Dynamic point guards who can score, defend, pass and, most importantly, lead usually end up being the difference between good/great teams and Champions, especially in the FIBA-driven, small-ball-esque CIS era where ball skills and decision-making are table stakes. For Laurier Golden Hawks Head Coach Peter Campbell, having such as package in a freshman, 6’2” Simon Mikre (Toronto Crescent School), is even sweeter. Mikre’s rapid rise as a higher-end, minutes-eating point guard has been one of the more interesting surprise stories of the young OUA season as the Golden Hawks have pushed out to a 3-1 record including an overtime win at home against Top 10 Western Mustangs.
Mikre has already established himself as one of the top young guards in the OUA with at least two clutch performances down the stretch as he had 16 points, 8 rebounds and 4 assists in the win over Western including a key assist on the go-ahead bucket in overtime by Will Coulthard. This past weekend, Mikre’s strong second half broke open a tight game at Algoma with 12 of his 19 points in the second half as the Hawks won a pair in the Soo.
Coach Campbell gushed at leadership and skill set of his newest guard “He has changed what we can do offensively and while he is still learning has a maturity beyond his years”. In recognition for his strong play, Mitre was named Laurier’s Athlete of the week.
Laurier, now 3-1 on the young season, lost their opener at Windsor when, trailing by only 3 with 8 minutes remaining in the game, the Lancers peeled off a 21-4 run to win going away. Mikre struggled in his first-ever OUA road game against one of Canada’s top teams (4 points, 5 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 turnovers) but still played 30+ minutes as Campbell and staff remain comfortable having the high-IQ point on the floor through good times and times when mistakes will happen. That faith was rewarded in Laurier’s next game when the Hawks overcame 32 points from 6’3” Greg Morrow to defeat the Mustangs in OT as Mikre shot 6 for 12 and had 11 first-half points plus the key game-deciding dime. Hawks were able to neutralize Morrow, who shot just 4 for 13 after halftime after scoring 23 points in the first two quarters. The win went a long way toward legitimizing the Hawks however a big road win is necessary for Laurier to take the next step.
The strong Hawk start has happened even in the face of 30% shooting from the floor from sharp shooting wing Coulthard who is still averaging more than 19 points per game as Mikre and company continue to find their very capable scorer. 6’3” Kitchener native Chuder Teny, a second year guard starts at the other guard spot. Incidentally, Coulthard became only the 3rd Golden Hawk in the history of the program to surpass 1,300 points in his career this past weekend.
Up front, the natives are still awaiting a breakout from highly-touted 6’7” second-year forward Luke Allin, who has shown flashes but consistency remains an issue. 6’7” Matt Chesson and 6’8” Vlad Matovic share time in the post for a Laurier group that has the makings of a contender in Coach Campbell’s up-tempo, free-flowing offensive systems. Steady 6’3″ Garrison Thomas, a fourth-year swing man from Burlington brings experience and athleticism.
Hawks play the first of two “Battles of Kitchener/Waterloo” on Saturday against cross-town rivals Waterloo Warriors. Laurier is on a five-game winning streak against their cross-town rivals, however, four of those five victories have been by 10 points or fewer.