There were plenty of positives for head coach Dave Adams last season in his first campaign as full-time ’Horn head coach. No doubt the highlight was U of L’s first appearance in the Canada West playoffs since 2002-03.
Three rotation players, including 6’6” Rob Cooper, 7’0” Remington Stemler and 6’0” Jeff Price, have departed. Four newcomers with post-secondary experience (three from American Junior Colleges and one CIS transfer) will likely be called on to carry much of their load. Whether they can be positive contributors will play a huge part in the U of L’s success this season.
Cooper was a starter in the post, while Stemler was at times the most productive post player on the squad coming off the bench down the stretch last season. Returning starter 6’7” Derek Waldner is tough and active around the basket but could definitely utilize increased range offensively and defensively as it is likely he’ll play a little further from the goal this season due to two (literally and figuratively) big additions from NJCAA power house Casper College in Wyoming.
Nikola Kovac and Abner Kamps respectively billed themselves as 6’11” and 6’10” at Casper. While that seems rather optimistic indeed, even in shoes, they are tall – and they are heavy, both in the 250-pound range. Kovac who hails from the GTA and has spent plenty of time in Serbia, is the more refined offensive product. Kamps, an American who actually turned his back on a signed National Letter of Intent with NCAA Division I Jacksonville State to attend U of L, is a truly explosive jumper.
Returnees Wes Chapman (6’7”), Brandon Thomas-James (6’5”) and Jeremy Stanley (6’6”) are all capable of playing power or small forward. Chapman can shoot the ball, while Thomas-James and Stanley move their feet on defence very quickly indeed.
There is absolutely no question the departure of Price, a Canada West all-star last year playing the point, provides multiple challenges on the perimeter. Danhue Lawrence (6’3”) and Randy Davis (6’4”) are returning starters, while Quinn Van Gaalen (6’2”), who started earlier in his career, is in good form.
Lawrence is an outstanding rebounder and tough defender who has scored in streaks. Many in the Lethbridge camp believe Davis is the best defender in the league. He can hit from downtown offensively and score on slinky drives. Van Gaalen brings tremendous energy and is seemingly learning how to use that trait more judiciously.
Two newbies have been cast in major roles. Actually, Julian Spear Chief-Morris (6’3”) is anything but new to Lethbridge. However this is his first season playing for his hometown club after spending two Canada West campaigns at UVic. Spear Chief-Morris was a major high school star and Alberta U-17 provincial team starter. He’s long and live.
Compact Zack Humphrey (5’11”) comes to the ’Horns as a shooter deluxe from Community Colleges of Spokane where he was an all-star in the Oregon-Washington JuCo circuit. Prior to that Humphrey was all-state at the highest level of high school ball (4A) in Washington.
Can Lawrence, Davis, Spear Chief-Morris, Van Gaalen and Humphrey combine to take up Price’s slack? That, is the primary question the program faces this year in an attempt to continue on an upward path in Canada West.