Monday, 26 December 2011

Resiliant Gryphs continue to battle

As has been the case over the last couple of seasons, the Guelph Gryphons continue to show tremendous resiliancy in the face of adversity. Last season, major injuries almost completely devastated the Gryphs roster however Coach Chris O'Rourke, in arguably the finest coaching moment of his career, orchestrated an improbable run at the playoffs as Guelph rode their seniors to a post-season berth. This season, while the injuries have not been as widespread, challenges remain but the Gryphs, after an 0-7 pre-season record vs. CIS teams, finished the first half at a very respectible 5-3 including strong wins at Laurentian and at home vs. U of T.

Gryphs have been a stingie defensive team for all of O'Rourke's career and that continues to be a consistent element for Guelph this season, especially in their home win against Toronto where the Blues were held to 3 for 21 shooting from downtown. Gryphs were 11 for 26 (42%) themselves and 6'2" Dan McCarthy remains the biggest reason why Guelph has succeeded in the regular season. McCarthy (20.3 ppg) is strong, makes great decisions and can score slashing to the rim or by knocking shots down out beyond the 3. The fourth-year leader, who is likely to move on to Medical school next academic year, looks to finish his career off with a First Team OUA West all-star selection. 5'11" guard Kareem Malcolm, back after what initially appeared to be a career-ending wrist/hand injury that took several months and metal plates and screws to fix, has shaken off that terrible injury to get back his high-scoring ways at 18.1 ppg including a season-high 30 vs. Ottawa. Both Malcolm and McCarthy have benefited from the arrival of 6'0" point guard Zac Angus, in his second season of eligibility after transferring from Western. Angus (11.9 ppg) is a pure pass-first point guard with strong instincts and leadership skills who's presence allows O'Rourke to be set at the lead guard spot for the next 3 1/2 seasons. Angus sets up as one of the key determinants of how well Guelph fares as the season turns to OUA West only competition in the new year.

The undersized Gryphs have been getting a solid lift from 6'7" fourth-year forward/post Adam Bering (5.8 ppg/3.8 rpg) as a paint area presence who sets screens, understands defensive rotations and keeps balls alive on the glass. Another 6'7" forward, second-year Andrew Beney from Waterloo, ON was a pleasant surprise filling in up front as a sophomore but if there is one area that Guelph must improve it is getting consistent play, especially offensively, from their front line. Depending upon how this element plays out, teams may see alot of small ball from the Gryphons down the stretch of the season.

The lack of size up front is one reason why 6'2" Drew Morris, a tough third year wing from Guelph, sees time at the 4 spot on occasion despite being a natural 3. Morris, who missed 5 games in the first half with a concussion, did come back with a pair of very strong efforts at Laurentian (9 points, 5 rebounds) and at York and can be counted upon to defend properly within the system and make excellent decisions. 6'4" Sheriff Werdu is also in the mix up front and on the wings and he has battled throughout his career to maintain a roster spot and contribute with his athleticism and hard work.

Guelph landed three very good freshmen in this season's recruiting class and all three have contributed thus far, led by 6'0" Aron Campbell (Burlington Nelson) who has played 20 minutes per game as a combo guard. 6'1" Eric McDonald, unanimous choice for Mr. Basketball in Sarnia last season, was solidly in the rotation before missing the final 3 games of the first half. 6'2" Jack Beatty is also getting better.

Many feel the Gryphs overachieved last season given all of the roster challenges and expect O'Rourke and Co. to build on the belief that defending, rebounding and finding their best talents consistently on offense is a receipe to again challenge for a playoff spot and, probably in the best case, a spot in the OUA Final Four.

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