Gaels on verge of conference contention


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Steph Barrie‘s Gaels were one defensive stop away from the biggest road playoff win in maybe the history of the program before Moser Award winner Mike L’Africain‘s runner at the buzzer saved the hometown Gee-Gees in an OUA quarter-final playoff in early March.  But this program has come a long way since Barrie’s arrival five years ago this month, culminating this past season in an 11-8 OUA league record and a home playoff win against Toronto Varsity Blues.  The GTA has always been fertile recruiting ground for Barrie and lead Assistant Jermaine Small; Gaels have a history of attracting talent from strong academic schools and this season is no different as Queen’s brings in at least 6 new faces to augment their 8 returning rotation players.  Queen’s returns OUA All-Star 6’4″ Sukhpreet Singh for his 5th and final season – last season Singh established himself on the national scene as an upper-end offensive talent, scoring in double digits in every game all season highlighted by a 39 point effort at Carleton – Queen’s led that game late in the second half – 30 points vs. Windsor and 36 against Lakehead, among others.  Budding all-OUA forward 6’6″ Tanner Graham, who started to fulfill a large part of his oozing potential in his sophomore season with a blend of strength and athleticism that made him a match-up challenge and one of the top emerging rim protectors in the conference, should also be a 30+ minute per game guy going forward.  Expect 6’11” Mike Shoveller, already an asset beyond the 3 point line when left open, to make that next step to impact post presence, especially given that 6’8″ Ryall Stroud has graduated.  In the back court, Gaels lose lefty shooter Andrew Mavety and reserve pg Mark Paclibar but return 6’4″ Vincent Wood, another high potential multi-talented wing who had an injury-plagued freshman season after graduating from Toronto Brebeuf.  Mavety will be tough to replace, especially given the slick shooting southpaw made 21 of his final 36 three-pointers last season.  To ensure Queen’s has enough perimeter shooting, Barrie brought in one of the better recruits in Ontario in 6’4″ wing Harry Range, originally from Kanata All Saints before transferring to play his final two seasons at Kiski Prep in Pennsylvania, starting in his final season.  Expect Range to step in to meaningful minutes immediately.  Adding some experience and proven OUA talent, Queen’s has secured the commitment of 6’4″ Richard Iheadindu, who was a steady starter/rotation player for 4 seasons at York, most recently in 2014-15 (13.0 ppg), before enrolling in a Master’s program at Queen’s – he will be eligible immediately for the Gaels and expects to be an immediate contributor also.  Dipping further into the large GTA talent pool, the Gaels also have added 6’5″ Luka Sevaljevic, originally from Toronto French School who played this past season at Mercersburg Academy Prep near Philadephia and 6’7″ Henry Van Herk from Toronto Leaside.  Sevaljevic is a multi-skilled wing who should get rotation time, especially if – as advertised – he can knock down open shots – while Van Herk is a long, skilled “Euro 4″ type who continues to grow into his body.  Finally, Gaels went out of province to secure two high-end athletes – both with 40″ + verticals – in 6’4” Michael Ogoms and 6’4″ Landon Brickendon from B.C.  Ogoms, originally from Winnipeg St. Paul’s, spent last season at Brewester Academy in New Hampshire and is the son of former Manitoba Bisons and Canadian National team star Joe Ogoms.  The elder Ogoms was recently inducted into the Manitoba Basketball Hall-of-Fame.  While Barrie has addressed depth on the wing and up front, there remains a need to upgrade the talent and depth at the lead guard spot where incumbent 5’10” Sammy Ayisi has shown signs of growth but more is needed.  Expect Queen’s to continue to upgrade their talent and push toward that elusive OUA Wilson Cup Final 4 appearance.

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