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.
MIKE HANSEN’S PRONGHORNS WILL SURELY RUN
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.