Back from a one-year sabbatical that saw the program he built finally capture a Wilson Cup championship, Ryerson Head Coach Roy Rana continues to assemble a high-end talent-level group that should keep the Rams in the National championship picture for years to come. Rams must replace one of the program’s best ever players in 6’5″ Aaron Best, who became the second recent Ryerson grad to sign a professional contract in Europe with Utenos Juventus in the Lithuania First Division. Rana does return six rotation mainstays in 6’4″ Manny Diressa, who emerged as a potential All-Canadian toward the end of last season, 6’3″ Adika Peter-McNeilly, 6’7″ Juwon Grannum, 6’6″ Filip Vujadinovic, 6’0″ Roshane Roberts and 6’8″ Adam Voll.
Another significant loss this season is 6’8″ J.V. Mukama, who will sit out this season to focus on his academics – he remains in school and with the program with the hope of returning in 2017-18. Without Best and Mukama, Rana needed to fill his wing spots and did so nicely, beginning with the addition of 6’5″ Keevon Small, the CEGEP Player-of-the-Year and CCAA All-Canadian with John Abbott Islanders. Small was ranked as the #23 prospect in the graduating class of 2016 by NPH and should step in immediately for time as a wing/forward. Mukama’s perimeter shooting – while streaky – will be missed this season but the addition of 6’2″ Chase Vassell, originally from Pickering Pine Ridge via Missouri State-West Plains JUCO last season, Rams get a knock-down sniper who can step in almost immediately.
Of course, Rams had 6’0″ Waterloo transfer Myles Charvis redshirt all of last season – the diminutive scorer will have to get used to not being the designated scorer who gets 20-25 shots per night as was the case with the Warriors, but expect Charvis to contribute. 6’4″ Jovan Leamy, originally from Brampton, returns home after a four-year odyssey through 2 prep schools (Mt. Zion Academy and Future Prep), an NAIA school – Lindenwood University in Belleville, IL (8.6 ppg/3.8 rpg as a freshman) – and finally last season at Williston State Junior College where he averaged 9 points and 3 rebounds per game.
Rana also has an intriguing big man prospect in 6’9″ 250 lbs. Warsame Mohamed, originally from North York’s A.Y. Jackson C.I., who committed to UPEI last season but did not suit up in any AUS games, returning home to join Ryerson.
Ryerson has an exhibition game set for this coming Friday against CCAA power Mohawk College followed by a controlled scrimmage next Sunday with Seneca Sting (coached by ex-UPEI Panther and long-time coach Darrell Glenn) before encountering their first CIS pre-season action when Rams host Final Four participant Dalhousie Tigers on 8th October at home in Toronto.
Rana believes that the “depth of OUA is much better top to bottom” and that, given the personnel losses and the number of newcomers, Rams early success will depend upon “how quickly we can get the new faces to the level of last year’s group”. Most believe Rams will be a Top 3-5 team all season long and the match-up with Dal – which also should be in most pre-season Top 5 picks – in early October is arguably the best pre-season game on the entire CIS slate.