Amid the turmoil of the off-season with long-time and very successful Head Coach Ken Murray leaving the program followed by the departure of last season's CIS Rookie-of-the-Year Clinton Springer-Williams to Gannon College, an NCAA D2 school in Erie, Pa., one overriding theme remained consistent, this program still retains alot of solid, young talent with athletes who can play. Interim Head Coach Brad Rootes plans to allow this team to play to their strengths, which is to say that the Badgers ideally want to press, run and play up tempo.
Pushing the ball in transition requires decision-makers who can orchestrate at high speeds and in 6'1" fifth-year pg Andrew Kraus, Brock has a lead guard who is experienced, has played in a Final Eight and has led two other programs (Acadia and Brandon) that also played fast tempo basketball. Expect Kraus to log 28-30 minutes per game, his time only limited because of the pace Rootes wants to play at over an entire 40 minutes. 6'2" Mike Cruickshank had two tremendous (30+ ppg) offensive performances at the UPEI tournament and is another veteran back court player in his second season after transfering from Humber College. Brock continues to bring 5'11" Joel Whitty along slowly given his recovery from multiple concussions that have plagued his career. Whitty can score but is also very comfortable at the lead guard spot, a position he played exclusively prior to getting hurt.
Rootes had expected 6'2" former CIS Rookie-of-the-Year Didi Mukendi, entering his third season, to be ready for the start of the regular season but a recent knee scope uncovered some previously-not-seen ACL damage and Brock hopes to have Mukendi back for the second half but likely not before. This should allow 6'4" freshman Cedric Kasango even more time to flash his athletic ability and scoring skills on the wing. Kasango has already had a couple of very strong offensive games and allows Rootes to press and trap with his length and quickness. Steady 6'1" fourth-year guard Jay Fleming, a likely starter, brings more experience to the wing/back court but is currently suffering from a severe groin injury and is out indefinitely.
Up front, the early season produced a revelation in 6'6" veteran Andrew Ferguson, who has come into his own as a CIS forward, especially with his ability to knock shots down as observers witnessed at UPEI. His sweet stroke has helped him shoot over 50% from the field (and beyond the three point line) in the pre-season. Unfortunately, Ferguson fractured his tailbone recently which limits his mobility and likely playing time in the short-term. A healthy Ferguson provides another dimension to Brock's offense with a big who can stretch "d's" from the perimeter.
Four other solid bigs round out the rotation, led by high-potential athlete 6'9" Brian Nahimana, a second year post from London. As Nahimana gains consistency, his work on the offensive glass, ability to run the floor and overall active play projects him as an all-conference type in future. 6'6" Mark Gibson is a consistent third-year post from Toronto who usually starts up front. 6'7" Anto Raic, another in the long line of solid Badgers from Welland Notre Dame, shoots it as well as any young big and 6'5" fourth-year forward Jordan Johnson provides experience off the bench.
With the amount of early-season injuries the Badgers must deal with, expect Rootes to look to 6'1" Jay Fast, son of Brock legend All-Canadian Doug Fast (circa early 80's) and 6'2" Brampton native Michael Williams, who has shown signs of being an explosive offensive force off the bench, to work into the rotation where necessary.
Brock is young, fast, athletic and has a young coach who appears to want to let his group play up-and-down and use their skills. Badgers could be an exciting team to watch, beginning with a pair of games at Ottawa U. on Friday and at Carleton on Saturday.