It is always great to walk into a gym and run into the affable Jacques Paiement Sr., the de facto founder of the Laval Rouge et Or program who built basically a start-up program from scratch in the late 90’s into one of the most feared teams in the CIS, winning 5 RSEQ Quebec league championships including 4 consecutive and earning the respect of coaches and observers across the country with his team’s competitiveness and discipline. Jacques remains a loyal CIS follower and was in Ottawa on the weekend with his wife supporting this season’s edition of the Rouge et Or at the House-Laughton tournament. I was fortunate enough to watch the entire Western/Laval game with him and Jacques remains sharp with his analysis and understand of the nuances of the game. While Rouge et Or have started rather slowly – especially with injuries to two projected rotation players in 6’1″ Vladimir Thomas and 6’5″ Daniel Mutanda, there is a tremendous set of athletes on the roster. Laval also lost sparkplug 6’2″ guard Nicolas Begin early in the Sunday game vs. Victoria. Paiement Sr. is most excited about the potential of 6’9″ Marc-Andre Fortin, who is only in his 4th year of organized basketball after a long hockey career – no doubt as a Zdeno Chara-esque defenseman. Fortin, who was good enough on the ice to be invited to a Quebec Major Jr. hockey league training camp, started playing pick-up ball and then quickly was added to Ste. Foy CEGEP roster, playing two seasons before obtaining an NCAA Division 1 scholarship to Sam Houston State last season, where he played sparingly. Fortin transferred home and for now is coming off the bench but his meteoric rise to a legitimate CIS player is impressive and Jacques Sr. was glowing about his potential as a game-changing rim protector, rebounder and dunker inside. Laval hosts a three-day three-team round robin event with UNB Varsity Reds and Queen’s Gaels this weekend at home in Quebec City at their fine facility which hopefully the nation will be exposed to one day as a National’s hosting candidate. We plan to ensure our readers are the beneficiaries of Jacques Sr.’s keen insights into the game as the season progresses.
This past Saturday at Queen’s homecoming, I got to spend the day with one of Canada’s coaching treasures in Mike Katz, with a resume filled with building basketball powers at all levels beginning with turning George Harvey Hawks into a provincial high school power in the 1970’s – back when sport was a sport – followed by turning Humber Hawks into a perennial CCAA title contender and culminating his career with a tremendous stint at U of T with the Varsity Blues. Internationally, Katz has had tremendous success as part of Canada’s coaching staffs – he was an Assistant on the 2000 Olympic team, still the last edition of our National team to participate in the Olympics. Since retiring some years ago, Katz has taken on roles with several CIS and CCAA programs – both men’s and women’s – providing guidance and consulting services on technical, personnel and other strategic issues, providing young coaches with a valuable resource that by all accounts is very well accepted.
It is wonderful to watch the reverence with which a coach like Katz is deservedly treated. After the Alberta/Queen’s game, former Brandon Bobcat All-Canadian Jude Kelly, who was in the crowd watching his son, 6’2″ freshman Andre Kelly, perform for the Golden Bears, brought Andre to meet Coach Katz and the respect by both Senior and Junior Kelly was very evident. For a basketball fan and fledgling un-retired coach (my daughter’s 12 year old team of beginners), spending this time with coaches of Canadian Hall-of-Fame ilk is cherished.
MacEwan Griffins have started the season well, winning their first 3 games before tripping up against the hot-shooting Saskatchewan Huskies on Sunday on the final day of the Heat Classic at UBC-Okanagan. Canada West all-star candidate Denzel James picked up where he left off from last season with a career-high (and possibly MacEwan CIS school record) 41 points in the Griffins overtime win vs. Thompson Rivers on the first night of the tournament on Friday. Griffins play a pair of games at home this weekend in Edmonton under Coach Eric Magdanz, the former McMaster Marauder player under Joe Raso, Thursday night hosting Nipissing Lakers at 9 PM ET and then Sunday afternoon against Western Mustangs at 3 PM ET. Lakers and Mustangs are in town participating in the Golden Bear Invitational at U of A, playing in that tournament Friday and Saturday nights against two of the best teams in Canada West: the host Golden Bears and UBC Thunderbirds in what is a mini-CW/OUA challenge.
We plan to have our usual pre-season full weekend preview in the next day or so.