The Citadins finally returned to the CIS Final Eight last season, four seasons after their first appearance in 2006, with their exciting group of similar sized, somewhat-interchangeable athletes that typically went 10 players deep and were difficult to prepare for given the scoring balance and Coach Olga Hrycak's ability to effectively spread the minutes around. UQAM played six-time champions Carleton very tough in the quarter-finals before losing by 11 as All-Canadian center Kevin McCleery was difficult to stop, helping Hrycak to realize that her group needed more size to compete, which was addressed in the recruiting season. For her efforts, Hrycak was named QSSF Coach-of-the-Year last season.
This season, the Citadins return four and possibly five of their top six rotation players and another stable of freshman led by a former CCAA All-Canadian. But the biggest change in the Citadins is that the wing/forward athletes have been augmented by the element of size as Hrycak has been starting two big freshman in the pre-season.
Last season witnessed the coming out of 6'5" Eric Cote-Kougnima, who was the unanimous choice for Quebec Defensive Player-of-the-Year and a second team QSSF all-star after averaging 10.2 points and 5.5 rebounds per game, one of five Citadins to average between 10 and 12.9 ppg on the season. Cote-Kougnima was also one of the many active Citadins to relentlessly attack the offensive glass as UQAM averaged almost 15 "o" boards per game. Fellow 2nd Team QSSF all-star 6'4" Gregory St. Amand (11.0 ppg) is another mid-sized athletic forward who can guard virtually any position on the floor. St. Amand is coming off a broken wrist which forced him to miss the CIS Final Eight quarter-final game against Carleton.
A pair of flashy guards led by 6'1" lefty Arthaud Plesius, the only fifth year player on the Citadins roster, and 6'3" Thierry Justin a fourth-year shooter, represent UQAM's backcourt threats from downtown. The Citadins lost another potential three point threat in Kevin Levy and a regular in Jules Diagne from their backcourt.
Joining the two veterans up front are a pair of first-year forwards led by 6'8" Vincent Lanctot-Fortier, a former CCAA All-Canadian in 2009 with Montmorency and a starter from Day One with UQAM, who Barry Hayes of Hoopstars Canada ranks as the #8 power forward in this year's high school/CEGEP graduating class. Lanctot-Fortier is a presence inside as a rebounder and scorer but can also step out and knock down open 3's. The other freshman starter is 6'7" Philippe Tamba, who originally had committed to attending uOttawa but changed his mind late and has impressed virtually from the first day at practice, starting all of UQAM's pre-season exhibitions. Tamba is long and can also shoot open 3's.
UQAM also expects to see the return of 1st Team QSSF All-Star Adil El Makssoud, Citadins leading scorer at 12.9 ppg from last season, who is back home in his native Morroco but plans to be back in school in the second term. 6'7" Mathieu Landry adds depth up front with the ability to provide a physical presence and also knock shots down. Landry has been playing 20 mpg in the pre-season, up significantly from his first two seasons. Another youngster 6'6" Emmanuel Verreault, who saw limited action last season, looks to move up the rotation this season. The depth up front offsets the loss of veteran 6'4" Kevin Bitondo a hard-working forward.
UQAM also brings in 6'4", 250 pound forward Frantz St-Cyr, who was originally scheduled to arrive on campus last season from Montreal. More size arrives with 6'4" Alexandre Bernard, a big guard from Gatineau Outaouais CEGEP.
The defending champions certainly have a characteristic style of zone pressure, transition, attacking the offensive glass and defending hard on and off the ball with compact, athletic teams. Lanctot-Fortier and Kamba provide the size up front that Hrycak feels is required to combat some of the bigger front lines across the country. However the strength here remains with their veteran core of wings and forwards and the exciting style of play that should keep UQAM in contention again for the QSSF championship.
UQAM comes off a very physical affair yesterday afternoon at home in which the Citadins defeated New York Insititute of Technology, an NCAA Division II program from the East Coast Conference 72-54 in a game in which the referees "let them play".
Next game for UQAM is a charity game against another NCAA Division II team Worchester College at Jeanne Mance H.S., a local French high school in Montreal on Wednesday, October 20th just before UQAM travels to Ottawa to for the Jack Donohue Memorial tournament where they will face X, U of T Varsity Blues and the host Gee-Gees.