Arguably last season's biggest CIS surprise team, Scott Morrison's Thunderwolves put it all together, winning several games with dominating fourth-quarters led by an stifling, aggressive defense and lights out three point shooting to reach the OUA West championship game and then come from behind (again) to qualify for the Nationals with a clutch road victory in Ottawa in the OUA third-place game. Last season's group matured together very rapidly and with more significant talent added over the off-season, the Wolves project as a Top 10 team for several seasons.
Many young players came into their own last season but the underlying key to Lakehead remains at the point with electric 6'1" third-year Greg Carter, maybe the most productive on-the-ball defender in the CIS and a blurr off the dribble. Carter makes Lakehead go and as he gets more consistent with his mid-range jumper he could be on track to All-Canadian status before his career is through. Now in his fifth season, 6'1" Jamie Searle matured into one of the more feared three point shooters in the conference last season and he shot it in the clutch, as evidenced by his tremendous effort in the OUA third-place game. Up front saw the emergence of 6'6" Yoosrie Salhia, who continued to make teams pay for not doubling down in the post with his quickness and finishing ability. A tremendous rebounder, Salhia should see much more creative defenses this season and his ability to read and make decisions is likely to be further tested. 6'7" Ryan Thomson had a tremendous freshman season, showing offensive confidence beyond his years and he should continue to improve.
Lakehead's ability to push up on teams and jump the passing lanes defensively was strengthened with last season's arrival of 6'1" Joe Jones, a U.S. import who had a solid season, especially creating turnovers and getting out in transition. Expect another U.S. import, 6'2" Venzal Russell (Detroit, MI) to continue in that mould and add another slashing wing who can also knock down open 3's and make plays on the defensive end. Morrison went back out east to his old stomping grounds to add depth and athleticism on defense with 5'11" Ben Johnson, a combo guard originally from Nova Scotia who transfers back from St. Rose, an NCAA Division II school where he played two seasons.
Supporting Salhia up front is 6'4" 5th Year forward Andrew Hackner, a veteran who defends, rebounds and gets his on the "o" glass. One of only two fifth-year guys in Lakehead's core rotation, Hackner's experience is likely to matter late in games. Another pair of veteran bigs Matt Schmidt and Brendan King should also see time in the rotation up front.
A deep, talented group with a young core maturing together, the Thunderwolves look to build on what was a very good season and have the confidence to be believe they will finish at or near the top of the OUA West and contend for their second consecutive spot at the CIS Final Eight.