Monday, 26 December 2011

One step short last season, Hawks are ready to go East this March

With the quality size, experience and depth befitting of a Top 10 team and OUA West pennant contender, coach Peter Campbell's Hawks finished the first half of the regular season at 7-1, the only blemish being a double digit loss at #1 Carleton on the final evening of the first half. With a rotation that goes at least 10 deep, plenty of size in the 1 through 4 positions, and a very experienced core, Laurier hopes to improve over last season's loss in the OUA semi-finals to the same Ravens, that left them just one step from the Nationals.

Hawks began the pre-season amid several injuries and roster churn as two starters: 6'5" All-Canadian Kale Harrison (2 weeks with Canada's Pan-Am Games team) and OUA West All-Star 6'6" Maxwell Allin (missed the uOttawa Jack Donohue Memorial Tip-Off attending a family wedding) were not available. Almost as importantly, Hawks lost their athletic sparkplug off the bench as 6'3" sophomore Jamar Forde missed basically the entire first half with an ankle injury. Forde is expected back by the second half. When right, the Hawks have been almost dominant up front with 6'6" fifth-year post Matt Buckley (9.1 ppg/6.5 rpg) and bruising 6'6" sophomore Patrick Donnelly (10.1 ppg/5.9 rpg) carving out space in the paint and hammering the offensive glass.

Coach Campbell continues to run the versatile 6'6" Allin (14.0 ppg/4.6 rpg/4.9 apg vs. only 1.2 tpg: +3:1 assist to turnover ratio) at the point and it is no coincidence that Laurier's 7 game winning streak occured with the rapidly-maturing point forward setting the table for Harrison (18.4 ppg) and others. Allin is once again playing at an All-Star level as a point forward and his ability to create and find perimeter shooters has been an important reason why Laurier (42% 3's) is among the league leaders from downtown. 6'5" Kyle Enright (13.4 ppg) has been especially prolific from beyond the arc, shooting over 57% from 3 point land as an important cog off the bench for Laurier.

As is usually the case with Campbell, the Hawks were able to bring in at least two true freshmen who have contributed immediately, led by 6'1" Will Coulthard, son of legendary CIAU great David Coulthard (York Yeomen). Recruited to be primarily a point guard as his game matures, Coulthard (4.9 ppg in 23.4 mpg) has the luxury of plying his trade as a backup to Allin until he is ready but is also a strong enough offensive player to be able to slide in to the two spot to contribute. 6'5" Aiddian Walters, from Vaughan S.S., brings an element of athleticism that, due to the injury to Forde, thus far has been missing in the Hawks lineup. It was about this time last season that Forde began injecting his energies off the bench, earning increasingly important minutes and helping to push the Hawks to within that one game of the Nationals.

With an excellent blend of fifth-year seniors (Harrison, Buckley, Connor Meschino) and maturing All-Star candidates (Allin, Pat Donnelly), the Hawks are among the favorites for the OUA West crown and with this season's OUA Final Four in their hometown (hosted by University of Waterloo), this season has the makings of being culminated in a trip to the CIS Nationals.

1 comment:

Jason Cormier said...

Seeding is everything in the OUA West because avoiding Carleton is key. Last year's OUA final four was the worst I have seen Carleton play in quite some time and there is no way they will repeat that poor performance this March. While Ottawa U, the likely #2 seed in the east, is no pushover, they are nowhere close to Carleton's level this year so the team that is first in the west will have a *MUCH* easier battle for the automatic CIS berth.

OTOH, I do like the OUA's chances of taking the wild card berth. The AUS is out, unless St. FX is still top 2 and loses in the semi-finals. Forget Quebec and Canada West isn't as deep this year.