Sunday, 25 December 2011

Blues find challenge in replacing veteran PG DeGiorgio

Each new CIS campaign typically brings the need for teams to replace key graduated seniors from the prior season's rotation, with the resulting effects more noticeable for some programs than others. In the case of the U of T Varsity Blues, little fanfare accompanied the graduation of steady 6'0" point guard Anthony DeGiorgio especially given that the Blues were returning the remainder of their deep, experienced rotation. And while significant talent remains at the wing and forward spots, the loss of the guy they call "AD" has proven to be much more dramatic than likely any observer would have forecasted. Thought to be one of the top teams in the OUA and a likely Top 10 team in the pre-season, the Blues struggled with consistency in the first half, in the final weekend hitting as rough a spot as they've had to deal with in recent memory. And much of the inconsistency can be traced back to point guard play as offensively the Blues have been characterized by turnovers and an inability to get into and run their array of offensive sets. With the Blues at an even 3-3 going into the final weekend of the first half at Mac and at Brock, Varsity combined for 57 turnovers in those two road games and Toronto was basically dominated at the guard spots, especially in the Brock game.

It has not all been terrible for Toronto (3-5 in OUA East), with a win over perennial OUA West contender Windsor and a 20 point home win vs. Waterloo. As well, the Blues played both #3 Lakehead and #8 Laurier to 5 points, but even in those games, breakdowns at critical junctures led to Toronto's undoing.  Characteristic of inexperience at the point, the Blues (0-4 on the road in league play) have found the going tough in enemy gyms and against athletic guards who can pressure the basketball. The impact of a backcourt struggling to find consistently has likely most affected returning OUA East all-star 6'6" Drazen Glizic (10.2 ppg) who was held scoreless in two seperate league games. 6'6" fellow frontcourt mate Andrew Wasik (13.2 ppg) has arguably been Varsity's most consistent scorer - he had a huge night in the win against Waterloo. 6'5" Alex Hill came out of the gates flying with a pair of 30+ point games in the pre-season but as league play started and Hill became the focus of defensive game planning, his production during league play (12.1 ppg) has come down.

Without a true experienced pure point guard on the roster, 6'0" Arun Kumar (10.6 ppg/3.6 apg), one of Toronto's better and more clutch three point shooter over his career, has stepped in along with 6'0" sophomore Matt Savel. Savel (2.8 ppg), who missed the majority of last season with injuries, had a solid pre-season but league play seemed to catch up on the Hamilton native, especially on road where experience can sometimes get points through rough patches.  Fifth-year 5'11" senior Justin Holmes has seen his numbers come down from over 11 ppg last season to 6.4 ppg thus far this season but he remains a three-point threat when able to get his feet set off draw and kicks. 6'5" Sean Nichol comes off the bench to contribute 7.5 ppg. 6'3" Dakota Laurin has seen his minutes increase and he may find some time in the rotation at the top of the offense in the second half.

Blues also have worked through not having long-time mentor Mike Katz (sabbatical) at the helm and while interim Head Coach Rick Dilena has done an admirable job, not having an experienced point guard to run a set-oriented team highlights that the loss of AD was more important than observers may have thought. Varsity gets back at it at the Ryerson National Invitational tournament (RNIT) after Christmas with a first-round match against AUS entry Memorial Sea-hawks.

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