Coach K upgrades X with influx of talent

XComing off the first two non-playoff seasons in Coach Steve Konchalski‘s 41 year career at St. FX, very early in conversation one immediately senses the fire burning inside of the Dean of CIS coaches to immediately turn around the X-Men back toward national prominence.  And it may not take very long to do so – remember that St. FX was just five minutes away from capturing the 2014 AUS championship before losing to Saint Mary’s at the Halifax Metro Center just two seasons ago before injuries, graduation and, frankly, a lesser collective talent level pushed the X train off the proverbial tracks, culminating in this past season’s 5-15 AUS finish.  Coach K readily admits that the buck stops with him and he plans to “upgrade the talent level” and bring more competition to practices and ultimately who plays.  To that end – while he is not done recruiting as of yet – Konchalski has already announced four newcomers to the X-Men lineup including a pair of experienced transfers who are ready to contribute immediately.  The upgrade starts on the wing with the arrival of 6’5″ Gavin Pearce, originally from Bill Crothers in Markham, ON who spent the past two seasons at Northwest Tech Junior College in Goodland, Kansas.  Konchalski feels that Pearce, who started all 30 games as a sophomore at the juco this past season, averaging 3.3 ppg and just 25% from the free throw line, projects as an athletic wing who can contribute immediately.  Adding experience at the point guard spot, X brings in 5’11” Keyano College transfer Mark Fernandes, originally from Calgary Bishop McNally, who is also a solid perimeter shooter, an area X desperately requires an upgrade in:  X-Men had the 3rd fewest three-pointers made in the conference last season.  Coach expects Fernandes to push incumbent 6’0″ point guard Davonte Provo for minutes next season, pending the probable arrival of “a couple of more higher end recruits” which Coach hopes to announce in the coming days/weeks.  In the continued effort to improve perimeter shooting, X welcomes 6’0″ true freshman Justin Andrew, who averaged 9.5 ppg at Hill Academy in Brantford.  Originally from Hamilton Sir Allan MacNab, where he led the Lions to OFSAA “AAAA” in 2014-15 before spending last season at the OSBA school where Hill finished 9-5 good for third place in the league, Andrew projects as a solid addition at the wing spot.  X again dipped into the Ontario prep school network for an underrated stretch 4 from Bill Crothers, 6’5″ Nick McKee, who is described as a great passer with strong court vision who can also shoot it.  McKee needs to develop his strength and athleticism but should mature into a very solid CIS four man before his career is said and done.  With an emphasis on better perimeter shooting, X is re-tooling, adding to their core of returning talent which is led by 6’6″ Kevin Bercy, the only player in the AUS last season to average a double/double at 18 points and 10 rebounds per game.  The late season return of 6’0″ Akil Charles, who struggled with injuries all season, catalyzed St. FX’s only real quality run of the season in February and Charles’ ability to get to the rim and draw help should give X’s shooters good looks.  Other key returnees are streaky 6’3″ lefty Julius Antoine, 6’3″ All-AUS freshman Tristen Ross, a shooting specialist and 6’7″ forward Cameron Walker.  With only 6’4″ Alistair Cole not returning from their lineup and likely 5-6 new faces, Coach Konchalski is likely to realize his wish of a much more competitive, deeper and higher quality roster to fuel the fire toward returning to X to national prominence… As always, Coach K will enjoy a very busy summer – this will be the 28th consecutive summer that Konchalski has been part of Canada Basketball – as the long-time boss has been named Mentor Coach for Dave DeAveiro‘s U17 World Championship club as part of their campaign in Zaragoza, Spain between 23 June and 3 July and then later again joining Roy Rana‘s staff as U18’s FIBA Americas U18 Championship for Men, 19 July – 23 July in Valdivia, Chile.  Both teams will start camp on June 3rd in Toronto at Humber College.


Windsor announces three new recruits

Lancers come off another strong 2015-16 season during which the spunky side again defied many observer’s forecasts – many believed this past season was to be a “rebuilding” year after heavy graduation losses – as underdog Windsor won a road playoff game at McMaster for the second consecutive season, advancing to the OUA Wilson Cup Final 4 under interim coach Ryan Steer.  Head Coach Chris Oliver‘s perennial Top 10 program again looks to reload their still relatively young roster – Lancers are scheduled to lose only 6’5″ Alex Campbell to graduation.  Oliver has historically built a roster around a solid blend of young mainly-Ontario stars directly out of high school and a handful of veteran transfers, both from CCAA and returning home from U.S. schools.  With the announcement earlier this week of three new recruits, fresh out of Ontario high school programs, Oliver adds to his foundation of young talent which includes CIS Rookie-of-the-Year 6’5″ Isaiah Osborne, who just finished his freshman year plus steady 6’4″ three-point shooting threat Marko Kovacs who has three seasons remaining.  Remember also that the Lancers did not have the services of 6’3″ former OUA All-Star Mitch Farrell for virtually the entire 2015-16 (out with a shoulder injury).  Farrell is scheduled to begin his third season of eligibility this coming fall and his up-tempo style provides another element offensively.  Further, arguably the best of all the Allin brothers, 6’6″ Luke Allin, who left Laurier at Christmas and has committed to Windsor, will be available at Christmas – whether or not the Lancers decide to hold him back for the start of 2017-18 and allow for the slick shooting wing forward to complete his final 3 full seasons of eligibility has yet to be determined.  Regarding the newest stable of recruits, the Lancers opened up what for them is new recruiting pasture by signing a pair of stars from Bishop MacDonnell in Guelph, upset winners over Ashbury College in last month’s OFSAA “AA” championship game.  Key recruit was 6’1″ combo guard Chris Poloniato who is likely being groomed as the eventual decision-making successor at the point to 5’10” Mike Rocca (rising 4th year guard), who himself has turned into a higher-end CIS point guard coming off tremendous post-season performance punctuated by strong performances in both Wilson Cup Final 4 games.  Lancers also signed Poloniato’s teammate, 6’5″ Lukas Wood, the younger brother of Carleton’s Connor and Mitchell Wood, who is a lanky wing with good perimeter range.  Not finished with the high school talent, Windsor signed 6’7″ Anthony Zrvnar from local Windsor St. Anne’s.  It is still relatively early in the recruiting announcement season, however the Lancers are off to a strong start in fortifying their roster for next season.

CIS update: Ryerson, Guelph, Lakehead

Coming off their second consecutive CIS Nationals semi-final appearance, Ryerson Rams are firmly entrenched as a perennial Top 5 CIS program under returning Head Coach Roy Rana back from sabbatical after Associate Coach Patrick Tatham led the Rams to their first-ever Wilson Cup championship this past season.  Under Rana, Ryerson has annually put together arguably the most athletic roster in the CIS and is coming off a season that featured numerous program-first milestones including back-to-back home wins against uOttawa and Carleton in January plus the first OUA championship banner in the history of Ryerson athletics.  More importantly, CIS basketball now matters to a growing group of GTA fans with Coca-Cola Court ordinarily at or near capacity for Rams encounters.  Expect the success to continue under the tutelage of Rana and Tatham as at least 7 experienced rotation contributors – six in their fourth or fifth seasons – are expected back, offsetting the loss to graduation of 6’5″ Aaron Best and 6’8″ Kadeem Green.  Rye has a deep, quality back court with 6’0″ Roshane Roberts and incoming Waterloo transfer 5’11” Myles Charvis but it is the wing position where Rams feature at least three potential All-Canadians in 6’5″ Ammaneul Diressa, 6’7″ J.V. Mukama – the hero of their comeback win over UBC in the first round of the Nationals – and 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly.  With a view of assuming the mantle of the great Ryerson wings going forward, Rana will bring in the #25 player overall in North Pole Hoops Class of 2016:  Montreal’s Keevon Small (John Abbott CEGEP).  Rim protection was a strength in the second half last season when Kadeem Green returned, however 6’8″ Adam Voll is sneaky athletic and shows great timing defensively around the rim.  Veteran 6’6″ Juwan Grannum, another fifth-year forward, will be in the mix.  Lefty 6’6″ wing Filip Vujadinovic came into his own last season as a sophomore and was key vs. UBC also.  Expect Rana to sign at least two more key recruits in the coming weeks, as the Rams loaded roster top-to-bottom continues to rank at or near the top in terms of talent and potential in the entire CIS… One of only a handful of teams that defeated the Rams last season were the Guelph Gryphons who were unfortunately pushed out of a playoff spot in the tough OUA Central, finishing in 4th despite a 9-10 record.  Coach Chris O’Rourke has built a veteran roster that returns all key rotation guys with the exception of 6’3″ reserve Jack Beatty, so a veteran laden roster is poised to return to the playoffs as the program debuts their sparkling new “Gryphon Athletic Center” which includes a new basketball facility with surround seating and capacity for 2,400.  Built with similar aesthetics to recent new facilities at Queen’s and U of T, Gryphs should be fully moved in to the new digs by early September.  O’Rourke is celebrating the new facility with one of his best recruiting classes in recent memory, beginning with 6’1″ high-impact point guard Jordan Sobot, originally from Burlington Nelson who spent last season at Don Bosco Prep in Indiana where he garner some Ivy and Patriot League looks.  The cousin of current Guelph Assistant Nick Pankerichan, the former Gryph star point guard, Sobot is projected to assume the reigns at the lead guard spot at some point early in his career.  Sobot also considered Toronto and McMaster before committing to Guleph.  Gryphs picked up a local three-point shooter 6’1″ Craig Valeriote (Guelph Our Lady of Lourdes) to play off their new point; he is a long-range three point shooting threat.  Another local area product, 6’7″ and growing Shawn Carey (Hamilton St. Mary’s) figures to play meaningful minutes from the start with his length, athleticism and rim protection abilities at the 4 or 5 spot.  Carey was also a Division 1 soccer talent who has decided to focus on basketball.  O’Rourke also went out of province for a pair of Provincial team stalwards:  6’6″ Banky Alade (Edmonton, Alberta), a young (just turned 17) lanky four man who was also considering Grant MacEwan and Alberta plus 6’4″ Luke Nelson (New Brunswick), a slasher who put up 27 points on eventual national champions Nova Scotia as a NB Provincial team player.  Guelph is also involved in at least one other recruit who is waiting on some D1 offers.  The Gryphs should have at least 12 players ready to help, foundation of which is the return of at least 4 starters in 6’5″ Ahmed Haroon (5th), 6’2″ Daniel Dooley (4th), 6’0″ Jonathan Wallace (4th) and 6’3″ Drew Walford.  Coming off a season where a 9-10 record was not good enough for the playoffs, expect Gryphs to take their usual, tough, aggressive half-court “d” to the new facility and push for a home playoff game in the new digs… The club that edged out the Gryphs for third place in OUA Central this past season, Lakehead Thunderwolves, finished a successful season with a very young group, winning a road playoff game at Western before succumbing at Ryerson in an OUA quarter-final game.  Coach Manny Furtado welcomes back virtually his entire rotation with the important exception of 6’4″ Alex Robichaud, one of the more under-rated defenders in the country last season and a 35 minute per game stalward who Furtado relied on to represent his brand of toughness and savvy.  Furtado has announced a pair of recruits including an NCAA Division 1 transfer, 6’7″ forward Abednego “Bennie” Lufile (brother of graduated Cape Breton Caper forward Meshack Lufile), originally from Burlington who spent last season at East Tennessee State where he averaged about 11 minutes per game, averaging 3.3 points and 3.0 rebounds per outing.  Lufile, who played two seasons at Sheridan (Wyoming) Junior college before his one year with the Buccaneers, should team with all-conference forward Bacarius Dinkins for an athletic front line.  Lufile has two seasons of eligibility remaining.  In the back court, Lakehead returns 6’0″ lefty Henry Tan another All-Star and brings in touted recruit 6’2″ Nahshon Hurst from Bill Crothers in Markham.  As most readers may know, the Colts are a prep school that plays in the OSBA as part of a top-end schedule.  Recall also that Lakehead played all of last season without arguably their most versatile offensive talent in 6’3″ Mor Menashe, who adds a wing with size and skill to the rotation.  While Robichaud’s loss leaves Lakehead apparently without a shut down wing/forward defender, the roster has top-end talent at the front of the rotation at all positions.

CIS Coaching Alumni repping in NBA; Jeanty returns to CIS

The rest of the world is finding out what many here in Canada have known for several years:  the quality of CIS coaching talent is world-class.  Look no further than the roles two CIS coaching alumni are playing with NBA teams, starting with former Lakehead men’s and Dalhousie women’s Head man Scott Morrison, who just completed his second season in the Boston Celtics organization, coming off a rookie season with Maine Red Claws where he was named D-League coach of the year.  Morrison already has won the most career games in Red Claws coaching history and has ~.667 winning percentage (66-34).  This season, Morrison coached Tim Frazier who was called up just prior to the D-League playoffs by New Orleans Pelicans and then lost his star point guard Corey Walden during a playoff round.  Upon the end of the D-League season, Morrison joined the parent Celtics and is part of the support staff helping to prepare for games against the Atlanta Hawks.  Morrison will also be working the draft combine in early May in Chicago, helping the Celts prepare for the June draft… Another long-time CIS coach, Joe Raso, has spent the season as an advanced scout for 3 NBA teams including Denver, Atlanta and the defending NBA champion Golden State Warriors.  Coach Raso’s work continues through the playoffs with the Hawks and Warriors, targeting future opponents.  Among Raso’s contributions are charting sets, identifying verbals and substitution patterns for opponents with most games live scouted, primarily at the Air Canada Center in Toronto.  The type of work Raso does is critical to preparation of all professional coaching staffs and again proves that CIS coaches are extremely well regarded at the highest levels of professional basketball.  Raso also did similar work with Canada’s National team last summer in Mexico… Two CIS head coaching jobs are open with the retirement of Peter Campbell at Laurier and the resignation of Matt Skinn at Cape Breton.  Expect the Golden Hawks job to be filled shortly with the leading candidate likely to be an existing OUA Associate coach… Finally, the Wizard of Os is returning to the CIS:  The foundation of Carleton Ravens first five CIS National championships, Osvaldo Jeanty, has accepted a position on Dave Smart’s coaching staff at Carleton.  Jeanty was Head Coach at Cégep de l’Outaouais for the past two seasons, leading the program to successfully being accepted into Tier 1 division in Quebec.  Jeanty had a successful professional playing career in Europe, primarily in Germany for 7 seasons before returning home about 3 years ago.  Welcome back to the CIS, Os.

CIS Recruiting: 2nd generation Mustang starts re-build

One of the more challenging rebuilds of 2016-17 is at Western where Head Coach Brad Campbell and program must replace three graduating cogs, encompassing more than 100 minutes per game played this past season including one of the better players in the history of the Mustangs program in 6’3″ Greg Morrow.  With very little top-end, upperclassman talent ready to step in, Campbell will have to rely on a string of top recruiting classes to ensure Western remains competitive going forward.  The Mustangs took a positive step to that end when 5’10” Tyler Thomson from Niagara Falls A.N. Myer committed to the program.  For long-time OUA/CIAU fans, the Thomson name should be very familiar – the two-time Niagara Falls Player-of-the-Year is the son of former Mustangs forward (mid-to-late 80’s) Terry Thomson.  Father Terry, an OUA All-Star in 1987-88, was an undersized, but tough-as-nails post presence on some of those great Western teams from that era that included four-time All-Canadian John Stiefelmeyer, another native of the Falls.  Thomson, continuing a long line of great players from legendary A.N. Myer that began with Jay Triano, is expected to step right in and take over at the point, joining a returning back court that includes 6’2″ Jedson Tavernier (3rd Year) and 6’1″ Alex Coote (3rd Year).  Mustangs do have one senior leader set to return in 6’5″ Tony Spiridis, who will assume completely the senior leadership role after Morrow, 6’5″ Peter Scholtes and 6’3″ Tom Filigiano graduated.  Campbell has also announced the signing of two other freshmen:  6’7″ Daniil Shesterinin from Milton Bishop Reding and 6’2″ Dominic Clayton, who just finished his final season at Surrey B.C. Southridge High, winning the Telus B.C. senior boys Triple A championship game when he had 17 points, 11 rebounds and 8 assists.  Mustangs are looking to augment last season’s class that included 6’5″ Ian Smart and 6’0″ Nikola Farkic, both of who played minor roles for the ‘Stangs this past season.

More CIS off-season commentary

Coming off a strong first year as Concordia Head Coach, Stingers Rastko Popovic has wasted little time upgrading the talent level with his group.  Last season’s club continued to show improvement guarding – Stingers were arguably the top defensive team in the Q this side of McGill – however, outside of a couple of games, Concordia struggled with perimeter shooting and, despite the offensive emergence of 6’4″ all-conference wing Ken Beaulieu, did not have multiple go-to offensive threats.  Beaulieu had some injury problems in the second half and Stingers tried to rely on freshman 6’4″ Schneiders Suffrard to fix the void/complement Beaulieu, with mixed results.  Thus, Popovic – in what is his first full recruiting class since taking over the reigns of the program around this time last year – has focused his efforts on find more scoring and perimeter shooting with apparent strong results.  Stingers most accomplished recruit is very likely 6’7″ Olivier Simon (Edouard-Monpetit) who averaged 16.5 ppg/9.5 rpg in CEGEP last season as an inside/out “stretch 4″ type threat.  Expect Simon help stretch defenses and check longer, taller wing forwards.  To add some perimeter shooting, 6’2” Nicholas Noble (Champlain-St. Lambert) is being brought in; he comes from the same program as now-fellow Stinger T.J. Umar.  In 6’3″ Rowan Power (Dartmouth, NS/Nova Scotia Provincial team) Concordia gets another strong hard-core defender type.  With a strong roster of potential returnees led by Beaulieu, Suffrards, Umar, 6’5″ Michael Fosu, 6’0″ pg Ricardo Monge and 6’3″ Jaleel Webb, Popovic is poised to return the Stingers to RSEQ championship contention… Many observers were very impressed with the progress of UQAM Citadins under first-year Head Coach Nate Phillipe, who guided his troops to the RSEQ championship game after a solid semi-final win vs. aforementioned Stingers.  While Citadins had RSEQ Player-of-the-Year Kewyn Blain, a CIS All-Canadian, running the show as a scoring point guard, UQAM also improved their play inside led by 6’11” rim-protector Yassin Debache and got streaky offense from veteran 6’2″ lefty Greishe Clerjuste.  Phillipe also showed some coaching courage in dismissing a pair of high-potential, highly-hyped players at mid-season – a bold move for a first-year coach trying to establish a winning tradition – and the move paid off with UQAM’s finish, although 5’11” Charles Miller and 6’4″ Julien Girard, added after the first half, were helpful triggers.  Citadins have already announced a pair of helpful recruits for next season in 6’3″ Alex King-Lacroix, who averaged over 30 ppg at Limoilou, a Tier II CEGEP in Quebec City and 6’9″ Stefan Mitrovic from CEGEP Ste. Foy also in Quebec City.  Phillipe’s work has laid a solid foundation for the Citadins as the “Q” continues to improve.  However, with other Canadian coaching jobs available both CIS and NCAA DII, and Citadins coaching compensation package among the lowest in the country, it would not be difficult to envision Phillipe, especially with a young family, to have his career aspirations drift to other positions.  With the resignation of Matt Skinn at Cape Breton, a position is available in Atlantic Canada; recall Phillipe played his university ball at Saint Mary’s and his wife is an Atlantic Canada native.  One would not blame Phillipe one bit if the thought of taking that position has crossed his mind… Laval Rouge et Or got some good news toward the end of the RSEQ season as it appears that star 6’1″ point guard Karl Demers-Belanger will return for his fifth and final season of eligibility.  Rouge et Or are set to lose only 6’5″ Thibaud Dezutter from last season’s club that arguably presented league champion McGill with their most difficult games.  As well, Laval has filled a tremendous void in the middle with the transfer home of 6’9″ Mark Andre Fortin, who played last season as a true freshman at NCAA Division 1 Sam Houston State, averaging 6.6 mpg with the Bearkats.  Fortin was a 2nd team CEGEP all-star in 2014-15 before accepting a D1 scholarship.  His inside presence should provide some rim protection that was decidedly lacking with Rouge et Or last season – their tallest player was just 6’6″; expect Fortin to change the dynamic inside defensively for Laval… This past season Bishop’s brought in a large, eight-man, quality recruiting class that Coach Rod Gilpin hopes will form the foundation of another future run at an RSEQ title.  With reigning RSEQ Freshman of the Year 6’5′ Abdul Kamane, 6’6″ Nick Harvey, 7’0″ Jonah Fogg and at least 5 other CIS calibre players, the stage is set for last year’s class to grow.  There are a couple of starters with experience in 6’6″ David Belanger, who suffered through an injury plagued season, and 6’3 sharpshooter Peter Weston and the staff is still waiting on whether or not 6’0″ Jona Bermillo, the team MVP will complete his fifth season of eligibility with the Gaiters.  Expect Gilpin to sign at least one more shooter with the local CEGEP a targeted source for that resource… The rest of the country found out quickly at last month’s Nationals in Vancouver what the folks in Atlantic Canada have known for at least a couple of years:  the Dalhousie Tigers program is for real.  Led by Head Coach Rick Plato, who inherited a strong, young stable of athletes from John Campbell three years ago, has taken that foundation (Ritchie Kanza-Mata, Kash Lawrence, Jarred Reid, William Yengue – all of who were Campbell’s recruits) and continued to grow a deep, quality, defensive-oriented group that scraps and claws on every possession and did the AUS proud with the conference’s first championship round win at the CIS Nationals since 2013 when Acadia defeated UBC.  Plato has done an outstanding job surrounding his experienced core group with quality depth and as the remaining Big 3 (Kanza-Mata, Lawrence and Reid) enter their fifth and final season, Tigers can rest assured that another strong group of emerging talents will take the reigns.  With 6’1″ Jordan Aquino-Serjue capturing AUS Rookie-of-the-Year and 6’6″ Sven Stammberger developing into an AUS-all-star calibre wing forward, Plato took the next step in recruiting, bringing in a national-calibre local star who is touted to become the next great player in the AUS:  6’6″ Alex Carson from Sackville, who led the Nova Scotia provincial team to a historic win over Team Ontario at last summer’s Canadian championships.  Expect Carson to step right in and play meaningful minutes for the two-time defending AUS champions… Despite a second consecutive AUS title and virtually their entire team expected to return next season, few believe Dal’s path to a third title will be easy, especially given the progress made last season by Tim Kendrick‘s UPEI Panthers and the stable of strong returning talent.  Recall that this season’s AUS championship game was another outright classic, with Panthers taking Dal down to the final couple of possessions before the Tigers triumphed.  While 6’3″ Tyler Scott, a 2nd team All-Canadian and all-conference forward 6’6″ Brad States lead the way, Panthers also got strong championship-game performances by a pair of young emerging talents in 5’10” Toronto native Amin Suleman (sophomore next season) and 6’7″ Serbian Milorad Sedlarevic, entering his third season.  Sedlarevic was especially key down the stretch of the AUS championship, knocking down several clutch three’s to keep Panthers in it.  2016-17 is an important season for the Panthers as six top-end rotation players (Scott, States, 6’6″ Dut Dut, super 6’2″ sixth-man Lorenzo Parker, 6’0 guard Zach Usherwood and 6’1″ reserve shooting guard Jake Kendrick) enter their fifth and final season.  With one eye to the future, Coach Kendrick and the Panthers recently announced the signing of 6’0″ point guard Kyle Rotterman from famed Ontario high school program Burlington Nelson Lords.  Rotterman was ranked #101 in the Class of 2015 by our friends at North Pole Hoops.  Recall also that Panthers got a commitment last year from 6’0″ sg Samy Mohamed (Toronto, ON – transfer/Algoma; 4.2 ppg in 2014-15).  Not unlike the RSEQ, the level of talent in the AUS is improving rapidly top-to-bottom and expect UPEI to be in the thick of the AUS championship battle all season in 2016-17.

CIS Off-season Update #1

Although we are still more than 4 months away from the start of the next school year in September, 2016, recruiting/transfer news continues to trickle in.  Hot off the presses over the last day or so was the commitment of 6’3″ Jaaden Lewis (Thornhill Thornlea) to the Nipissing Lakers.  North Pole Hoops has Lewis listed as their #75 ranked player in the class of 2016.  Head Coach Chris Cheng, a native of Scarborough and graduate of York University, continues to recruit the GTA hard – Lewis will be one of at least 5 (and probably counting) players who hail from the Toronto area.  Cheng begins his third season in North Bay with a career record of 7-45 (actually 8 if one includes last season’s loss to York which was forfeited by the Lions) including 3-35 (4-34 with the forfeit) in OUA league play.  However, Cheng has taken a patient route to building his program, for the most part eschewing a roster dominated by transfers instead trying to build a foundation of young talent that grows with the program.  To that end, along with Lewis, Nipissing announced earlier that 6’1″ Kasey Paul-Buzas, a native of Montreal who recently graduated from Thetford Mines, Quebec Prep, has also committed.  Cheng’s first recruiting class netted an OUA All-Freshman team choice in 6’7″ Kalil Langston (Brampton, ON).  Lakers did announce one notable transfer early last season 6’5″ Addy Ogunye (Brampton) a transfer from Lakehead however Ogunye does not appear on Lakers roster at this writing… Six-time CIS defending National champions Carleton Ravens are being rewarded with a team trip to Italy beginning in late May.  Ravens will take this past season’s group to Caorle, Italy for training and games which should provide another opportunity for 6’5″ Guillaume Boucard, who has completed his five years of CIS eligibility, to showcase his game to potential European pro teams.  Boucard looks to continue Carleton’s impressive list of graduates playing professionally in Europe in what has become an annual rite for top Ravens graduates.  Despite losing Boucard and top rotation guard Gavin Resch, the Ravens are once again loaded with their returning roster plus highly-touted 6’8″ Will Kohler (redshirt last season) plus 6’4″ Joe Rocca and 5’11” Sean Stoqua among the new faces expected to contribute… Expect 6’7″ Jake Newman, the Surrey, B.C. native who graduated from prestigious White Rock Christian Academy before spending one season with Lafayette (NCAA Division 1 Patriot League) and was on the Ravens roster last season, to transfer to UVic… McGill Redmen lost two key pieces to graduation in 6’5″ Vincent Dufort and 6’4″ Tychon Carter-Newman and are still looking to add some talent at the guard spots, especially now that 6’2″ Jawara Pedican has decided to transfer, likely back home with U of T Varsity Blues being the likely destination.  The Blues would likely welcome Pedican for 2017-18, especially given that 6’2″ Sharon, MA native Devon Williams, who just completed his freshman season, has decided to move back home, opening up a spot on the wing for Toronto… McGill received a commitment from Montreal native 6’0″ Kendrick Jolin (Salisbury Prep) who should help provide stability at the point guard position… Manitoba Bisons had a terrific break-through season culminating in a Canada West Final 4 appearance in Calgary that was ultimately marred by a series of fouls late in the third quarter that turned a tight game into a route.  Kirby Schepp‘s group is poised to make a longer post-season run next season with a roster that returns everyone except big man Wyatt Anders.  Bisons also were hampered by the injury-plagued season of Brandon transfer 6’1″ Illarion Bonhomme, who it was revealed recently played through a cracked ankle injury.  Expect a healthy Bonhomme to allow Manitoba to play even more up tempo both offensively and defensively.  Schepp added depth at the wing forward spot with the signing of 6’7″ James Wagner, a Manitoba provincial team star and the best player in Winnipeg this past season, out of John Taylor High. Schepp is preparing to join Roy Rana’s staff on Canada’s U-18 FIBA Americas qualifying tournament in Chile during the summer… Ottawa Gee-Gees welcome two new transfers next season:  6’2″ Adam Presutti (ex-McMaster) and 6’8″ Jean Pierre-Charles (ex-Carleton) in an effort to replace three graduating stalwards in 6’5″ Vikas Gill, 6’2″ Medhi Tihani and Moser Award winner Mike L’Africain, who is expected to sign a professional contract in Europe in the coming weeks.  uOttawa may also have some churn on the coaching staff as Associate Head Coach Justin Serresse is a strong candidate for the Laurier Golden Hawk head coaching position after legendary mentor Peter Campbell announced his retirement this past season.  Serresse and current Hawk assistant Jamie Campbell are familiar with each other from their time together at Laurentian… Ex-Gee-Gees reserve wing 6’4″ Mo Ismail, who sat out last season, has resurfaced at Brock and will join the Badgers with 2 seasons of eligibility remaining.  Brock, which loses 6’8″ Matt Marshall, 6’2″ Zac Angelini and 6’1″ Nate Gardner to graduation and therefore returns only 4-5 rotation players, should benefit from Ismail.  But coach Charles Kissi has not stopped improving the core of his roster, announcing the signing of 6’6″ lefty Cassidy Ryan (transfer Canisius NCAA Division 1 originally from Mississauga) and 6’6″ Daniel Cayer (Montreal John Abbott).  Expect Brock to go at least 8 or 9 deep next season with quality – recall depth was a key issue last season… Second-year Waterloo Head Coach Justin Gunter has wasted little time making a recruiting mark in his home city with the signing of three local Waterloo stars from OFSAA-level Sir John A. MacDonald in what is essentially Gunter’s first real recruiting class with the Warriors.  6’5″ Nedim Hodzic, a native of Bosnia and SJAM’s top players, headlines this class thus far, with the potential to be an impact workhorse from Day One for Waterloo.  Gunter also signed Hodzic’s teammates 6’3″ Simon Petrov and 6’4″ Justin Hardy to a team that has plenty of playing time available.  Gunter appears to be using patience in building his group with young, freshman talent rather than loading up early on transfers.

Canada Sr. Men’s Update: Wiggins non-committal to Manila OQT

Several important pieces of the Senior Men’s team roster for the Manila qualifier appear to be in flux at present, starting with 6’8″ Andrew Wiggins, considered by some to be Canada’s most important player.  Wiggins, who recently discovered he will be coached by Tom Thibodeau next season at Minnesota, was quoted on April 12th about his participation this summer for Canada, saying he will “Cross that bridge when we get to it”, followed by a laugh according to NBC Sports.  In the long run, being coached by task master Thibodeau, who has a proven track record of developing great all-round players – see Jimmy Butler and Taj Gibson among others – and, more importantly for Wiggins, doling out playing time to players who defend and rebound, could be a catalyst to take that next step in Wiggins’ career.  A potential generational-talent offensively, Wiggins has the potential to make a move into a front-end N.B.A. all-star under the tutelage of Thibodeau by getting his compete level up, especially on the defensive end and on the glass (career 4.1 rpg including 2.6 rpg on the defensive glass).  Ultimately when all is said and done, Wiggins career will be judged by winning (45-119 .274 in first two seasons) and Thibodeau and playing for Canada can be two positive enablers to making that happen… Some NBA mock draft boards have Canada’s 6’5″ Jamal Murray going as high as #3; certainly the offensively well-rounded Kitchener native will have his name called very early on draft night (June 23rd, 2016 at the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn).  Murray, who has displayed the ultimate in loyalty toward playing for Canada throughout his career – playing in international tournaments in some cases despite injury and fatigue – is justifiably uncertain regarding Canada’s Manila campaign, given that Canada’s training camp is likely to begin on or about June 10th and the first game of the FIBA qualifier on July 5th.  With the draft basically in the middle of that time and the threat of a pre-draft/pre-first contract injury, Murray’s lack of commitment at this point is reasonable… Recall that last summer Canada was without key inside post 6’9″ Tristan Thompson, owing to a contract negotiation that did not settle until late into last summer.  The potential unfortunately exists that both 6’10” Andrew Nicholson and 6’9″ Dwight Powell may also encounter similar circumstances.  Both Nicholson and Powell are now restricted free agents and both are thus far without qualifying offers… Note that the NBA Finals are set to begin June 2nd and there are several Canadians participating in the playoffs on teams with strong chances of advancing to the Finals, starting with Cleveland and the aforementioned Tristan Thompson.  If the Cavs, favored to win the East, make the Finals again, there will be conflicts with Canada’s training camp dates.  A seven-game NBA Finals series would end late during the week of June 13th, giving participants very little time for rest and travel to Manila in time to play July 5th.  Canada may also be affected by the apparent progress of the Toronto Raptors.  While 6’3″ Cory Joseph has been outstanding in his role off the bench – scoring, distributing and defending very well – a prolonged advance by the Raptors in the NBA playoffs could also has some influence on Joseph, who, like Murray, has been among the most loyal Canadians playing for his country.  Canada’s best overall player last summer in Mexico was 6’11” Kelly Olynyk however the multi-skilled big from Gonzaga has been battling a shoulder problem that has kept him out of Boston’s past two playoff games and his status is uncertain.  Another loyal Canadian baller, how far the Celtics progress and more importantly how much rest his shoulder needs are other uncertainties for Canada going into the summer of 2016… On more positive notes, the progress of 6’10” Trey Lyles this past season at Utah (attached article intimates that Jazz veteran Trevor Booker may be expendable as a result of Lyles progress), bodes well for Canada.  Lyles averaged about 6.0 ppg in 17 mpg as a rookie and is signed through 2019.  Lyles is long and has excellent finishing skills; like most young players, learning the intricacies of team defending at the NBA level is the next step in his progression… As well, Milwaukee Bucks guard Tyler Ennis shook off some injury issues and had a good finish to his season – he is signed through 2019 also – so expect the slick guard out of Syracuse to be in the mix this early summer… Recall that last season’s twelve-man roster consisted of:

Usual starters: 6’11” Kelly Olynyk, 6’8″ Anthony Bennett, 6’7″ Andrew Wiggins, 6’4″ Nik Stauskas and 6’3″ Cory Joseph.  6’10” Andrew Nicholson (who came alive late in the tournament), 6’8″ Dwight Powell (who battled injury toward the end of the tournament) were key paint-area reserves.  6’6″ Melvin Ejim and 6’8″ Aaron Doornekamp were reserves at the wing spot.  6’2″ Brady Heslip backed up at the 2 spot and 6’3″ Philip Scrubb was the back-up point.  6’10” Robert Sacre was a little-used fifth post and 12th man.

Potential new additions to the mix include:  Murray at the wing spot (questionable), Lyles (potential replacement for Powell/Nicholson if either/both don’t play) and Ennis in the backcourt.

Plenty of unknowns at present as Canada looks to qualify for Rio.



Rana’s U-18’s looking to qualify for next year’s Worlds

After a fifth-place finish last summer with Canada’s U-19 team at the FIBA World U-19 championships in Greece, Head Coach Roy Rana and program look ahead to this summer for another berth at the 2017 World’s, competing with 7 other nations at the 2016 FIBA Americas qualifier in Valdivia, Chile between July 19th and 23rd.  Note that this event, which includes only those players born in 1998 and later, occurs several weeks after the 2016 U-17 Worlds (for players born in 1999 and later).  While Canada Basketball has not published even a preliminary list of invitees, the possibility exists that players who participate in the U-17 Worlds could potentially also be included on the roster for U-18 FIBA Americas qualifier.  Stay tuned.

Among the coaches expected to join Rana on his staff is Manitoba’s Kirby Schepp.  Rana will have a busy summer after his one-year sabbatical, returning to lead CIS Bronze medal winning Ryerson Rams in the fall.

In the recently-released draw for FIBA Americas 2016 U-18 qualifier, Canada will play in Group A, by far the most difficult group, along with Argentina, Brazil and Dominican Republic.  Group B has Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, the U.S.A. and the host Chileans.

While there has been no roster releases or official discussions, here are some notable Canadian players with international and/or NCAA Division 1 potential born in 1998 that could be considered:

6’6″ Abu Kigab (St. Catharines, ON, St. Francis/Prolific Prep (Ca.))

6’1″ Lindell Wigginton (Halifax, NS, Oak Hill Academy)

5’9″ Jordan Henry (Pickering Pine Ridge)

6’8″ O’Shae Brissett (Toronto, Findlay Prep)

6’3″ Jahvon Blair (Brampton, ON/Athlete’s Institute)

6’7″ Isaiah Mike (Scarborough, ON/Trinity International (Las Vegas)/committed to Duquesne)

6’7″ Aher Uguak (Edmonton, ALTA/Harry Ainlay/committed to New Mexico).

Canada draws tough group at U-17 Worlds in Spain

Not overly reported in the mainstream media was the release earlier this week of Canada’s draw for the FIBA U-17 World championships for men to be played in Spain from June 22nd to July 3rd – a nice pre-amble to our Senior men’s team quest for Rio which begins in the Philippines very shortly thereafter.  Recall Canada qualified for the FIBA U-17 worlds with an impressive campaign at last summer’s FIBA Americas – the Canadians surged to an early 20 point lead in the championship game of that tournament against the U.S.A., were tied with 4 minutes remaining before losing by 17 in a result that did not reflect how tight the game was for 37 minutes.

McGill Head Coach David DeAveiro will once again lead this summer’s group into the U17-World championships with uOttawa coach James Derouin, former Senior Men’s national team star Michael Meeks and Nicky Davis (Sheridan College) as part of his staff.  Last year’s group went 4-1 at the FIBA Americas qualifier including an impressive 76-62 win against host Argentina to qualify for the semi-finals against Dominican Republic which Canada dominated.

Expect Canada to have another world-class roster led by 6’6″ RJ Barrett (Mississauga, ON/Montverde Academy) who some have touted as the top freshman in the U.S.A. this past season,  6’3″ point guard Andrew Nembhard (Aurora, ON/Vaughan) also on the NBA draft radar already, who is also rumored to be headed to Montverde for next season, 6’8″ shooter Danilo Djurick (Brampton, ON/St. Michael’s), 6’9″ Simi Shittu (Burlington, ON/Montverde) and 6’5″ Noah Kirkwood (Ottawa, ON/Ashbury College), son of former Toronto Jarvis and uOttawa star Arthur Kirkwood (late 80’s) among the core of what many observers feel is the next generation of core talent upon which our Senior team will be founded in 2020’s.

Depth will be an important factor at the Worlds given the almost daily action and DeAveiro feels the team will need 9-10 guys on the rotation to compete with the likes of the U.S.A. and the host Spaniards. To that end, the health of 6’1″ Marcus Carr (Toronto, ON) is key – Carr missed much of this past season – also at Montverde – recovering from knee surgery.  In the front court, expect the usual strong contribution from 6’7″ Iggy Brazdeikis (Oakville, ON/Orangeville Prep) and 6’9″ power forward Grant Shephard (Kelowna, B.C.), a tough strong presence in the paint.

For this summer’s worlds, Canada has been placed in Group C along with Australia, Finland and China.

Defending champions U.S.A. are in Group A along with Egypt, Turkey and Chinese Taipai.  Argentina, last summer’s host of FIBA Americas qualifier where they won the Bronze medal and a team that Canada defeated 76-62 during the preliminary round, is in Group B – arguably the toughest group with Spain, Lithuania and Mali.  Group D features France, Bosia/Herzegovina, Korea and the Dominican Republic, which Canada defeated 95-49 in the FIBA Americas semi-final.