Gee-Gees bounce back with win over Calgary


6’3″ Caleb Agada had 21 of his game-high 28 points in the first half in which Ottawa grabbed a double-digit lead and second year wing MacKenzie Morrison went 4 for 5 from downtown to lead Ottawa to a bounce-back 94-78 win over the Dinos on the second day of the Laval Rouge et Or tournament in Ste. Foy.  The Gee-Gees who made only 12 for 44 3’s yesterday, knocked down 15 of 31 today including 8 for 16 in the second half.

Agada, who spent much of yesterday’s game against host Laval in foul trouble, jumped out to a quick start, shooting 6-10 from the floor before the intermission to allow Ottawa to take control rather early.  Morrison, the promising but little-used reserve who recently returned to the Gee-Gees lineup after separating his shoulder in an NCAA pre-season game in August vs. Baylor, took over in the second half with 3 of his 4 3’s while 6’1″ fifth-year guard Mike L’Africain shook off a poor start to the tournament with all 10 of his points in the second half this afternoon.  L’Africain added 8 assists while Ottawa’s big man duo of 6’8″ Nathan McCarthy and 6’7″ Brody Maracle combined for 20 points and 9 boards to send the Dinos to the second consecutive defeat of the tournament.

U.S. import 6’5″ Thomas Cooper had 26 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists (against 6 turnovers) to lead Calgary while 6’6″ Lars Schlueter returned to the Dinos lineup after missing yesterday’s action with an illness to score 8 of his 11 points after halftime.  Dinos did make a third quarter run to cut a 14 point halftime deficit to 4 but could not get over the hump in the second half despite a 15 for 17 effort from the foul line against only 5 for 12 for Ottawa after halftime.  The teams combined for 48 fouls – 24 apiece.

Ottawa now faces UNB Varsity Reds tomorrow – the teams met earlier this season at Montpetit Hall with the Gee-Gees prevailing while Calgary looks to salvage one win when Dinos meet Laval.

Tonight’s nightcap has Laval facing UNB.

 

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Articles of note from yesterday


Melissa Martin of the Winnipeg Free Press on Bisons’ 6’4″ wing Keith Omoerah, who returned to the program this season and has been a key contributor – witness last night’s big effort in the win over Lethbridge.  The article also talks to 6’10” Wyatt Anders winning an eligibility fight with the CIS and dissects the remainder of Manitoba’s squad.

Another big across town 6’9″ Aussie Ryan Oirbans is featured in an article that appeared in “mytoba” outlining Winnipeg Wesmen’s important big man.

 

Bisons win creates all-Winnipeg semi-final


Third-year guard Justus Alleyn was key down the stretch, getting to the rim and knocking in the dagger 3 from the left wing to help the Bisons hold off Lethbridge 87-77 as Day One of the 49th Wesmen Classic drew to a close.  Pronghorns came back from a 15 point first half deficit, cutting the lead to 4 midway through the fourth quarter on two separate occasions but could not get over the hump – the mediocre officiating crew did not help either teams cause.  Lethbridge was hampered by a terrible job on the defensive glass giving Bisons numerous second chances.

With Bisons up 65-61, Lethbridge’s Brandon Brine had what looked like a clean “pin up” block on Alleyn’s drive to the rim – in fact it appeared that Alleyn’s left hand helped him push off.  Inexplicably, one official called an intentional foul on Brine – one of numerous mysterious calls on both sides in the second half that left most scratching their collective heads.  When Lethbridge coach Mike Hansen disputed the call – without any cursing – a second official came flying over and, again very inexplicably – Teed up the surprised Horns coach.  After the ensuing free throws and next possession, the Bisons lead was back up to 9.

The Horns did get it back to 4 one more time as Brine got to the rim and 6’0″ Dejon Burdeaux wreaked havoc on the defensive end jumping the passing lane and creating turnovers for easy scores.  But Alleyn was not to be denied, knocking down a huge 3 to seal it with about 2 minutes remaining.

Lethbridge has a nice pair of veteran guards:  Jared Baker fouled out with about 4 minutes remaining on another weak call – off the ball with the shot clock winding down and his man not involved in the play; and Rob Olsen who has a nice feel for the game but lacks explosiveness off the dribble to create consistently.  Brine has athleticism, can knock down 3’s and is a high potential rebounder, however it is clear that the defensive glass was tonight and promises to be a huge problem for Lethbridge.  Hansen gave 6’9″ 300 lbs center Carl Hoffman ample time in an effort to add a rim protecting rebounder.  Hoffman struggled to finish around the rim but showed some promise after not seeing much court time in the first half.

Manitoba also got a nice effort from 6’4″ Keith Omoerah who I believe had 19 points by halftime.  No stats available yet.

The Bisons now face hometown Winnipeg which slammed NAIT in the earlier game.

More from Laval Ottawa game: New additions key Rouge et Or


In the aftermath of Laval’s important win over Ottawa, Coach Jacques Paiement Jr. has to be thrilled with the progress of his strong, stocky point guard Karl Demers-Belanger and sophomore sensation Alexandre Leclerc.  But good teams can go deep into their bench and Laval, which ordinarily went only about 6 deep in the first half of the season, has upgraded their bench considerably for the second half run, adding 6’3″ Frantson Demosthene, a freshman from Momerency CEGEP originally from Haiti and 5’11” Vladimir Thomas a freshman from basketball factory Thetford Academy.

Both new faces inject more athleticism in Laval’s lineup; Demosthene had 10 points and 6 rebounds today in just 16 minutes off the bench, helping to key one of two huge Rouge et Or runs, the first – a 19-2 run in the second quarter that gave Laval a 13 point lead, erasing an early 4 point Gee-Gees lead.  In the second half, when Ottawa got it to 4 with 3 1/2 minutes left in the third quarter, Laval broke out on a 20-6 run using their depth (6 different Rouge et Or scored in that game-deciding run) to lead by 18, their largest lead of the match, with just 8 1/2 minutes left.

Needless to say, Demers-Belanger and Leclerc are the keys to Laval’s success, but the ability of Paiement to not have his stars play 35+ minutes given the two new additions to the rotation could be a determining factor that makes Laval a contender for the RSEQ crown going forward.  Ottawa did get the game back to 4 with 1:14 remaining but could not get over the hump despite a 2 for 6 effort from Rouge et Or from the line in the final minute.

Major upset as Laval knocks off Ottawa


Rouge et Or jumped on the Gee-Gees early, building double-digit first half leads and then holding on for an 87-77 win in what could be the biggest win in Coach Jacques Paiement Jr.’s coaching career at Laval.  On the heels of an impressive one-point loss at McGill to end the first half, Laval shot 48% from the floor including 6 of 12 from 3 to take a 9 point halftime lead, getting a game-high 23 points and 5 assists from point guard Karl Demers-Belanger.  Sophomore wing forward Alexandre Leclerc added 17 points and 8 boards as the two Laval stars combined to shoot 8 for 15 from 3.

Mike L’Africain led Ottawa with 21 points and 7 assists vs. 5 turnovers but the fifth-year guard shot only 3 for 17 from 3 as Ottawa made only 12 of 44 from downtown including 4 of 22 in the first half.  Caleb Agada had 17 points in only 25 minutes amid foul trouble before fouling out.  Vikas Gill had 14 points in the loss.  The Gee-Gees were whistled for 23 fouls against 17 for Laval.  Ottawa shot just 1 for 6 from the free throw line for the game.

So tomorrow’s Calgary/Ottawa game, tabbed as the game of the Holidays, loses some of it’s lustre amid opening-round losses for both teams.

 

Arsenault buzzer beating 3 lifts Acadia


Acadia 84, MacEwan 82  6’5″ Kyle Arsenault continued his incredible shooting from downtown, knocking down a game-winning 3 from 30 feet as the buzzer sounded lifting the Axemen to an improbable win over MacEwan in the second game of the opening round of the 49th Wesmen Classic in Winnipeg.

The Griffins had taken the lead with just 2 seconds remaining on a baseline jumper by Denzel James before the Axemen, after a timeout that advanced the ball to the front court, ran a play to free up Arsenault about 5 feet behind the 3 point line and he swished the long jumper as his teammates poured off the bench in celebration.

Acadia advances to the championship semi-final game against Lakehead tomorrow night at 9 PM ET while MacEwan and Brandon face-off in the consolation round.

Masters on fire late as UNB upsets #7 Calgary


6’1″ Javon Masters hit several big shots down the stretch as the scrappy Varsity Reds held off Calgary 87-85 as the Rouge et Or Holiday tournament at Laval kicked off in Ste. Foy.  UNB led by 5 after 3 quarters and held on late as the slick guard knocked down a big 3 out of time-out vs. Calgary’s zone and then sealed the game late with a clutch pull-up in another strong All-Canadian-esque performance by the high-end guard from Kitchener, Ontario.

Masters finished with 24 points – 16 after halftime – and 9 assists against only 2 turnovers to lead the Reds to a confidence-building win.  6’5″ Thomas Cooper led all scorers with 27 points while adding 7 rebounds and 5 assists for Calgary (11-5), which played without starting 6’6″ forward Lars Schlueter.  The Dinos shot only 2 for 9 from downtown in the second half and simply could not deal with Masters down the stretch.

Sophomore wing Jesse Kendall had 4 threes as part of his 18 point performance to help UNB, which shot 7 for 15 from downtown after the intermission and made 17 of 21 free throws overall.  Epitomizing UNB’s scrappy play was diminutive guard Matt Daley, who stuffed the stat sheet with 12 points, 9 rebounds, 7 assists and 6 steals despite going only 2 for 8 from the floor.

Jasdeep Gill went 3-5 from downtown off the bench for Calgary – the rest of the Dinos went a collective 4 for 17 as Calgary surrendered a 2 point halftime lead.

The host Rouge et Or battle #3 Ottawa Gee-Gees at 5:30 PM ET in the second game of the opening round of the tournament.  Calgary and Ottawa face off tomorrow afternoon.

A pair of freshmen lift Lakehead


6’3″ guard Kache Kopec, a freshman guard out of Kelowna (B.C.) Mt. Boucherie knocked down 5 3’s to lead Lakehead to an opening round 72-64 victory over Brandon as the 49th Wesmen Classic kicked off in Winnipeg.  An 18-8 Lakehead run in the fourth quarter, capped off by a Nick Burke three, put Lakehead up 69-58 to ice the game.

After a rough start – Brandon led 29-27 at half – in which both teams appeared to shaking off the holiday rust, the Wolves began connecting from downtown vs. Bobcats’ zone.  Kopec finished with 17 and fellow freshman 6’4″ Brandon Persaud added 15 as the two first-year wings combined to shoot 9 for 22 from downtown while the rest of the Wolves added only a collective 3 for 17 from beyond the arc.  Lakehead also hurt themselves from the line going just 12 of 21.

Brandon stayed in the game until very late as Lakehead misses led to odd-man fast breaks for the Bobcats and layups.  Earl Thomson Jr. hit five three’s for the Bobcats en route to a game-high 23 points and 13 rebounds.

Henry Tan added 15 points with 6 rebounds and 5 assists for Lakehead, while Burke grabbed 11 rebounds. Bacarius Dinkins scored 13 points with 9 rebounds before fouling out, after just 20 minutes of court time.

Lakehead committed 21 turnovers to Brandon’s 25 giveaways.

The Thunderwolves will face either Acadia or MacEwan tomorrow in the championship semi-finals at 8:00pm (Central time) tomorrow.

Canada Part Two: A First look at Canada’s potential 2016 OQT roster


By far the most important addition to Canada’s 2016 roster will be 6’11” center Tristan Thompson, who missed last summer’s campaign due to his contract status but remained a loyal follower and supporter of the program.  There is absolutely no reason why Thompson won’t be a key, 30+ minute per game contributor to this summer’s group, providing rim protection, rebounding and athleticism as a pure “5” that arguably was not present last summer.  Thompson continues his excellent work at the things he does best, currently coming off the bench for Cleveland, averaging 9.3 rebounds per game in about 23 minutes.  Both rebounding totals and minutes are steadily rising as Thompson rounds into top form after missing training camp while working through his contract.  A loyal Canadian who will make a huge difference for our team in the paint this summer.

Having recently moved into the starting lineup for the rapidly-improving Boston Celtics, 7’0″ Kelly Olynyk, Canada’s best overall player last summer, appears to be taking that next step toward becoming an upper-echelon player on a winning, championship-contending team in the League.  Olynyk is a perfect complement to Thompson as a stretch “4” who can handle the ball on the perimeter, stretch defenses by consistently knocking-down “pick-and-pop” 3’s and learning to compete harder on the glass – witness his recent breath-taking follow slam against Charlotte.  No greater was the evidence of how important Olynyk is to our fortunes than his tremendous effort against Venezuela in last summer’s semi-final when arguably he was one-slip-on-the-floor-ad away from single-handidly carrying Canada to Rio.

Rapidly emerging as one of the top reserve point guards in the NBA, 6’2″ Cory Joseph has seen his significant, “when-it-counts” minutes rise, augmented Kyle Lowry and Demar DeRozen in the Raptors back court.  Always responsible defensively on and off the ball, Joseph starts the offense consistently well and has made multiple big shots to win games including a buzzer-beater at Washington earlier in the year.  His ability to stay out of foul trouble given the nuances of the international game will be key for Canada next summer.

Last summer was another in a string of learning experiences for former #1 overall draft pick Andrew Wiggins, who continues to grow his overall game at both ends as a wing in Minnesota.  Wiggins had an uneven FIBA Americas tournament, starring in many stretches but, when it counted vs. Venezuela, allowing an opponent to rip a defensive rebound out of his hands in the waning moments when protecting a lead and finishing the semi-final game with a 9 point, 2 rebound, 4 turnover stat line.  Clearly a generational athletic talent, Wiggins will move toward the uber super-star level when he learns to compete on the glass, at the defensive end and off-the-ball in general.  Watching Wiggins play while isolating strictly on him on-and-off the ball during the FIBA Americas tournament (and numerous times in the NBA), it becomes very apparent that his energy and activity off the ball remains low and his lack of effort battling on the glass is reflected in his 3.6 rebounds per game line this season.  It also helps explain his overall won-loss record as a professional of 27-84 (.243) through Christmas.  Wiggins will become a program-changer when he learns to compete in every aspect of his game, not simply in transition and offensively.  I expect he will “will” his way to being a positive contributor for Canada this coming summer and beyond.

Arguably Canada’s most pleasant surprise as last summer’s campaign continued was the improved play of 6’10” Andrew Nicholson.  Buried deep on Canada’s bench early in the tournament primarily due to indifference guarding ball screens and rebounding, Nicholson completely turned his production around as the tournament progressed, competing on the glass and showing maximum effort on the defensive end.  With his offensive game as a stretch 4 still strong, he also improved as a passer and running the floor.  After a slow start minutes-wise in Orlando, Nicholson has averaged over 20 mpg in December and in the 18 games since he has re-entered the upper-end of Head Coach Scott Skiles rotation, the Magic are 12-6.  Skiles demands accountability at the defensive end and Nicholson’s increased minutes are a testament Andrew’s new-found dedication to that part of his game – Canada’s coaching staff should be given credit for helping him improve.  Looking ahead, Nicholson’s status for this summer remains uncertain as he is entering the final year of his contract and would need to be signed by early July to be able to commit.

Probably the player I most cheer for is 6’10” Dwight Powell who struggled with injuries during last summer’s campaign and then had to deal with the sudden loss of his 53 year old mother a couple of months later.  Powell has the potential to be a wonderful complementary player for Canada off the bench given his activity on the glass and ability to finish around the rim.  Powell can also defend and rebound and averages about 8 points and 6 rebounds in about 18 minutes per game off Rick Carlise’s bench in Dallas.  Powell’s status for this summer is also uncertain pending his contract status in early summer.

Much continues to be made of how effective 6’3″ Kentucky freshman Jamal Murray would have been for Canada after his wonderful contribution to the Pan-Am Games silver medal effort.  And his start to his Wildcats career has certainly not disappointed, highlighted by the 7 for 9 effort from downtown in a recent loss against Ohio State.  Whether Murray is ready to play major minutes for the Senior team this summer is debatable; what is not debatable is his skill set and basketball IQ and, further, the positive effect on his career of multiple summers learning the game playing internationally for Canada.  Murray, at the NCAA level, is a tremendous passer – with both hands – has a superior level of court vision and feel for when to make passes and can score in numerous ways including knocking shots down well beyond the 3.  With Murray entering what is very likely to be his draft year, where he goes and when he signs may have more impact on whether or not he will play for Canada this summer than his abilities, which are clearly there or very close to being there.

Unfortunately, it has not been a great start to the NBA season for either 6’8″ Anthony Bennett or 6’3″ Nik Stauskas.  Bennett has rarely seen the floor in meaningful portions of games with the Raptors and simply has not taken that next step as rebounder, scorer or passer.  Stauskas, after starting for much of the early season with the hapless Sixers, has seen his minutes dwindle after making just 4 of his last 24 3’s with an overall 28% rate from downtown.  Clearly not a point guard at the NBA level, his ability to consistently knock down shots and not turn it over will determine his next career progression.  The news is also tough on the Robert Sacre front as the Lakers struggle with just 5 wins and the affable 7’0″ center averages just 4 points and 3 rebounds per game after a summer where he was clearly Canada’s twelfth man.  With Thompson likely back in the fold, unless others like Powell and Nicholson are not available, we may have seen the last of Sacre playing for Canada.

Of the 4 others on Canada’s 2015 roster who are not in the N.B.A., three are toiling in Europe, led by 6’2″ Brady Heslip, who averages 16.3 ppg and shoots 41% from 3 in 31 mpg for Acqua Vitasnella Cantu on Lega Basket A, Italy’s top league.  His club, based in Cantu (near Milan), sits in 10th place in the 20 team league with a 5-8 record.  Heslip should always have a spot on Canada given his unique ability to knock shots down and carry the team at times.  6’7″ Aaron Doornekamp continues to contribute at a high-level in the German Bundesliga – the top league in Germany.  Playing for Canadian Gord Herbert with Frankfort-based Fraport Skyliners, Doornekamp averages 30 minutes per game for a team that sports a 9-5 record good for 7th place in an 18 team league.  Doornekamp is a long-time, loyal contributor to Canada who could have a spot this summer depending upon who can or cannot go.  After a breakthrough summer during which he showed the numerous intangibles required of all winning programs, 6’7″ Melvin Ejim had a contract in Europe signed and sealed but instead opted to attend Orlando’s main camp.  When he did not make the roster, he joined D-league’s Erie Bayhawks, where he has averaged 33.4 mpg, scoring 13.7 ppg and 8.3 rpg.  Ejim is a strong bottom-of-the-rotation reserve who provides great depth minutes in game-every-day-type tournament.  Finally, the news is not good for 6’3″ Phil Scrubb who unfortunately has had limited minutes with AEK Athens of the Greek league.

Others to consider for the summer include 6’1″ Tyler Ennis, who local fans will get a better gauge on later today when the Raptors meet the Bucks, 6’9″ Trey Lyles who recently started some games for Utah but has been generally ineffective as a rookie in the league and Dillon Brooks at Oregon among others.

While there is plenty of time between now and the summer to re-assess who our top 12 for the OQT are likely to be, assuming health and, in the best case resolution of contract situations, expect much of the same roster – with the notable addition of Tristan Thompson – to guide Canada’s success next summer.

 

 

Update on Team Canada 2016 Olympic Qualifying (Part One)


Many have said that time is the greatest healer however in the case of Canada’s national team and this past summer’s hugely disappointing loss to Venezuela when a terrible referee’s call decided the fate of our Olympic bid, the bitterness surrounding the result of that game remains even stronger today.

That said, Canada still has an opportunity to qualify by working through what should be an even more challenging play-in qualifying tournament early in the summer of 2016.

Part One of this series will summarize the current status of the so-called Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs) and then Part Two will drill down into how Canada’s potential roster could be shaped and chances of qualifying.

Those with an interest in the next steps for Canada in this qualification process should mark down the following two dates:

19 January 2016 (Tuesday) – three OQT sites are announced

26 January 2016 (Tuesday) *draw* for each of the three tournaments is announced.

The 2016 Rio Olympic basketball tournament will have 12 nations participating.  Thus far, the following 9 nations have qualified for Rio:

Nigeria (Afrobasket 2015 champions)

Venezuela (FIBA Americas champions)

Argentina (FIBA Americas finalists)

China (FIBA Asia champions)

Australia (FIBA Oceania champions)

Lithuania (Eurobasket Finalists)

Spain (Eurobasket Champions)

Brazil (Hosts)

USA (defending champions).

This leaves three remaining spots available that will be determined in early July, 2016 via 3 six-team Olympic Qualifying tournaments (OQT’s).

Fifteen (15) teams that fell short of qualifying directly for Rio 2016 will have another shot at fulfilling their Olympic aspirations after securing places at the 2016 FIBA OQTs:

Africa: Angola, Tunisia, Senegal
Americas: Canada, Mexico, Puerto Rico
Asia: Philippines, Iran, Japan
Europe: France, Serbia, Greece, Italy, Czech Republic
Oceania: New Zealand

Along with these 15 teams, another three (3) will compete as hosts of the three OQTs to be held simultaneously from 4-10 July 2016.

***Each OQT will consist of six (6) participating teams, with the winning team from each event earning a berth for the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament at the Rio Games.

Czech Republic, Germany, Italy, Philippines, Serbia and Turkey are in the running to hold the three 6-team Olympic Qualifying Tournaments that will run over the course of six days during the week of 4-10 July. The winning team at each of the three events will qualify for the Men’s Olympic Basketball Tournament.

According to FIBA:  “Given the high number of candidates bidding to host one of the four events and in order to properly assess each candidature, the evaluation period has been extended and the decision regarding the four hosts will be taken by FIBA’s Executive Committee on 19 January 2016.”

The Draw for the 2016 FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments will take place on 26 January 2016 at the House of Basketball in Mies, Switzerland.

Part Two (coming soon):  An update on Canada’s potential roster.