It was a historic 2016-17 season for coach Kirby Schepp and the Manitoba Bisons as the program won a spot at the U-Sports Final 8, culminating a wonderful run for a talented senior class that included 5’11” A.J. Basi, 6’4″ Keith Omoerah, 5’11” Illarion Bonhomme and 6’7″ Brett Jewell. All four of these rotation regulars must be replaced however.
Aware that graduation would create meaningful roster churn, Schepp has been preparing for at least the past two seasons, successfully bringing in the past two reigning Manitoba high school players of the year: 6’7″ James Wagner in 2016 and 6’6″ Wyatt Tait who was bestowed the honor this past season after leading Winnipeg Oak Park to the Manitoba provincial title. With 6’2″ Justus Alleyn, last season’s leading scorer returning as a top flight defender and combo guard, leading the way, Schepp has addressed his back-court by bringing in a high-end point guard in 6’1″ D2 transfer Rashawn Browne, to allow Alleyn to slide over to the two.
Browne, a Toronto native who graduated from Bill Crothers Prep in 2014, spent his first two seasons at New Mexico State (NCAA Division 1) including a redshirt year in 2014-15. Browne transferred to California University of Pennsylvania a Division 2 school for last season and averaged 6.0 points per game; expect Browne to log major minutes running the newer-look Bisons.
Tait, a 6’6″ freshman who led Winnipeg Oak Park to the Manitoba Provincial championship last season projects as a 4 man, hopefully allowing Wagner, who had a solid freshman season, to move to the three. Schepp has recruited Wagner’s high school teammate, 6’1″ Riki Zimbakov (Winnipeg John Taylor), generally regarded as the second best high school player in Manitoba this past season.
Others who should be rotation regulars include 6’4″ Malik Irwin and 6’7″ Joey Nitychoruk while Bisons are expecting 6’6″ Raj Sidhu and 6’5″ Dharmjit Dhillon to earn time after playing primarily mop-up minutes as freshmen. 6’8″ Osahon Eghosa, a native of Toronto, may also develop as a long-armed big man who missed all of last season after a very debilitating bout of food poisoning after eating at a fast food chain.
Bisons may not be done in who they add for this season but regardless are well on their way to retooling their Canada West contending program.