2016-17 Canada West Basketball Previews –
Winnipeg Wesmen and MacEwan Griffins
The two Prairie schools we preview today have a similar status in their respective communities. The University of Winnipeg and MacEwan University are the younger, smaller ‘cousins’ to the big guy across town. U. Manitoba boasts 25,000+ undergraduate students vs about 10,000 for UW, and the U. Alberta casts even a bigger shadow in Edmonton, with 28,000 to MacEwan’s 11,000. Despite their ‘2nd fiddle profile’, their basketball teams want in to the Canada West playoffs again this coming season.
The Wesmen are ‘chasing the recent success’ of the neighbouring Bisons, and, similarly, the Griffins are ‘newbies’ who don’t have the same CIS tradition as the Alberta Golden Bears up on the South side. When the Griffs host the W’s in late January in Edmonton, both teams hope they are in the midst of a playoff chase.
’15-’16 Lost 1st Round playoff to Regina 10 wins 10 losses
Returnees – 5th year – 6-3, Jamar Farley … 4th years – 6-10 Ryan Oirbans, 6-6 Nate Johnson … 3rd years – 6-4 Denzel Lynch-Blair, 6-4, Marcello Kambola, 5-8 Denzel Soliven, 6-6 Kahlil Lakay … 2nd year – 6-3, Will Sesay … 1st year (redshirt) 6-7 Franki Tocci
New faces – Billy Yaworsky, 2nd, 6-7 fwd, Winnipeg (Tsf, Lakehead), Narcisse Ambanza, 1st year, 6-2 guard, Toronto (E. Commerce), Josh Gandier, 1st, 6-3 guard, Winnipeg, Louis Makot, 1st, 6-4 guard, Winnipeg, Sean Tarver, 3rd, 6-4 wing, Baltimore, MD, Roan Van Erd, 3rd, 6-5 guard, Winnipeg, Noah Simpson, 1st, 6-7 fwd, Winnipeg.
With a mostly inexperienced squad last season, Coach Mike Raimbault’s Ws squeezed into the last play-off spot, and lost a 3 game set in round 1 at Regina. “We probably went as far as we should have”, says the 7th year Winnipeg coach.
This season’s team is still fairly young, but have some experience back at key spots. Raimbault suggests, “We should shoot it better, and we’ll have more effective back-court leadership as the guys are 2nd and 3rd year with some more game experience.”
Denzel Lynch-Blair (17.5 ppg, 4 assts) was a Canada West all-star, and Will Sesay (10 ppg, 7 rebs) got the nod on the all-rookie team, while Jamar Farley (10.3 ppg) and Marcello Kambola (8 ppg) promise to be positive contributors again.
With the exception of the big post, Ryan Oirbans (8.6 ppg, 8 rebs), and newcomer Billy Yaworsky, who can hit from 3 point range, this UW team is on the small side. They make up for that with exceptional team quickness, and a pressing, full-court defensive plan which saw them chart 10.2 steals/game, 2nd in CW.
The big challenges will be to improve on their 16th best rebounding margin, and 14th best field goal percentage, the combination of is usually death for the won-lost record! Coach Raimbault tells us, “We’re looking for more inside scoring with Ryan (Oirbans) putting in some good work in the summer, and we think the rest of the guys will step-up their offensive games.”
Schedule – Nov/Dec – vs UNBC, at Saskatchewan, vs Lethbridge, h/h vs Brandon, h/h vs Manitoba … Jan/Feb – vs Trinity Western, at Thompson Rivers, at MacEwan, vs Regina, at Victoria. Prediction – Contending for a play-off spot
’15-’16 – Lost to Alberta in playoff round 1 10 wins 10 losses
Returnees – 5th years – 6-3 Denzel James, 6-7 Keith Gerdes, 5-10 Thomas Jereniuk, 6-8 Cole Aikens … 4th years – 6-2 Thadius Galvez, 6-6 Ryan Coleman … 3rd years – 6-6 Harrison Lane, 6-3 Tarik Scott , 6-0 Deonte Dosov-Doctor … 2nd yr. – 6-6 Atlas St. Paul -Butler … Redshirt 1st years – 6-2 Malik Mate, 6-6 Michael Burnham
New faces – 5th year, 6-6 fwd, Tyler Wise, St. Albert (tsf Red Deer Coll.), 2nd yr, 5-9 guard, Adonis Monfort-Palomino, Calgary (tsf U. Calgary), 2nd yr. 6-5 wing, Ali Raza, Calgary (tsf St. Mary’s U. Coll) … 1st years – 6-3 wing, Jake Notice, Bath, England (Bristol Flyers), 6-4 wing, Thomas Laxdal, St. Albert (Paul Kane), 6-0 guard, Tre Ross, Sherwood Park (Strathcona Christian)
The Griffins made the playoffs in their 2nd year of Canada West play, and Coach Eric Magdanz returns 7 of his top 9 rotation players this time around. Two key losses were Ryan May, a steady forward, and Chris Mooney, a skilled wing man. But the scoring and rebounding of vets Denzel James (14 ppg/5.2 rebs) and Thadius Galvez (13.5 ppg/4 rebs) are a good starting point. Add in the toughness and dependability of equally experienced forwards Keith Gerdes (9.2 ppg), and Ryan Coleman (9 ppg), and Mac may snag a post-season berth once again.
Harrison Lane was a playoff stalwart last Spring, and he should provide defensive leadership. UC transfer Adonis Monfort-Palomino, a pass-first point man, will “help get the ball up the floor, and into the right hands”, says coach Magdanz. Ali Raza, another transfer and Calgary high school grad (Crescent Heights), has been showing well in early work-outs, along with Tyler Wise, a rebounding big man, who returns to MacEwan from Red Deer.
Where experience, determined defense, and capable shooting are pluses for the Maroon, they will need to improve their team rebounding if they are to be a factor in next February’s playoff picture.
Schedule – Nov/Dec – at Lethbridge, vs Regina, vs Victoria, at Mt. Royal, h/h vs Alberta … Jan/Feb – at Fraser Valley, at Brandon, vs Winnipeg, vs UBC-Okanagan, at Calgary. Prediction – In the mix for a playoff slot
- This week we have CIS teams ‘testing the water’ against CCAA squads; as UFV coach Adam Friesen said, “Our guys are happy to play against people who aren’t their teammates, and it’s a great opportunity for our young guys to get some game action.” UQAM vs CGEP Thetford, Algoma hosting Fleming, Canadore, and Sault Colleges, and Friesen’s Cascades squad plays Capilano College Thursday at Sardis Sr. Sec. (Chilliwack), then the Seattle Mountaineers on Saturday at UFV.
- Next weekend sees some interesting inter-regional tournament play – The Victoria Vikes have their Guy Vetrie Invitational (Sept. 29 – Oct. 1), with McMaster, McGill, and Regina making it an interesting mix on the Island. Carleton are the ‘big birds’ in Acadia’s tournament, along with the Axemen, St. FX, and Laval … UNB hosts Maine – Ft. Kent, Bishops, and Saint Mary’s … Nipissing are at home to Algoma, Laurentian, and Laurier. Also, Winnipeg will visit Lakehead, and Queen’s and Ottawa are in Montreal to play Concordia and UQAM.