This weekend’s strong performance by Ryerson, especially in what was a classic game this past Friday night at Carleton that wasn’t decided until the final possession or two, brings optimism to fans, most of which were expecting the Ravens to dominate through the Wilson Cup. Still, barring a huge quarter-final upset, the Final 4 will be held at the Raven’s Nest on the first weekend of March and brackets are lined up for an Ottawa/Ryerson semi-final rematch. Rams athleticism and shot-making were almost too much for Carleton to handle and, frankly, this weekend’s games helped change the minds of many observers regarding post-season accolades including my own, which I present as follows:
CANHoops.ca OUA FIRST TEAM ALL-STARS
Kaza Kajami-Keane, Carleton (Player-of-the-Year)… The numbers (14.3 ppg/4 rebounds and 5 assists per game) are strong however admittedly less-than-earth shattering but the fact is that in the biggest games, Keane had the ball in his hands down the stretch and made most of the big plays for the #1 team in the country, especially this past Friday night against Ryerson with the game on the line.
Ammanuel Diressa, Ryerson… With two dominant efforts on the road against the top two teams in the conference (26 at Carleton, 28 at Ottawa), Diressa showed he is one of the best players in the country and a likely Player-of-the-Year candidate next season. The big wing can break down all defenders off the dribble, pass and knock down 3’s. Most impressive was his defensive effort against a player some have touted for the Moser Award in Carleton’s great Connor Wood on Friday night.
Connor Wood, Carleton… The body of work is tremendous including 39 points at Laurentian, 30 at Windsor (both road games) and an average of 18.2 ppg for the season, among the league leaders. Virtually always a knock-down shooter from distance, Wood’s high-degree-of-difficulty, end-to-end take to the rim entirely with his left hand on Friday night against Ryerson at a key point in the game showed his underrated skills set. While defensively he has leveled off, Wood, the reigning CIS Final 8 MVP, is among the best players in the country.
Caleb Agada, Ottawa… Injuries plague the latter part of the season for the reigning CIS Defensive Player-of-the-year but when healthy he is a lock-down defender, wreaks havoc off the dribble and is an above the rim finisher and defender. Gee-Gees struggled in games when Agada was not available – most recently with a deep thigh bruise – and hope to have him back next Saturday when Ottawa will host an OUA sudden-death quarter-final game.
Adika Peter-McNeilly, Ryerson… Finished his fifth and final regular season with two impressive outings against Carleton and Ottawa and remains Ryerson’s veteran presence. The numbers are First Team all-star-esque: 19.2 points, 7.1 rebounds and 3.6 assists per game. One of the most explosive players in the conference.
CANHoops.ca SECOND TEAM OUA ALL-STARS
Dani Elgadi, Brock… Tough to keep him off the first team given how impactful the 6’7″ forward was to Badgers late-season run that has seen Brock reel off 10 wins in a row and counting. Elgadi is a much better passer and his instincts playing out of double downs continues to improve and he almost quietly finished second in the OUA in rebounding at 10.3 rpg.
Mike Rocca, Windsor… The spunky guard was incredible with some of his late-game heroics, none greater than his recent effort at home against McMaster late in the fourth quarter and in overtime. Rocca also had a 20 point, third-quarter effort at Western and, most importantly, leads Windsor in rebounding as a 5’10” point guard. Very worthy of an all-star accolade.
Connor Gilmore, McMaster… The 6’7″ wing forward continued to refine his game beyond a catch-and-shoot three point gunner, adding the ability to beat close-outs to get to the rim and continuing his fine board work at both ends. At 19.5 points and 9.0 rebounds per game, Gilmore is the main reason Mac is in #9 seed on a team without a lot of depth.
Devin Johnson, Toronto… One of the better pure scorers in the conference who helped lead the Varsity Blues to a #5 seed despite a tough pair of games this past weekend.
Justin Shaver, Nipissing… Although raw numbers (12.2 ppg/8.6 rpg/56% fg) are solid but not elite, Shaver, a transfer from Carleton with experience, may have been Lakers most important player – some observers have described him as a coach on the floor and the key to their winning season. Nipissing is a deep, talented, athletic team and Shaver should be credited with helping Lakers learn to win.
Kadre Gray, Laurentian… OUA scoring champion at 23.2 ppg and the author of several game-winning offensive displays down the stretch of games, Gray has helped propel Voyageurs into a home playoff game scenario. Explosive off the dribble, expect Gray to have a fine career in Sudbury.
Sukhpreet Singh, Queen’s… Fifth-year senior had another tremendous offensive season and goes out as Gaels all-time leading scorer and a worth All-Star.
Bacarius Dinkins, Lakehead… Another solid season at both ends for the under-sized post with solid numbers.
Tevaun Kokko, Laurier… Another in the great freshman class of 2016-17 who is quick off the dribble and has range beyond the three point line. Author of several huge offensive outbursts, Kokko is the key guard around which the Hawks hope to build their program.
Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Charles, Ottawa… A dominant force inside at both ends, Pierre-Charles had a consistent season and hopes to take the next step toward dominance in the biggest games against the higher-end opponents.
Kadre Gray, Laurentian… OUA Freshman-of-the-Year in my estimation but part of arguably the deepest, most impactful freshman class in numerous years.
Tevaun Kokko, Laurier… Future OUA First-team All-Star potential with his ability to stretch the floor, defend the ball and get to the rim.
Eddie Ekiyor, Carleton… Future OUA First-team All-Star potential as a high-end scorer, rim protector, rebounder and transition finisher.
Nedim Hodzic, Waterloo… Future OUA First-team All-Star potential with his unique ability to get his shot off in the paint area.
Daniel Cayer, Brock… Future OUA First-team All-Star potential with a tremendous all-round game that got better as the season went on, especially as a perimeter shooter.
Keevon Small, Ryerson…Future OUA First-team All-Star potential especially at the defensive end stopping wings and guards. Should eventually mature into a high-end scorer combining three-point range with ability to get his off the bounce.
Simon Petrov, Waterloo… Came on especially in the final 4-5 games, reading the ball screen much more precisely and making long, big shots at key times. A bright future.
Omar Shiddo, Western… Had some tremendous scoring runs in a few games down the stretch and is the scoring guard Mustangs require to build their program around.
Jaaden Lewis, Nipissing… Solid scorer and a large part of the future of the Lakers
Justin Hardy, Waterloo… Another in the fine set of young players that Warriors are building around.
DEFENSIVE PLAYER-OF-THE-YEAR… 6’3″ Caleb Agada, Ottawa: Admittedly he has missed time due to injury and, in the latter years of his career foul trouble but when he is right, Agada is the top defender in the OUA in my opinion in a conference with several leading candidates to claim his mantle after this season.