After hitting rock bottom last season amid a winless AUS campaign and an 0-27 slate against U-Sports competition overall, Cape Breton Capers second-year Head Coach Dave Petroziello has taken major steps, implementing a dramatic transformation with his first real recruiting class – Petroziello only took over the Capers program less than one calendar year ago in early July, 2016. The striking roster shakeup – CBU has already announced 8 new recruits – at least 7 of which could be top-end rotation players – has some observers guardedly optimistic that CBU can compete quickly in what will be a relatively young and somewhat-wide open AUS men’s basketball field in 2017-18.
The influx begins in the back court where Petroziello believes all four of his new incoming guards are potential starters, highlighted by 6’4″ Ozzy Omar, who originally started his high school career with Mississauga Loyola before spending a couple of seasons at Options for Youth Prep Academy where he averaged 18.3 points and 7.0 assists per game in 2013-14. Omar then signed with University of Virgin Islands, a college program from the Latin American League but did not play. The 22 year old big guard is expected to be given ample opportunity to run the point and has a scorer’s mentality and talent. True freshman 5’11” Levi Smith III (Auburn Drive H.S., North Preston, N.S.) should also press for time at the lead guard spot as a steady facilitator.
6’1″ Indiana Rotondo is another likely starter as a wing/guard, operating as a slasher and knock-down shooter. Originally from Saint Elizabeth H.S. in Vaughan, ON, Rotondo spent one season at Mars Hill, an NCAA D2 school in Asheville, NC where he started 11 games. Expect Rotondo and 6’2″ George Brown College transfer Kevon Mascoe to share time on the win with Mascoe (4th year of eligibility) bringing the experience of the competitive OCAA wars to the Capers.
Petroziello is probably most excited about his pair of wing forwards, beginning with 6’4″ U.S. import Martin Campbell, a native of Upper Marlboro, MD, who will enter his 4th season of eligibility after transferring from University of the District of Columbia, an NCAA D2 school where is averaged 23 minutes per game as junior in 2015-16. Campbell, who also played at Danville C.C., is expected to be a key decision maker both on the perimeter and in the post as the match-ups dictate. 6’6″ Paul Watson, a Prep teammate of fellow CBU newcomer Ozzy Omar, is another point-forward type who can stretch the floor from the four spot. Watson, a Toronto native, also spent time at University of Virgin Islands and will be in his second season of eligibility.
Size was an issue for Cape Breton last season and the arrival of 6’7″ lefty Aaron Barlow is designed to address the paint area for the Capers. The Midland, PA native is a true, back-to-the-basket, physical post presence who averaged 20.9 points and 12.9 rebounds per game while shooting 56% from the floor at Beaver County (PA.) Junior College as a sophomore last season. The stocky Barlow was one of the better post players in the junior college ranks last season and projects as an instant starter for the Capers. 6’10” Keane Merke (Saskatoon, Sask) will provide depth as he evolves his game from Athol Murray College of Notre Dame, where he played in the Canadian Prep league.
Petroziello has plans for bringing in 2 or 3 more newcomers to add to returning faces which include 6’3″ Aaron Hayles (4th), 6’7″ Kyle Hankins (5th) and 6’6″ Shacier Locke (4th).
“We feel that we have really upped the talent level with this class”, noted Petroziello. “With this our first true recruiting class, the program has taken a giant leap forward both in terms of talent and culture and we expect major improvements”.