Even several weeks later, “bitter disappointment” likely understates the feelings that permeated through the entire uOttawa Gee-Gees program in the aftermath of their upset loss to Dalhousie Tigers at last month’s CIS Final 8 in Vancouver. The loss was an even more difficult pill to swallow for both star 6’1″ guard Mike L’Africain and Head Coach James Derouin – the Moser Award winner headlined what was Derouin’s first real recruiting class back in 2011 which included 6’5″ Vikas Gill and 6’3″ Medhi Tihani; this past season was to be the culmination of five seasons of work that would result in uOttawa’s first-ever National championship. But it was not to be and Derouin has tried to put the memory behind him as the now 7th year veteran coach looks to maintain the Gee-Gees perch as a perennial Top 3 team. To that end, the Gee-Gees may have the deepest, highest-quality roster of returning experienced front court/wing talent with 6’4″ Caleb Agada, a Moser Award candidate, 6’8″ all-OUA forward Nathan McCarthy, underrated 6’6″ Matt Plunkett and emerging 6’7″ Brody Maracle, who had a solid Final 8. Mix in the arrival of 6’8″ Jean Pierre-Charles, who sat out last season while transferring from Carleton and uOttawa has 5 potential all-stars. 6’4″ Brandon Robinson came on in his second season and may be the wing that eventually takes the mantle from Agada as a top-end defender and scorer. So up front is a Gee-Gees strength. Derouin’s real challenge is in the back court, having to replace L’Africain’s 35+ minutes per game at the point and two very important pieces off the bench in Gill and Tihani (6’7″ Noel Jones will also not return) so adding guards is key with 5’10” sophomore Calvin Epistola the only returning player with meaningful experience running a team. To that end, 6’2″ Adam Presutti (5th year transfer from McMaster) will step in to a big role in the backcourt. While not a pure point guard, Presutti will likely be asked to make key decisions unless Derouin – who will likely add 1 or 2 more recruits before the end of the summer – finds another. Two other true freshman wings have already committed including 6’5″ Gage Sabean, a high-end perimeter shooter ranked #55 by North Pole Hoops who recently led Horton High Griffins (Wolfville) to the Nova Scotia provincial championship. Sabean is ready for real minutes beginning next season. 6’2″ Timmins O’Gorman product Ryan Basso, an athletic combo guard, will provide some depth but is likely not yet ready to step in for major minutes. But there remains a somewhat-glaring hole at the pure point guard spot assuming the strong-potential Epistola needs another season or two in order to mature. Expect Derouin to continue to work the recruiting trail knowing one or two more guards are necessary to round out his roster. Derouin also will have to deal with some churn in his coaching staff as it is widely expected that his Associate Coach Justin Serresse will be named Head Coach at Laurier. While Serresse was not the first choice of the Golden Hawks, this does present a wonderful opportunity for the former Laurentian Voyageur player who has been on Ottawa’s staff since 2010 when Derouin took over from Dave DeAveiro.