A quick look at the CIS pre-season tournament and exhibition game schedule (thanks to the tremendous work of Martin Timmerman) reveals what seems like a plethora of inter-conference games when anecdotally compared to prior years. Observers have cited a lack of these inter-conference games as one of the main reasons why, in past seasons, RPI may not have not have been as reflective of actual team rankings over the course of the season. The relatively larger volume of pre-season games and teams travelling should provide the RPI with a more comprehensive set of data points; as importantly, as long as CIS coaches take the Top 10 rankings seriously, voters should be in a much better position to make informed choices.
Action is light this weekend as the only CIS-related action in Sault Ste. Marie as Algoma Thunderbirds host their ABC tournament (Algoma Basketball Classic). The T-Birds come off a 5-15 OUA regular season under Coach Thomas Cory but won 5 of their 12 games after Christmas including an upset win at Western in which they outscored the Mustangs 27-10 late for arguably the most important road win in the program’s OUA history. Algoma features 6’0″ Sean Clendinning, their leading returning scorer and brings in at least 3 new U.S. imports: 6’5″ Elijah Butler (Honolulu, HI) who was regarded as a rebounding machine at Olympic College in Washington state, 6’3″ Antonio Foster, a burly (220 lbs) guard from Shoreline C.C. in the Seattle area and 6’6″ Nicholas Gehler, a stretch 3/4 who last played high school in the state of Wisconsin. Algoma hosts 3 OCAA teams this weekend, starting with Fleming College tonight.
Later next week, Queen’s Gaels face Barry Smith’s St. Lawrence College Knights in Kingston in their annual game this coming Wednesday evening while Lambton College goes cross-town to meet Windsor Lancers in their annual cross-town matchup. In the first of several OCAA vs. OUA early season matches, McMaster pulled away in the fourth quarter for a 95-69 win over Welland’s Niagara Knights, coached by ex-Brandon Bobcat and Canadian National team member Keith Vassell. The Marauders are looking to rebound after a second consecutive home OUA playoff loss to the aforementioned Lancers and will enter this season without their dynamic 6’0″ shooting guard Trevon McNeil (son of Humber College legend George McNeil), who has left the program. Mac will rely on their big 3 of 6’7″ Connor Gilmore, 6’0″ David McCulloch and 6’3″ Rohan Boney when they begin their CIS pre-season schedule at next weekend’s Guy Vetrie Memorial tournament at UVic – their first round opponent is defending RSEQ champions McGill Redmen, who if you recall defeated Mac last year around this time in an exhibition game in Hamilton.
With the addition of several transfers/freshmen, Coach Brent Baker has surrounded his AUS/CIS Player-of-the-Year candidate Javon Masters with an array of GTA/Ontario-laden talent, transforming his UNB Varsity Reds to one of the more athletic and intriguing teams in the country. Baker brought in three more Ontario recruits, most notable of which is 6’7″ Donnavan Hastings who Baker believes “will be our biggest impact player this season from the new incoming players. He has 1st team all star written all over him.” Originally from Brampton Notre Dame and the Etobicoke Elite club program, Hastings has been an impact player at every stop – however this is his fifth different program in 5 years. Since leaving Notre Dame, Hastings prepped one season at Future College Prep in Carson, CA (’12-’13) before attending State Fair CC in Sedalia, MO (10.3 ppg/6.1 rpg) in 2014-15. Hastings then moved to Boca Raton, FL as a member of Lynn Fighting Knights, an NCAA Division 2 program where he averaged 3 ppg in 10 mpg last season. With the V-Reds, Hastings joins a program with at least 7 players from Ontario. Reds are also high on 6’2″ Hess Mayele, a 1st Team all-OCAA all-star with La Cite College where he averaged 19.7 points and 7.8 rebounds per game after a stellar CEGEP career at Ahuntis in Montreal. The Reds, who need to replace one of the better players in their program’s history in Matt Daley – their emotional leader – host their annual Eric Garland tournament next weekend including Bishop’s Gaiters, Saint Mary’s Huskies and Maine-Fort Kent, an NAIA program. For fans in the Ontario Golden Horseshoe, UNB visits McMaster, Guelph and York in late October.
Another emerging CIS/OUA program that matriculated from the OCAA recently is Nipissing Lakers and Coach Chris Cheng, who plied his coaching skills under Tom Oliveri/Bob Bain at York. Cheng has added one of his former players at York as Justin Bell joins the Lakers staff. OUA fans will recall Bell started his playing career at uOttawa before returning home to the GTA with the Lions. Cheng is building his program with young talent going into his third season as head man in North Bay. The Lakers have brought in 6’7″ Justin Shaver, who last played at Carleton in 2012-13 but was a highly-touted Ontario Provincial team talent while in high school some 6 years ago. We hope to have more on the Lakers in the coming days in advance of them hosting 6 CIS pre-season games next weekend involving Laurentian, Laurier, Algoma and the host Lakers. The games will mark the CIS Head Coaching debut of Laurier’s Justin Serresse, who takes over from legendary Peter Campbell. Serresse will have to do without last season’s top freshman Simon Mikre but if pre-season camp is providing any indicators, the Golden Hawks should get strong contributions in the back court from 6’2″ Shamar Burrows from St. Catharines Ridley College, a native of the Bahamas, who is an athletic lefty who has impressed, as well as 5’11” Tevaun Kokko, a first-year guard from Markham, ON. Serresse will face off against his former coach Shawn Swords, who Serresse played for at Laurentian several years ago.