision making. A member of Canada's junior national team program, Scrubb has competed at the highest levels in his age category and should be one of the favorites for Rookie-of-the-Year honours.
For many years, observers have raised questions going back to the graduation of Rob Smart and Jafeth Maseruka after Carleton's first championship in the early 2000's on how the Ravens would replace departed seniors. The results speak for themselves as the talent pipeline continued unabated. Expect one or more of this current group to grab the reigns and keep Carleton as a Top 3-5 team at a minimum throughout the season and ready by March to again contend for banner #7.