Hansen’s Pronghorns build on 2016-17 success

Coming off a second consecutive strong season, Mike Hansen’s Lethbridge Pronghorns (20-11 overall in ’16-’17) have retooled and our veteran Southern Alberta correspondent provides us with a comprehensive look at one of the more under-rated programs of the past few years that continues to push toward the top of Canada West.


This herd won’t be very impressive in hotel lobbies. They’re certainly hoping to turn some heads on the court however.

There are literally no primarily back-to-the-basket offensive players on the active Lethbridge men’s basketball roster. Regardless, there is guarded optimism surrounding a program that finished the 2016-17 Canada West regular season at 13-7, then bested UVic 2-0, before falling 2-1 to Alberta in the playoffs.

Six 2016-17 rotation performers and a heralded 18-year-old who red-shirted last year are in camp. They’re joined by three newcomers who look like certain rotation contributors. In fact, any, or all, could well start.

The four rotation players who have left the program include 6’4″ wing Elliott Sentance, 6’7″ post DeAngelo Ashley, 6’4″ wing Scott Mazutinec (off on a Mormon church mission) and 6′ guard Will Hickey, who completed his 5th year of eligibility.

Sentance, who has played for England and Great Britain in age-group competition, averaged 17.5 ppg for U of L last regular season and playoffs combined. He played 34 mpg in the five playoff tilts.

6’6″ Mark Rodehutskors is slated to contribute in more than just practice this time around. One day he might be able to play some with his back to the hoop, but for now he’s definitely a wing, or trail post.

Actually, the ‘Horns will have a definite back-to-the-basket offensive performer and defensive paint presence in practice this season. However, 6’8″, 235-pound Jeff Rodehutskors (yes, a brother) has to sit out game action this campaign after transferring from Calgary where he was a freshman last year. Odds are he won’t be sitting much the following four seasons.

As for the three heralded newcomers who are game eligible, all deserve significant billing. All were legit big name Alberta high school hoops performers. All started for provincial teams. All were much sought after by multiple U Sports programs.

6’2″ combo guard Kyle Peterson started 53 of 56 games for UVic in the 2012-13 and 2013-14 seasons. Vikes went to nationals in both campaigns, Peterson then moved to Lethbridge and redshirted a season before serving two years on a Mormon mission.

6’7″ shooter Saren Westrop played one season at NCAA Division One Iona Gaels out of high school and then averaged over 10 ppg at NJCAA DI power Harcum College in suburban Philly last campaign, before returning to his hometown.

Like Peterson, 6’5 wing Awak Piom played high school ball at Edmonton Harry Ainlay, where his Titans won the 2013-14 and 2014-15 Alberta 4A (highest category) provincial titles. With apologies to Harbir Bains, Richard Foggo and Jamie McLellan, Piom is very arguably the biggest name high school player ever to join the ‘Horns from outside the area without having used post-secondary eligibility. However, like Peterson, Piom has not played competitively for some time.

Returning rotation performers on the 1st Choice Savings Centre court as school begins include 6’0″ Canada West second-team all-star Dejon Burdeaux. In regular season and playoffs combined he averaged 17.7 ppg last year, shooting .544 from the floor and .906 at the charity stripe, while dropping 4.3 dimes per tilt. He retrieved 5.7 caroms per game too. What’s more, Burdeaux’s greatest contribution is almost certainly on defense where he swiped 3.3 balls a game – and caused continual disruption. Often teams went out of their way not to have the man Burdeaux was guarding bring the ball up the court.

Other returning rotation types slated to contribute include 6’8″ wing/high post Zac Overwater, 6’4″ trail post Mike Pierzchala, 6’3″ wing Colton Gibb, 6′ point guard Brett Warren and 6′ guard Josh Sparkes.

It seems extremely likely that most prognosticators will have Alberta and UBC in some order as the top-two Canada West teams heading into 2017-18. Both play doubleheaders in Lethbridge during the last six games of the ‘Horns regular season, along with a home-and-home series with rival Calgary. Sounds like fun.    





Siena rallies late to edge McGill

Siena 79, McGill 71… Overcoming an early 10 point lead and then a 7 point deficit early in the fourth, the Saints outscored McGill 20-6 in the final 6 minutes to take what was a spirited, well-played game at Love Competition Hall.  After 6’2″ freshman Jamal Mayali knocked down a three against the Siena zone to give McGill a 65-59 lead, Redmen struggled to score and Saints got the ball inside to 6’9″ Canadian freshman Prince Oduro (18 points, 12 rebounds) and 6’7″ Evan Fisher (17 points, 5 rebounds) plus at least 3 key put-backs during the run as McGill struggled on the glass when it counted.  Redmen shot just 3-10 from three after halftime.

Siena used 10 first-half points from Fisher to grab a 4 point halftime lead, coming all the way back from an early double digit deficit led by Redmen 6-14 shooting from 3.  Saints extended to a 44-37 lead early in the third when McGill grabbed control with a 25-11 run to grab a 62-55 lead with 8 1/2 minutes left in the fourth.  The run was led by the long, athletic play of 6’5″ Avery Cadougen, who got to the rim several times for 7 of his 9 points, 6’9″ Noah Daoust (14 points), who dropped a three and a pair of lay-ins, 6’7″ Francois Bourque (14 points, 11 rebounds – 7 on “o” glass) and 6’2″ Jenning Leung who made a big three over the outstretched arms of Oduro after Siena switched a hand-off.  Siena then played a couple of possessions of 3-2 zone culminating in the Mayali three but McGill struggled off the bounce down the stretch and simply did not get the big rebound when needed.

Coach Dave DeAveiro shorten his bench in the second half, playing just 8 guys and giving ample time in the third quarter to 6’2″ sophomore Greg Trahan who was generally solid and McGill’s newest freshman impact player Mayali who has a multi-faceted offensive game as scorer, shooter and passer plus very good instincts defensively although it was Mayali’s man who twice had big put-backs down the stretch.  Prized 6’1″ recruit Alex Paquin did not play after halftime finishing with just 3 points in 10 minutes.

McGill now gets set to face Hofstra on Saturday at 3 PM ET as their busy summer comes to completion.


Is China next stop for Andrew Nicholson?

After being waived and his contract stretched by the NBA’s Portland Trail Blazers, 6’10” Andrew Nicholson, a loyal veteran of our National team program who just helped our Sr. team to 1-2 record at the FIBA Americup 2017 in Argentina, is likely on his way to what sources are saying will be a lucrative contract in China.

Numerous former NBA players have moved to China to play in the Chinese Basketball Association, which begins season #23 and has 20 teams organized into two 10-team divisions.  Players such as Stephon Marbury, Tracy McGrady, Gilbert Arenas, Andray Blatche, Jelani McCoy, Lamond Murray, Aaron Brooks, J.R. Smith and Michael Beasley have spent time in the CBA.

No word on how a potential move to the Far East will affect Nicholson’s availability for Canada’s first World Cup 2019 qualifying game against the Bahamas in Halifax in November.  Nicholson averaged 11 points and 10 rebounds per game at this week’s tournament in South America and would be welcomed addition to Canada’s campaign for World Cup qualifying.

Virtually new roster has Capers guardedly optimistic

Coming off a win-less season after being hired just 2 months prior to the start of 2016-17, Cape Breton David Petroziello clearly endured numerous challenges in his rookie season as Head Coach in Sydney including some in-season roster churn and now with the loss of 6’5″ AUS all-star Kenny Jean-Louis who transferred to uOttawa to do graduate work for his fifth and final season of eligibility.

But Petroziello has been undeterred, bringing in essentially a brand new roster with just two players from the prior coaching regime – 6’7″ Kyle Hankins and 6’5″ Christian Affolter – on this season’s roster.  In addition, only 6’1″ Aaron Hayles and 6’5″ Shacier Locke are back from Petroziello’s abbreviated attempts at filling out a roster for last season.

Thus, there are 12 new players on Cape Breton’s 16 man extended 2017-18 roster, illustrating that Petroziello has in short order emphatically put his stamp on the Capers program with no turning back:  “I am very pleased with the recruiting class… this (new) group is right where we want them.  Very coachable.  Hungry.  Positive minded.  They are dialed in to what we want to do and how we want to do it”.

In addition to previously-announced-likely-impact recruits 6’6″ Paul Watson (Toronto/University of Virgin Islands), 6’4″ Ozzy Omar (Mississauga), 6’2″ Kevon Mascoe (Scarborough/transfer from George Brown), 6’4″ Martin Campbell (Upper Marlboro, MD/transfer District of Columbia NCAA Division II), 6’0″ Levi Smith (Halifax) and 6’1″ Indiana Rotondo (Vaughan, transfer Mars Hill NCAA Division II), Capers have recently secured at least five more players for their roster including:

  • 6’10” Grant Dickinson (Alexandria, VA) entering his third season of eligibility after ’13-’14 at Concord (W.Va.) University (NCAA Division II) and ’15-’16 at Mount Olive (N.C.) another NCAA Division II program
  • 5’9″ Nigel Kuma-Mintah (Vancouver, BC) who spent last season at Tony House’s Canada Top Flight Academy in Ottawa
  • 6’0″ Arshum Mehrvar (Thornhill Thornlea)
  • 6’8″ Pape Diop (Nova Scotia) ’15-’16 Memorial H.S. then Halifax Citadel
  • 6’5″ Benoit Lamontagne (Cegep de Jonquiere)

Capers are anxious to get started at the earliest they can which is the 1st September date as mandated by the AUS.

Cape Breton will participate in at least two pre-season tournaments at the Eric Garland Invitational at UNB on the final weekend of September and then the Mickey Place UPEI tournament two weeks later.




Rana claims first Sr. Men’s international win, Canada eliminates Venezuela

While it clearly did not exorcise the demons from two summers ago (consensus being the loss to Venezuela for an Olympic berth in 2015 was the worst moment in the history of Canadian basketball), Canada did gain some measure of revenge tonight in Argentina with a 75-66 victory over the Venezuelans, eliminating both teams from further action at the 2017 FIBA Americup tournament.  In reality, there were at least two stretches where a couple of made wide open threes by Canada could have made it a double digit lead with the momentum, but Canada shot just 7 for 23 from downtown and simply did not have the energy they displayed last night in the OT loss to the host Argentines.

6’4″ Xavier Rathan-Mayes was aggressive attacking the rim all night, finishing with 22 points on 8-17 shooting but made just 1-4 threes.   6’10” Andrew Nicholson added 12 points and 4 rebounds, missing a couple of easy lay-ups inside at reasonably key junctures while 6’5″ Olivier Hanlan had three wide open looks at threes, making just one as part of his 11 point effort.

Canada did show some resiliency even after it was apparent that the difficult 24 point spread that was needed to have a shot at the semi-finals was not going to be achieved, starting the fourth quarter on a 5-0 run that included a Rathan-Mayes “and 1″ and the Canadians never trailed thereafter.  6’7″ Dyshawn Pierre was steady inside for Canada with 9 points and 11 rebounds including a pair of clutch free throws late that extended the lead.  Canada clinched the game out of a time-out with about 25 seconds remaining, running a play for 6’2” Brady Heslip which resulted in a made three just to the right of the bowl and the game was done at that point.  Heslip finished with 7 points on just 1-5 shooting from downtown.

The game marked the first career win as Senior Men’s coach for Roy Rana who will lead Canada into the World Cup qualifying draw beginning in November in Halifax.

Canada still alive (barely) at FIBA Americup 2017

Despite last night’s disappointing loss to Argentina in what should be considered one of the more exciting international games Canada has recently played in, Coach Roy Rana‘s squad remains in contention for a spot in the tournament semi-finals.

Recall that Argentina, as host of the tournament, has an automatic spot in said semis.  By virtue of Venezuela’s two point win last night over U.S. Virgin Islands, Canada remains alive but needs to defeat the Venny squad by at least 25 points to win the 3 team tiebreaker (assuming that tiebreaker is point spread among the three tied teams).

Recall Canada lost by 13 to U.S. Virgin Islands which then lost to Venezuela by 2.  U.S. VI thus is +11 in the tiebreaker and Canada -13.  Canada must make up 25 points or more to win the tiebreaker, which would put Canada at +12, U.S. VI at +11 and Venny at -23.  Difficult but not impossible.  The game goes tonight at 6:30 PM ET in Argentina.

U-Sport teams go 3-0 on Monday night vs. NCAA opponents

U-Sports men’s basketball teams continued their successful summer in games against NCAA teams with three more victories on Monday night, beginning with Carleton’s 73-66 victory over Siena Saints at Champlain-St. Lambert in Montreal.  Ravens took an 18 point lead but then stumbled, trailing entering the fourth quarter but pulled away as 7’0″ Cam Smythe continued his recent fine offensive play with 3 more threes, finishing with 19 points and 6 rebounds while fellow front-liner 6’10” Eddie Ekiyor added 17 points and 8 rebounds.  5’11” Eman Owootoah also had 17 with 4 assists.  Ravens took advantage of 22 Siena turnovers in a somewhat sloppy game.  Carleton finishes 9-2 this summer against NCAA Division 1 competition with a scrimmage scheduled for this Wednesday against Hofstra to close out the summer NCAA schedule…  McGill Redmen shot a blistering 14 for 21 from three and out rebounded St. Francis Brooklyn 38-20 in a dominant 80-67 victory over the Terriers in Montreal.  6’1″ senior Jenning Leung was 4-5 from downtown for 13 points in a balance McGill attack.  Redmen twice had leads as large as 18 points in the game but could not put the pesky Terriers away.  6’5″ Avery Cadougen added 11 points on 3-3 shooting while 6’8″ Sebastien Beckett, who appears poised to become a full time starter this season, had a solid 9-point, 7-rebound effort.  Redmen continue to get production from a pair of true freshmen in 6’3″ Jamal Mayali, who had 10 points, 3 rebounds and 4 assists and 6’3″ Sam Jenkins who made both of his three point attempts and finished with 8 points.  McGill appears deeper and with 6’1″ Alex Paquin manning the point and the other newcomers overlaid onto last season’s U-Sports championship semi-final group, Redmen are optimistic.  Redmen are 4-4 this summer with two games remaining:  Wednesday night at 7 PM against Siena and Saturday afternoon at 3 PM ET against Hofstra.. In Ottawa, the Gee-Gees overcame a tough start to defeat NCAA Division III Ramapo College from New Jersey 80-60.  Ottawa was down 10 early but locked down defensively and got 18 points from emerging 5’11” third-year point Calvin Epistola and 17 from 6’4″ Brandon Robinson for the victory.  Ottawa finishes 3-1 in their summer games.

Canada settles for 10th Place at FISU Games in Taipei

By virtue of a tight 98-95 loss to Australia earlier today, Canada’s FISU men settled for 10th place in the 2017 FISU Summer Universiade tournament in Taiwai.  Recall Canada finished 3-2 in Group B action with losses to Finland and Germany, putting coach Kevin Hanson‘s team in the 9th-16th place bracket.

In the subsequent three games following Group B preliminary play, Canada defeated Chinese Taipei 98-61 (6’2″ Kaza Kajami-Keane led the way with 25 points and 6 assists while 6’4″ Connor Wood had 15 on 5-9 3’s with 9 assists) followed by a 97-79 victory over Czech Republic with Kajami-Keane again leading the way with 25 points, 4 rebounds and 7 assists while Wood added 19 on 5-9 3’s once again, setting up this morning’s 9th place game.

Canada got strong production on the final two days of the tournament from St. FX star 6’7″ Kevin Bercy who today ended the game with 21 points and 13 boards after a stat-line of 18 points and 8 rebounds on 7-10 shooting against the Czechs.  Kajami-Keane led the way today against Australia with 25 points, 6 rebounds and 9 assists while Wood added 20 on 6-10 threes.  Canada shot 13-26 from downtown overall but allowed the Aussies to shoot 53% from the floor.

Canada played the entire final three games without injured 6’9″ Conor Morgan who was out with an ankle injury.  Overall Canada’s men finish 5-3 in the FISU Games 2017.

Canada drops winnable game in OT to host Argentina

Argentina 92, Canada 86… For a group of players just assembled one week ago with little preparation time playing in a hostile environment, the 2017 version of Canada’s Sr. Men’s team put forth a valiant effort and were in a tremendous position to pull off what would have been a notable upset against an Argentine team with most of their feature players in action.  But an inability to deal with late game full court pressure (we probably did not have enough time to put in and practice a press break with this new group), some breakdowns defensively, numerous wide open looks allowed in transition and some questionable late-game calls led to the squandering of a 10 point lead in the final 4 minutes to drop Canada to 0-2 at the 2017 FIBA Americup.

Canada stuck together through an awful start that saw Argentina make numerous open looks – Canada’s transition “d” was porous all night – as Coach Roy Rana eventually shorten the bench and our most experienced and best roster players produced like they should beginning with 6’2″ Brady Heslip, much maligned after he struggled against U.S. Virgin Islands.  Heslip (team-high 24 points in 34 minutes) has clearly added counters to what once was purely a one-dimensional offensive package (virtually unlimited shooting range) and his newest skills were on display tonight as he made several tough tear-drops and lay-ups in traffic and off the dribble off curls.  He also made what might have been the game winning shot, a long three from the top of the bowl with just 50 seconds remaining to give Canada a 3 point lead.  Unfortunately, with Canada up 1 and just seconds remaining, Heslip missed 1 of 2 free throws, allowing Argy to tie it on a lay-up with 3 seconds left to get to OT.

In the OT, Heslip knocked down another three in transition to give Canada an early 5 point lead but soon after 6’4″ Olivier Hanlan, who was another solid producer with 16 points on 3-5 threes in 25 minutes and several aggressive, confident takes to the rim, was whistled for his fifth foul on a questionable push-off call in a game that became almost impossible to ref with the flopping, grabbing and physical play on the ball.  Argy guard Fabio Campazzo took over in the extra frame with 23 points including a fall-away three with just 3 seconds left in the OT to give Argy what turned out to be an insurmountable advantage.

The game was played at a qualification-like intensity before a packed house of locals in a small, tight gym that was humid and caused several delays to keep the floor dry.  In other words, a very hostile environment through which Canada muscled their way through despite special situations that didn’t go our way that simply could not be worked on in detail with just a handful of practices.  Given the circumstances, we have much to be proud of with Coach Rana, staff and players.

6’11” Andrew Nicholson was spectacular on the glass with 18 rebounds and scored 12 points in 38 minutes, helping to rescue Canada from an early 13 point deficit when the natives were sensing a blow-out.  Nicholson shot just 5-14 from the field with some tough luck around the rim including getting two obvious chops to the arm on a lay-up attempt to tie it in the final minute of OT.  Nicholson continues to show he is a big-time scorer and rebounder at this level for Canada; expect him to be a better finisher tomorrow.

Hanlan has improved his body and was very good off the dribble attacking the lane tonight as well as making key 3’s from the baseline.  6’4″ Xavier Rathan-Mayes (17 points, 5 assists in 29 minutes) has shown he has a bright future with the Sr. team – likely in a supporting role when (notice “when” not “if”) our NBA guys play.  He was good off-the-bounce getting himself to comfortable places on the floor and made Argentina pay off the dribble when they switched the ball screen.  6’6″ Dyshawn Pierre did many of the little things including 9 boards (3 offensive) in 34 minutes but remains a work-in-progress as an offensive threat.

Canada shot just 7-23 from 3 but Heslip and Hanlan combined to go 6 for 11 and we out rebounded the home side 48-40 with 9 “o” boards most of which were very helpful when coming back from 14 point second quarter deficit.

Argentina came out on fire but as predicted in a timeout by Coach Rana, fatigue set in and, despite numerous open looks against a transition “d” that needs mucho work, Argentina began missing shots (12-38 3’s but only 5 makes in the final 32 minutes after 7 3’s in the first 13 minutes) and Nicholson went to work with a big 3 and some inside scores to give Canada the lead late in the second.

6’9″ Gabby Deck, a 22 year old future star, showed he has high European or even NBA potential down the road with an array of takes to the rim, aggressive work on the glass and a strong perimeter game; he had 20 points and 9 boards while 6’6″ Patricio Garino, a graduate of NCAA D1 George Washington U in 2016 who played his high school basketball at Montverde Academy (same school as touted Canadian youngsters R.J. Barrett and Andrew Nemhardt) had 20 points and is another international player to keep an eye on.

Argentina moves to 2-0 in Group B play and Canada needs Venezuela to defeat U.S. Virgin Islands in the second game to have any hope of advancing to the semi-final round.  Venezuela (0-1) lost to the host Argys 67-62 on Monday.

Hodge too much as U.S. Virgin Islands defeats Canada

U.S. Virgin Islands 83, Canada 71… 6’0″ lefty Walter Hodge had 11 of his game-high 25 points in the decisive third-quarter as Sam Mitchell‘s U.S. Virgin Islands team continued their impressive summer with a comfortable win over Canada as Group B play at the FIBA Americup 2017 in Argentina commenced.  Hodge, the 30-year old guard born in Puerto Rico but playing for the U.S. Virgin Islands because his grandparents were both born there, went 3-6 from downtown including a pair in the third, part of a tidy 11-26 effort from Coach Mitchell’s troops.

Canada trailed by 5 at the half but scored the first six points of the third to briefly take a one point lead on a pair of free throws by 6’4″ Olivier Hanlan (10 points on 3-9 shooting) and later got it back to 2 at 46-44 midway through the frame on a long 3 from the right wing by 6’2″ Brady Heslip – notably his only three of the night.  But U.S. VI finished the third quarter on a 14-3 run to lead by 13 and the game was never in doubt from there.

Heslip finished just 1-7 from beyond the arc and 2-11 from the floor while 6’10” Andrew Nicholson had 9 points and 8 rebounds but shot just 4-13 and 1-6 from three as the somewhat-lethargic Canadians shot just 7 for 32 (22%) from three.  6’4″ Xavier Rathan-Mayes had just 5 points but added 10 rebounds and 6 assists as he made his first Sr. Men’s team appearance of his career.

Ryerson star wing 6’4″ Ammanuel Diressa was solid with 8 points in 17 minutes including knocking down two 3’s.

Jet lag and a concentrated training camp may have played a role in Canada not having their legs.  Canada faces Argentina tomorrow and Venezuela on Tuesday with an outside shot of a place in the semi-finals still possible.