Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Wayne Thomas Canada West Second Half Preview Part II

Dreams of Glory ... 6 Teams Chasing

If you want to know how important a good point guard is to a CIS basketball team you need look no further than this group of 6 teams with a combined record of 13 wins vs 32 defeats through the 1st half.  No fewer than 4 of them ... Calgary, Regina, Trinity Western, and Winnipeg ... were without their starting point man for much or all of this past Fall.  Winnipeg gets their guy back right away, Calgary, sometime in January, but TWU and Regina will have to wait until next season for their #1s.

The point man sets the tone, delivers the ball, scores, defends, and leads his team.  Without a standout point man, the game gets very hard.  With him, your team will enjoy a much better fate.

Here is our look at the 6 Canada West teams trying to come from behind and get some early wins in 2012 ...
Calgary Dinos ... 3-5 ... Dinos Head Coach, Dan Vanhooren, wants to put most of the 1st half of this season behind him, and have his club enjoy a 'happy and healthy 2012'.  Step one on the happy front is the return of Boris Bakovic, the 6-7 scoring star, who transferred to Calgary for his 5th year, having been the
top OUA scorer for several seasons while playing for Ryerson. With his knee getting more and more ready for game action, Bakovic will be a big addition to the Dinos arsenal, and a welcome one for 5th year teammate, Tyler Fidler. "Boris will really help us ... he knows how to play the game", says Fidler. "I'm excited to finish strong in this 2nd half of the year ... it will help to get our guys back."

An equally pivotal player is Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, their 2nd year point man, who suffered a broken hand in November, but has been doing some light practice work, and may return sooner than 1st expected (that's suitably vague, don't you think?).  6-7 Matt Letkeman, the 2nd year post, who has been dealing
with a baffling virus, which has kept him out for over a month, plans to workout this week, and UC is hopeful he can get back soon as well. Meanwhile, the multi-talented Fidler has been scoring 16 ppg with 6 rebounds, leading the undermanned Dinos.  2nd year post Josh Wolfram is coming into his own as a
scorer and rebounder as well; adding strength and experience, his stats are on the rise ... 13 ppg/ 8 rebs.  5th year post, Dustin Reding has stepped in and shot 51% from the floor, and averaged 8 ppg, while Patrick Walker, a big-bodied, 6-8, post shoots 63%, and can rebound despite nagging back issues.

At the guard spot, the absence of Ogungbemi-Jackson, and the departure of Phil Labongo have really hurt Calgary.  These 2 former Winnipeg high school stars were looking like a terrific back-court pair, but things changed in a hurry. Keenan Milburn, a 5th year, who is shooting 42% from 3 point range has been sharing the point guard spot with rookie, Josh Owen-Thomas, who is learning under fire, and shows great promise.  Andrew McGuinness, a 3rd year shooting guard averages 11 ppg, and 43% from beyond the arc.

The Dinos have a tough schedule this half, as they face 5 of the 8 teams ahead of them in he standings.  Coach Vanhooren, in his typical fashion, will see this as an opportunity for an improved UC team to knock off these higher-placed clubs, and to fight for a playoff berth.

Brandon Bobcats ... 3-5 ...  After his 45 day forced absence from the gym due to a faculty strike, Brandon Coach Gil Cheung is happy to be back working with his team. Young Assistant, Jeremy Wielenga, did yeoman service filling in for the head man, but Cheung must have been ready to set his hair on fire back in
early November, and his presence will help the 'Cats.

BU is a team in transition, with their on-court leadership coming from newcomers like red-shirt freshman, Ilarion Bonhomme, an import point man from Washington, D.C., who is contributing 12.5 ppg and 6 big assists.  Brandon's leading scorer is Emerick Ravier, a 4th year scoring guard, who transferred from the Ottawa Gee-Gees ... he scores 17 ppg (10th in CW) and grabs 7 boards. Another rookie standout is post man Ali Mounir- Benadbelhak, a 6-6, former student of the Algerian Sport Institute, via Montreal.  He is scoring 14 ppg and getting to 7 rebounds. A pair of 5th year vets, Kyle Vince and Donovan Gayle are helping out in scoring 9 and 5 points respectively, while 4th year forward, Jordan Reaves adds 7 points, 5 rebounds.

The Bobcats had 2 solid wins over UNBC and UBC-O in the Wesmen Classic before losing to Valley State in the final last week in Winnipeg.  They will need to get a good start to their 2nd half schedule, where they play their 1st 5 games against teams below them in the Canada West standings.  After that it gets much
tougher ... Brandon's last 7 games are against higher placed teams, including 2 each with Saskatchewan and Alberta, with both series on the road.

Regina Cougars ... 2-5 ...  Another team suffering with the loss of their point guard, the Cougars have 2nd year man, Brenden Hebert stepping in for Darius Mole, 3rd year, Dallas, TX, who was lost for the season back in the early Fall with a broken leg.  Hebert is shooting well ... 11 ppg, 47% FG and 50% 3-pt. ... but he is 24 assists vs. 32 turnovers, and is 'learning on the job'.

Paul Gareau, the Cougars' 6-7, 4th year forward, with his 18 ppg, 7 rebounds and 54% FG shooting, is the leader of a relatively inexperienced squad. Coach Hillis points out, "We are a team which has seen a lot of change ... we have lots to work on." 3rd year forward, 6-7, 225 lb, Connor Burns has really helped with his 10 ppg and 7 rebounds, and Gradyn Childerhose, a 6-5, 4th year, transfer wing man from Briercrest in the Alberta Colleges League is scoring 11 ppg and grabbing 4 boards.

Jared Janotta, 2nd year football/hoops player, will probably improve on his 7 points and 4 rebounds, since he can concentrate on basketball this half of the season.  Regina has had shooting woes ... 42% from the floor, compared to 47% for their opponents in Canada West ... and off the bench they have 3 guards
averaging a combined 28%.  This will not win games, especially when you add in the 92 ppg allowed by their defense, last in Canada West.

This may be the difficult 'building year' for the Cougars ... they start with 4 away games, at Brandon and Manitoba, and still have to play 2 roadies at both Alberta and Lethbridge, and finish with a single at Saskatchewan.  Tough sledding.

Trinity Western Spartans ... 2-6 ... TWU is in a vastly different spot than a year ago, when they finished 21-3 in Canada West play on their way to a CIS Final against Carleton.  Coach Scott Allen was counting on 2nd year, Eli Mara, who starred for him at White Rock Christian HS, to step into the limelight at the point spot, but Mara suffered a season - ending injury this Fall and that plan is on hold.

The Spartans have allowed 90 ppg, 13th in Canada West, TWU has allowed the opposition to shoot 52% from the floor, last in the League, they're scoring 78, 10th in the League, their rebounding margin is -5, which is 11th, and they've made the least number of 3 point shots, 5 per game.  Not a pretty picture, but there may be light ...

The Spartans have 4 double-digit scorers ... Kyle Coston, 18 ppg, is their 5th year leader, also grabbing 6 rebs./game ... Sean Peter, a 5th year transfer from the Ottawa Gee-Gees, scores 16 ppg and shoots 56% from the floor ... Calvin Westbrook, he of the extremely silky jumper, has hit 13 ppg, ... he was not in the TWU lineup for their games in California, however.  Tristan Smith, who is back at point, is at 10 ppg, and averages 5 assists, and he is a quality guard who can deliver.

Now, if we can just get some more help from the forward line ... enter Lucas Nugturen, who appears to be physically ready after missing much of the past 2 seasons.  At 6-11, 255, the former star at NEDA, the elite junior program in Ontario, sucks up a lot of light in the lane.  At the guard spot, Coach Allen will be looking for 2nd year transfer Justin Bakuteka (Toronto via Lakeland College) to feel a little more at home in this 2nd half.  He and Niko Monachini, a 6-6, 3rd year, wing man could be key players in any positive move made by TWU in January games. The Spartans had a close game (79-71) with Azuza Pacific, an NAIA power in California, and they went big in that one, with Nugteren teaming up with Coston, and Monachini for much of the contest. The Spartans start at home vs Lethbridge and Calgary, then play a pair against UBC-O so, opportunity knocks, and Trinity has few chances to waste if they're to get back into a playoff position.

Winnipeg Wesmen ... 2-6 ...  The Ws do have some talent to work with, but, to date, "they can't put the ball in the ocean from the boat" (a favourite 'Old Coach', Gary Howard, lament), shooting a League worst 36% from the floor. And while we're talking of 'To Dos', how about some rebounding ?  The Wesmen are
last in that stat as well, with a -7.5 per game.

Can someone help us here ?  Well ... yes.  "He turns a lot of broken possessions into good ones in a hurry, so to have him back in the lineup makes us tougher ...."  - Wesmen Head Coach, Mike Raimbault, in the Winnipeg Free Press, talking about his point man, Andrew Cunningham.  'AC' records 7 assists in his 1st game in the Wesmen Classic, so he's a popular man with his teammates already ! Can a new floor general improve on the 71 ppg (13th in Canada West) ? One would think so, and Cunningham seems like a player who can be a catalyst for getting more out of teammates.

Benny Iko goes to the boards ... he just needs some buddies to follow him ! Benny averages 7.5 rebs., and scores 8 ppg.  Dominique Brown a 3rd year transfer from Lakeland College is the leading scorer with 11 ppg, and is 91% from the foul line, and the top assist man (BC ... before Cunningham) at 3.5 /game, but just 33% on FG shooting.  Travis Krahn, a hard-working 2nd year transfer from Briercrest Coll., who averages 11 ppg, may just be the shooter Coach Raimbault is searching for ... he is 36% from 3 pt. range, but may be
better after his 1st semester in Canada West.  Mark McNee, 6-6, Toronto, another Lakeland College transfer, shoots 42%, and averages 9 ppg, and 4 rebs

Eric Zimmerman, a 4th year returnee, was 16 ppg in the Classic last week, and he has to score more consistently in Canada West games ... Brayden Duff, another Winnipeg high school product, gets 4 rebounds, and the lefty is 50% on field goals.  The Wesmen have 4 road games to start the 2nd half, and they will want to get at least a couple of wins from UBC-O, TRU, and Brandon to get some momentum.

UBC-Okanagan ... 1-5 ... the newest team to Canada West has, predictably, had a rough go as they step up a level, although they have some young talent, and a plan by Head Coach, Darren Semeniuk, to develop those players and not get too concerned about immediate results.

"It is really kind of unfortunate that our Christmas break had to come, as I feel that our younger guys were just starting to believe in themselves and get comfortable with the level of play," said Semeniuk in an interview with the Kelowna Capital News, Warren Henderson.  "I think the biggest thing our guys learned over the first six games is that they can compete against the other teams in our league when they play as a team."

Yasine Ghomari, a 3rd year guard from Vancouver, hits 19 ppg, far and away the leading scorer ... of course, he's launched 105 FGAs, with the next man at 47, but Ghomari takes the time to dish out 3 assists/game. Simon Pelland, a 6-7, 5th year forward from North Van is next at 9 ppg, and he is the leading board man, at 5 /game, followed by Ed Dane Medi (to our knowledge, the only native born Italian in Canada West) who grabs 4.2 rebs., but is not a shooter. Steve Morrison, 4th year forward from North Vancouver, scores 6 ppg, and he may need a few more touches, with his 54% FG shooting.  Mark Roth, 2nd year , 6-6 forward, 6.5 ppg is also from Terry Fox in Port Coquitlam. Bret MacDonald, a 6-1 guard from Terry Fox, Port Coquitlam, is the top rookie, and he looks like a future star for the Heat ... scoring just 8 ppg, but he shoots 58% from 3 point range .  Another 1st year bright light is Julian Asselstine, a 6-8 post
from Coquitlam, who shoots 52%, gets 3 rebs., scoring 6 ppg.

UBC-O has a win (78-76 over Regina, in Kelowna on Nov. 25), but that may be it unless they can ambush either Winnipeg, Manitoba, or Trinity Western, all of whom visit the Okanagan prior to the middle of January.  After that ... the deluge (sic) ... Huskies, Bears, 'Birds, Vikes, 'Pack.  Dangerous animals all.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hopefully Regina Cougars will be better in second half as they add two new players. 5'10 point guard Antonio Tate from Anoka-Ramsey CC in Minnesota will add depth to back court and 6'9 post Vule Grujic from Holy Trinity HS in Ottawa should be a rotation guy up front. He has a bright future.