Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Laval re-tools for another run at Quebec league title

Rouge et Or lost a heartbreaking Quebec league championship game to Concordia last March and now embark on a re-building program after losing 40 plus points per game from their two veterans J.F. Beaulieu-Mahieux and 6'4" Jerome Turcotte, who had one season of eligibility remaining but decided to pursue a law career in Montreal and is presently working through bar exams. Coach Jacques Paiement Jr. has refilled the roster with a stack of young talent to augment his two fifth-year veterans 5'8" Xavier Baribeau and 6'6" Etienne Labrecque. Laval is off to 2-2 start in Q league play but with a rotation that goes at least 8 deep with a quality new big man and an athletic wing plus the addition of ex-York Lion 6'5" Rene-Pier Mathieu in early January, expect Laval to contend once again.

The new leader of Rouget et Or is veteran 5'8" point guard Xavier Baribeau (9.8 ppg, 34.2 mpg), who is assuming responsibilities as an on-court leader in this his fifth and final season. Baribeau's offensive numbers are down somewhat this season as he becomes a main focus of opponent's defensive plansmore of a scoring role. However, Baribeau is a proven scorer who can make 3's in bunches, either in transition or in the half-court. Expect Laval's fortunes to ride heavily on Baribeau's shooting and leadership. The other fifth-year senior is 6'6" Etienne Labrecque (9.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 24.8 mpg), who is coming off another painful back injury suffered in August (he had hurt his back a couple of seasons ago also).  Somewhat injury prone throughout his career, Paiement believes Labrecque is back at full strength now and ready to finish his career in grand fashion in second half.

Paiement welcomed a stellar recruiting class in the fall, led by 6'9" 260 pound post Boris Hadzimuratovic (14.0 ppg, 9.5 rpg, 29.5 mpg), a physical, mobile 5 man who is just learning to use his body and power at the CIS level against more experienced players. Paiement hopes that his freshman big will start to draw double teams to open up the floor; presently Hadzimuratovic has been getting much of his on the offensive glass and at the free throw line. Laval's other freshman, who Paiement calls a "hidden gem" who flew under the radar somewhat at Édouard-Montpetit CEGEP, 6'3" Thibaud Dezutter (13.5 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 24.3 mpg) may be the most athletic player that Paiement Jr. has ever brought to Ste. Foy with his long arms and wide wing span providing Laval with the versatility to use him in multiple defensive situations. Still a bit raw offensively, especially shooting the perimeter jumper, Dezutter has been able to attack the rim early on in his career: he leads the RESQ in free throw attempts by a wide margin already.

Back from a hamstring injury that sidelined him the entire second half of last season and much of the early pre-season training camp, 6'5" 2nd year shooter Hugues Ryan (8.5 ppg, 3.3 rpg, 22.8 mpg, 53% from 3) will keep the floor well spaced with his deep three point range for a bigger wing. Strong and well-liked, Paiement calls Ryan a natural leader and as his hamstring gets back to full strength expect his time and numbers to go up. Another pure shooter is 6'1" guard Christian Trottier (5th year, 8.5 ppg, 20.5 mpg) who has struggled with injuries throughout his career but as a pure shooter, is very valuable when he gets it going.

Another less heralded freshman, 6'8" Antoine Guilard (23 mpg), an import from France, is learning to play and, just having turned 19, may need a bit more time but is already very versatile defensively, guarding 2 through 5 and has a bright future. Also, Laval received some instant experience when 6'5" guard Rene-Pier Mathieu transfered in from York. He will be eligible to play in January having last suited up for the Lions at last season's Ryerson tournament. Mathieu has two seasons of eligibility remaining including this.

Laval opens the RNIT in Toronto at noon tomorrow against Waterloo Warriors.

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