Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Wayne Thomas Canada West Preview Part Two

Wayne completes his comprehensive two-part series on Canada West. 

Wildly Speculative Predictions ...

Part 2 ... the other half of the ‘Baker’s Dozen.

The League is not easy to predict with so many teams ‘in the middle’. Some, who are listed in our top 7 may have some bad fortune and fall out of playoff contention, and some, with new line-ups, new coaches, and the right chemistry, could take everyone by surprise, and put together a much better year than might be expected. But for now, on the eve of the new season, this is how we have them finishing.

Power Teams ... UBC, Trinity Western, and Saskatchewan
‘In With a Chance’ ... Alberta, Fraser Valley, Victoria, Calgary
Hopefuls ... Thompson Rivers, Lethbridge, Regina
Looking Up, Way Up ... Brandon, Manitoba , and Winnipeg

Lethbridge Pronghorns  Coach Dave Adams suggested that “the top 3 teams in Canada West last season (Saskatchewan, Calgary, UBC) had great size and toughness up front.” This past spring saw the U of L mentor looking to secure some of that size for the Pronghorns, with the addition of 2 transfers from Casper (WY) College ... Abner Kamps, a 6’10”, self-described ‘beast’ of a post man, and 6’11” Niko Kovac, who, Coach Adams reports delightedly, “ ... is even better than we had expected. Niko and Abner will make a big difference for us this season.”  Lethbridge already has returnees Derek Waldner, a wiry 6’8” rebounder, and the aggressive, 6’6” defender, Brandon Thomas-James, and 6’7” Wes Chapman, so the post spot seems solid for the ‘Horns. The bigger question seems to be the loss of point man Jeff Price, who was U of L’s floor general and their leader in most offensive categories. Several candidates are in the mix, including transfer Zack Humphrey, a 5’11” shooter from Spokane, and Danhue Lawrence, the talented 5th year shooting guard from Toronto ( 15 ppg, and the leading rebounder at 7 rpg) in ’09-’10), but Adams is leaning towards transfer guard, Julian Spear Chief - Morris, who played 2 seasons at Victoria, but now returns to his home town, where he played at LCI.  The ‘Horns will also feature Randy Davis, a 5th year wing man, who averaged 11 ppg last year, and hope to get a strong season from 3rd year guard, Quinn Van Gaalen, a teammate of Spear Chief-Morris in high school.

2009-10 ... 11-13 ... lost in the CW quarterfinals
Prediction ... 7th - 10th ... 9 wins - 15 losses
Key games ... Oct. 29/30 at Calgary, Jan. 7/8 Alberta at ‘Horns, Feb. 11/12 Fraser Valley at ‘Horns

Thompson Rivers Wolfpack  Former SFU Coach, Scott Clark is happy to be back near home in the Okanagan and the TRU Wofpack are happy to have him at the helm. Clark brought a couple of his ex-Clan players along to the interior, in Chas Kok, a 6’5”, 4th year wing, who was a Canada West, 2nd team All-star in 2009-10, and Kevin Pribilsky, a combo guard, who should help with the ball handling.  7‘ post man, Greg Stewart, the CW Defensive player of the year, is in his 5th year, and will carry the rebounding load, as well block more shots than anyone in the league. The ‘Pack also returns A 2nd year transfer from Atlanta, GA, Justin Riggins, a 6’2”, guard, who looks like he can fit in nicely. The ‘Pack have 2 good recruits from B.C. HS; a pair of 6’4” guards in Brett Rouault, Vernon, and Brett Parker, Langley. The struggle for TRU will be winning consistently after several years of not winning many, but the SFU infusion will be a big boost. They have strong teams in their gym, and must fashion some upsets.

2009-10 ... 3-15 ... never in the CW playoffs
Prediction ... 8th - 10th ... 9 wins - 15 losses
Key games ... Oct. 22/23 at Brandon, Nov. 19/20 Lethbridge at TRU, Jan. 28/29 Calgary at TRU

Regina Cougars  Regina graduated 2 key players last spring in Jamaal Williams (14 ppg, 8 rebs.) and Paul Schubach (13 pts. and 2.5 assists), both being major cogs in the Cougars attack . Veteran Coach James Hillis knows it will be a tall order to replace their statistical contributions, but especially their leadership.  “We have to concentrate on the defensive end, with an eye to becoming more consistent”, said Hillis. “ We want to be a tough team to score against, and we want to play multiple defenses, with everybody taking responsibility for helping to give us that toughness. Our plan is to play more guys, share the minutes, and keep guys fresh, with lots of energy to work hard on the D.”  The Cougars may have to wait for the return of their chief outside threat, Jeff Lukomski, 5th year guard, who averaged 15 ppg, and is already the Cougars all-time leader in 3 pt. field goals made and attempted, and fellow Rams football player, Jared Janotta, 1st year guard, both of whom suffered collar-bone fractures earlier this fall. “ We expect them back by the end of October”, says Hillis. “We certainly look for Jeff to give us that outstanding 3 point threat, and Jared is an athlete, who can help us.”  Up front, Regina has a pair of 5th year posts in the rugged Kris Heshka, with 13 ppg and 7 rebounds in ’09-’10 , and 6’7” Marek Downarowicz, who promises to improve on his 5 ppg and 5 rebounds from a year ago. Returning to the Cougars line-up is strong-forward, Paul Gareau, a 6’7” scorer and rebounder, who should contribute valuable offense.  Two big recruits from Regina high schools are Matt Campbell, a 6’5” wing man, and point guard, Brendan Hebert, a 5”11”, 2 way player, who they hope, can step into the quarterbacking role immediately. 2nd year guard Darius Mole, and 2nd year forward, Connor Burns are also expected to be in Coach Hillis’ top 8-9 guys in the rotation.

2009-10 ... 10-10 ... lost in the CW quarterfinals
Prediction ... 8th ... 11th ... 8 wins - 16 losses
Key games ... Oct. 29/30 Brandon at Reg., Nov. 5/6 Leth. at Reg., Nov. 26/27 Calgary at Regina

Brandon Bobcats  Gil Cheung has seen the good times in Brandon; the trouble is, that he is several years separated from the Bobcat teams which laid waste to the old Great Plains Conference. It is 9 years since Brandon’s last Canada West Championship squad (2001-02), and Cheung, a former player, and a successful college coach at Douglas College, B.C., lost no time in recruiting for the future. Issiah James, is a 6’8”, 3rd year forward from California, who appears to be an instant fix up front, with speed and scoring touch. Kyrie Coleman, another 6’8”, forward, in his 4th year from Washington, D.C., has been the pre-season scoring leader, and the coaches hope James Elias, a 6’10”, 2nd year, from Morden, MB, can give them useful minutes a back-up.  Having lost Tarik Tokar, and Dany Charlery, one of the CIS’ best guard combos, the ‘Cats will look to Nathan Grant, 4th year point, and Donovan Gayle, 6’4”, wing, to pick up the slack. O’Neil Wallace, a 6’2”, Toronto native, could provide some punch at the guard spot, as well as returnee, Kyle Vince, a 6’4” perimeter shooter.  Brandon has 5 rookies on the roster, and patience may be the order of the day, as this team appears to need time to grow into a contender again.

2009-10 ... 3-15 ... never in the CW playoffs
Prediction ... 8th - 11 ... 8 wins - 16 losses
Key games ... Oct. 22/23 TRU at Brandon, Oct. 29/30 at Regina, Jan. 14/15 at Leth.

Manitoba Bisons   On their best nights, the Bisons under 2nd year Coach Kirby Schepp will give opposing teams fits with their ability to launch the pre-emptive 3 point attack. Eric Garcia, 5th year guard, and Sean Maxwell, 4th year wing, will happily make up for the loss of the graduated, ‘no - shame’ bomber, Nathan Dixon, with either having the ability to strike for 30 + on a given night.  Josh Ogden, from Toronto, is “ a step-up point guard, who is capable of pushing the ball in an up-tempo style”, according to Coach Schepp. Ogden will also find a solid back-court partner in Jonar Huertes, while the return of Keith Omoerah, a 6’4” rookie and outstanding Winnipeg HS All-star, gives promise of retaining future recruits.  The ‘big man’ spots are more solid this season, as Richard Reimer, 6’6”, returns as the Bisons best board man, and will be ably assisted by Tanner Draward, a 6’8”, 1st year, from Winnipeg, and Ian Dickey, a 5th year, 6’5”, forward. Coach Schepp sees his team aiming for one of the coveted 8 playoffs spots, and feels” ... we have increased depth, and a bright future with our recruiting outlook.” The U of M recently feted their CIS Championship team of 1975-76, and there are many alumni who are hoping for a Bison resurgence.

2009-10 ... 3-15 ... never in the CW playoffs
Prediction ... 9th - 12 ... 7 wins - 17 losses
Key games ... Nov. 12/13 TRU at Manitoba, Nov. 26/27 Brandon at Man., Feb. 18/19 at Regina

Winnipeg Wesmen  Coach Mike Raimbault is under no illusions, as the 1st year Head Coach of the Wesmen. His 1st season will be a tough one right from the start as UW has Manitoba away for 1 game this weekend, then Calgary at home, at UBC, at Saskatchewan, then the re-match at home vs. the Bisons. Raimbault has experience as an assistant, then an interim head man at Brandon, before moving to UNBC and winning the CCAA and BCCA Championships with the Timberwolves in 2009-10. He inherits a program with very few returnees, and says’ We have Nick Lother as our only player with significant minutes played in Canada West.” But, despite losing so many players to academics and other factors, Raimbault has been successful in attracting some impressive recruits to Winnipeg. He has 3 players with U.S. ties, including Kelvin Smith, a 6’6”, wing man, a 1st year from the Los Angeles area, and from Howard Community College, Maryland, Benny Iko, a 3rd year, 6’2” wing, and 6’ Kenny Perry, who played at the University of San Francisco. From Toronto, Raimbault picked up 3rd year, 6’1”, guard Nolan Gooding, who previously played for Humber and St. Clair Colleges., who can handle the ball, and slash to the hoop. Lyndon Drayton-Barrow is a 6’6” forward who will help on the boards, and Brayden Duff, in his 2nd year from Winnipeg, is a returnee who can contribute up front as well.

2009-10 ... 1-19 ... missed the CW playoffs
Prediction ... 12th - 13th ... 4 wins - 20 losses
Key games ... Oct. 22 at Manitoba, Dec. 2 Bisons at Wesmen, Jan. 21/22 Regina at Winnipeg.

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