It has been at least a decade since a Saskatchewan Huskies team did not have an impact U.S. import in the rotation – over the past couple of seasons, the program featured local products augmented by some GTA talent and this season, it appears, the roster will be made up entirely of Canadians with an emphasis on local kids – while the imports usually got more press, in reality Saskatchewan natives have been instrumental in keeping the Huskies as a perennial Top 10 team throughout the 2000’s and the program would not have achieved their success without homegrown talent.
If this past weekend is any indication, Saskatchewan could be back on the path toward their usual Top 10 ranking that last season went awry after injuries – for the first time in recent memory, Huskies missed the playoffs. But an impressive three-game stretch in B.C. during which Saskatchewan’s prized sophomore 6’2″ Chan DeCiman appears to have emerged, Huskies prepare for their annual Graham Shootout Classic this coming weekend with the confidence that they can contend in Canada West.
This past weekend at the Heat Classic, Saskatchewan defeated the host UBC-Okanagan, Thompson Rivers in OT and, shooting a scorching 14-28 from three, hammered MacEwan by 18 after building leads as large as 30 during the game. Impressive as the wins were, the Huskies did it without starting 5’10” point guard Alex Unruh, who missed the entire weekend with a case of food poisoning. DeCiman filled in admirably, culminating in a 27 point effort against MacEwan, following up a 25 point game vs. TRU. With the departure of import guard Jalen White – Rawlyk explained that “our program respects certain values and has expectations” that the import guard likely did not meet – Huskies were very thin, playing only 6 or 7 guys for meaningful minutes and still not skipping a beat – by the way, good on Rawlyk to hold to his program’s principles and not compromise the culture.
Rawlyk is very happy with Brampton, ON native 6’5″ Jaylen Morgan, who had 13 points, 6 rebounds and 6 assists in the OT win over Thompson Rivers before sustaining a charlie horse early in the game against MacEwan. 6’6″ Shane Osayande, another Toronto-area native, was also solid all weekend with a 12-point, 12-rebound double double against Thompson Rivers and 18/8 vs. MacEwan. But the most intriguing element of Saskatchewan’s fortunes going forward is the return toward top form of Canada West All-Star candidate 6’6″ Matt Forbes, who missed virtually all of last season with a break of a rare, tough-to-heal bone in his foot that typically heals very slow. While Forbes returned to action faster than expected, he is not close to 100% yet but still contributed 14 and 7 vs. MacEwan and a 11-point, 10-rebound double double against TRU. Forbes presence inside and in the locker room as a veteran leader makes the Huskies that much more formidable.
This weekend’s Graham Classic features Algoma Thunderbirds (OUA), traditional ACAC power Red Deer College and consensus #2 team in the entire CIS in Calgary Dinos. Huskies will get their first look at the reigning CW champs this Saturday at 3 PM. While several programs have gone the way of adding multiple Americans/imports to their rosters, Huskies, who were among the trailblazing programs to do so, may have come back full circle and will try to show the league and the country that winning with an all-Canadian lineup is possible.