The 2014-15 RSEQ championship season was one of the finest in the history of the Bishop’s Gaiters program and thus far the pinnacle of Coach Rod Gilpin’s career – recall that Gaiters thrilled an overflow crowd in their new gym with a championship game victory over McGill and then had #1 ranked uOttawa Gee-Gees basically defeated in the first round of the Nationals in Toronto – again before a partisan Bishop’s crowd – before succumbing in overtime. Unfortunately, that team was laden with fifth-year seniors and Gilpin was forced to complete a virtual full overhaul of his roster for last season, resulting in a last place finish in the RSEQ.
One of the heroes of the RSEQ championship team who emerged late that season was 6’0″ guard Jona Bermillo, who instantly went from young role player (albeit extremely important) to the wily veteran of the group – recall Bishop’s brought in no less than 8 freshman for last season. While Gaiters generally struggled last season, both 6’5″ Abdul Kamane (RSEQ Rookie-of-the-Year) and 6’6″ Nick Harvey achieved RSEQ freshman honors and look poised to be the foundation of Bishop’s next run toward an RSEQ title. The team remains extremely young and with Bermillo’s status on returning for a fifth and final season uncertain through much of the summer, Gaiters were hoping for positive news.
Fortunately, Bermillo has decided to return this season but the roster will remain extremely young – only Bermillo and 6’5″ David Belanger are projected rotation players with more than one season of CIS experience. However, last season’s recruiting class continues to grow together and with the addition of two more CEGEP recruits, Bishop’s becomes even that much deeper.
Gilpin is most excited about 6’1″ Joany Castor Thadal , the CEGEP Defensive Player-of-the-Year last season with Champlain Saint-Lambert Cavaliers, expecting a possible starting role for the solid on-the-ball defender, shoring up what was an area of concern last season. The addition of Castor Thadal will ease the blow of the departure of Gaiters main knock-down shooting threat 6’3″ Peter Weston, who quit the team last week. Another upgrade in the back court comes from local Champlain-Lennoxville Alexandre Boissé, MVP of his team last season. Boissé is a likely back-up at the point guard spot.
Bishop’s also brings in a pair of imports, although both are battling injuries at present. 6’3″ Bruce Adjei comes from the U.K. and projects as a multi-purpose wing while 6’3″ Kevin Davis, a native of Baltimore, MD, is a transfer from B.C.’s Columbia Bible College who enters his fourth year of eligibility however is presently nursing a knee injury and isn’t expected to contribute until mid-season.
While the Gaiters appear to have depth and talent at the guard and wing spots, observers are becoming more excited about the front court with 7’0″ sophomore Jonah Fogg, who Gilpin feels has made “major improvements” since last season, teaming with and competing in practice against veteran 6’5″ David Belanger now entering his fourth season after an injury-riddled 2015-16. A pair of 6’7″ second-year players: Yassin Naji and Owen Martell also provide depth to a team that could easily have a 10 or 11 man rotation by the home stretch of this season.
Bishop’s kicks off their 2016-17 season next weekend in Fredericton at the annual Eric Garland tournament at UNB where Saint Mary’s, NAIA power Maine-Fort Kent and the host V-Reds will provide the opposition. After a Thanksgiving Monday home match against a Division III opponent, the Gaiters travel out west for three games: at Mount Royal Cougars in Calgary followed by a trek south for a pair of back-to-back games at Lethbridge. The pre-season ends with a trip to the Jack Donohue Memorial tournament at uOttawa with U of T Varsity Blues, Waterloo and host uOttawa as their opponents.
While Gilpin somewhat downplays his team’s RSEQ championship chances in what is arguably the most improved conference in the country, the Gaiters are rapidly developing a foundation for future success as last season’s deep and talented recruiting class matures and is augmented with more talent.