These 7 Teams Look to Move Up in Canada West

 

 

Brandon Tull will be a senior leader for the Regina Cougars.      photo – Arthur Ward

 Regina – The Cougars go 9-11 and are good at their best, but are troubled by injuries in the 2nd semester.  Coach Steve Burrows will enter his 5th year at the helm, and faces the task of ‘renewing’ a roster which loses 3 veteran mainstays.  Travis Sylvestre, Stephen Shields, and Matt Augustine graduate, and more size will be crucial in the recruiting project.  The Cougs have dependable vets returning in Brandon Tull, Alex Igual, and Brian Ofori.  Burrows looks to the younger Hillis bothers, Ben and Samuel, and rookie star, Johneil Johnson to pick up some of the slack.  An infusion of talent, especially in the bigs, will be necessary if UR is to move up.

Thompson Rivers –   Coach Scott Clark loses a ‘franchise player’ in import forward, Volodymyr Iegorov, who graduates this Spring.  Clark could anticipate that challenge, but the veteran bench boss also has his rookie stand-out, Trent Monkman,  transferring to Victoria. The Wolf Pack, 8-12,  have been a play-off team in recent years, and Clark has worked successfully to develop his young talent. This coming season will test his resolve once more.  The Orange returnees include import guard, Derek Rhodes, strong forward, Luke Morris, guard, Michael Rouault, and scrappy point man, Madhu McConnell.  TRU will also be looking for some size in the recruiting process, and certainly more depth for this young group.

MRU’s import star, Josh Ross,  returns for his 5th year        Photo – Cougars Athletics

Mt. Royal –  The ‘Blue Cougars’ face a familiar challenge, as Coach Marc Dobell sees 2 big post men, Brett Layton, and Ray Goff leaving the roster along with 5th year guard, Derek Wolf .  Layton is wanting to start Law School, and Goff has had very tough nagging leg injuries, and is graduating early next year.  MRU does return guards Glen Yang, Noah Lewis, and Craig Martin along with import  scoring leader, Josh Ross, Ryan Cunningham, and forward, Nick Tancon.  Coach Dobell is waiting to announce his signees, and has not quite finished the process.  We do understand that L.J. Hegwood is looking to transfer in from SAIT, and that McNally HS (Calgary) star, 6-7 Diew Moses, may be headed to the Cougars as well.

MacEwan –  There will be significant change with the Griffins, as they say goodbye to Denzel James, Thomas Jereniuk, Cole Aikens, Keith Gerdes, and Tyler Wise as 5th year grads.  Thadius Galvez, their outstanding lead guard, is also on the move, and Coach Eric Magdanz is left with a major recruiting task.  Returnees Ryan Coleman, Harrison Lane, Adonis Montfort -Palomino, Ali Raza, and Atlas St. Paul-Butler will be counted on next Fall. The Griffs have younger players like British import, Jake Notice, along with 3rd year guard,  Tarik Scott, coming off an injury rehab, and a local red-shirt freshman, Deonte Doslov-Doctor.  Recent signees include Lincoln Anderson, a 6-3 guard from Cardston, AB, who comes off a 2 year Mormon  church mission, and 6-8, Ben Niles, from Kamloops (Valleyview Sr Sec).  Coach Magdanz is also excited about Dustin Gatski  (Westlock, AB), a 6-4 transfer after  1 year of Junior College in Wyoming, and Moreau Amadou  a 6-4 wing from   Sir Winston Churchill, Calgary.

Marcus MacKay will carry a big scoring load for the Timberwolves.

UNBC –  Starting last season at 4-4 last Fall, The T’Wolves struggled through 12 straight losses to finish at 4-16, well out of play-off contention.  They lose their slick guard, Rhys Elliot, along with Elliott Rowe, and Sam Zhang to graduation. Coach Todd Jordan will be looking to add some size and more punch to his roster this Spring and Summer.  The UNBC returnees should include big shooting guard, Marcus MacKay, lead guard, James Agyeman, Vaggelis Loukas, an active forward, and Anthony Hokanson, who is a skilled wing man.   Adam Pahl, a  6-6 wing from Okotoks (Foothills HS) , AB was announced in January, and he comes with high hopes.  Volodymyr Pluzhnikov, is a ‘tough-minded’ guard coming off the red-shirt list, and Jordan has a few more prospects he hopes to sign in the next few weeks.  “We need to get bigger, and to make big improvements in our rebounding”, says the 5th year Head man.

Trinity Western –  The Spartans, 3-17 last season, do not graduate any 5th years, and Coach Aaron Muhic suggests that his returnee list should include all of his current roster players. We have mentioned veteran guard, Tyus Allen, who is rehabbing his injured knee, but who will not be ready until at least the Fall of 2018.  The Spartans will return  import guard, Pogos Trunyan, their high scorer (15 ppg), along with 6-10 post Patrick Vandervelden (13 ppg/7.2 rebs), and Vartan Tanielian, a 12 ppg scorer at wing. Among his younger contributors will be guards Max Viitala, and Josiah Meppelink.  TWU have not announced any new signees or transfers.

UBC-Okanagan –  After an 8-12 record in 2015-16, the Heat cooled off to just 2-18 last season.  Coach Peter Guarasci, in his 5th year, loses guard Mitch Goodwin to graduation.  But, he also has 7 other roster players (Cam Friesen, Randy Jernidier, Ryan Morck, Austin Penrose, Buster Truss, David Manshreck, and Davide Ciancio) who will not return, which obviouly leaves a daunting task of recuiting this Spring. Aldrich Berrios, his high-scoring (17.6 ppg) guard is back for his 4th year, along with back-court rookies, Matt Lafontaine, and Tristan Matthews.  Noma Obeseki, an athletic small forward,  will be entering his 3rd year.  Owen Keyes, a 6’9” Kelowna Sr Sec. stand-out has already signed, and looks like a strong prospect. Jake Stokker, Penticton Sr. Sec  is another big man signee , details in this story from Kelowna Capital News 

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Overtime –

  • Mason Foreman, a 6-7 forward from Winnipeg, who most recently attended Athlete Institute Prep just outside Toronto, has signed with the Calgary Dinos for next Fall.  Mason’s father is Jeff Foreman, who was a 3-time CIS All-Canadian with the Winnipeg Wesmen (Great Plains Athletic Conference)  in 1992, ’93, and ’94. ( In 1994, Jeff was CIS Player of the Year, and he was also a member of the Canadian national team.)
  •  UVic will, later this week, induct two former basketball stars into their Vikes Hall of Fame. Spencer McKay , was a dominating post man for Vikes teams of the late 1980s – early 1990s, and Carol Turney-Loos, was a key to their 1980 National title.   More details in this Oak Bay News article   

Play – In, or Out of Quarter-Finals

 

 Play-in Series Look Like Toss-ups 

Dinos host Bisons, with both teams searching for answers –

The Calgary Dinos  have just finished a brutally tough 2nd half schedule, which saw them fall from 1st place, at 9-2 back in December, to 12-8 and 5th in the Division (7th seed in the CW playoff grid).  Their opponents in this weekend’s ‘Play-in series’ in Calgary, the Manitoba Bisons, have lost their last 7 League games, and settled for a 9-11 season mark and 7th spot / 10th seed.

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Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson is the Dinos 'main man'.

Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson is the Dinos ‘main man’.              photo  – David Moll for Dinos Athletics

So which of these teams can ‘circle the wagons’ to get on to the next round?  There isn’t much to choose, statistically speaking, other than Calgary’s ability to win some of the close games that the Herd could not.

The Dinos depend on the extraordinary abilities of 5th year Winnipeg native, Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, with his team-leading 19.3 ppg, 7.3 rebs, and 5.2 assists. Calgary’s other 5th year leader, forward Phil Barndt, scores 10.5 ppg / 4.7 rebs, and hits 51% from 3 point range. 2nd year wing man, L.J. Hegwood averages 9 ppg, but can use his quickness and slashing style to pop into double figures at any time, and 6-7 German import rookie, Lars Schleuter, can get hot from the outside. Veteran guards Josh Owen -Thomas and Jhony Verrone should also be key factors if the Dinos are to advance.

Manitoba's shooting guard, Amarjit Basi.

Manitoba’s shooting guard, Amarjit Basi.

Manitoba are led by point man Stephan Walton, a speedy 5th year import, who pushes the pace and distributes for 3.8 assts while scoring 10 ppg. The leading scorer for the Herd is  4th year guard, Amarjit Basi, at 16.3 ppg, who has 2 other back-court mates in double figures – Justus Alleyn (11.7 ppg) and Andre Arruda (10.6 ppg).  5th year post, 6-9, Wyatt Anders (10 ppg/ 9.1 rebs), and 6-6, Jonathan Alexander (8.6 ppg, 5 rebs) bolster the front line. Team leader, Walton, said the recipe for a playoff victory in Calgary this weekend is straightforward. “Whenever we control the paint,” said Walton, “we’re really hard to beat.” (From the Winnipeg Free Press.

The teams split their 2 League games in Calgary back in November, and this series may well go the 3 games;  Walton is right in suggesting rebounding is a key, but  getting and making good shots is also critical, as is the ability to maintain defensive control, something that has been a challenge for both squads lately.  Too tough to call, really.  Calgary has home court, and a real ace in ‘OJ’, so that might be the edge.

Games go Fri/Sat  at 7 pm Mountain, with a 3rd at 3 pm Sunday, if necessary. The winner goes on to play the # 2 seed, the Fraser Valley Cascades, in the best of 3 Quarter-final series on Feb. 27-March 1.

 

Cross-over series as Winnipeg goes to Thompson Rivers –

The Wolf Pack's Reese Pribilsky will be tested by the Winnipeg defense.

The Wolf Pack’s Reese Pribilsky will be tested by the Winnipeg defense.                photo – A. Snucins, TRU

The 6th place team in the Pioneer Division, the Winnipeg Wesmen (12-8), will be in Kamloops this weekend to play the Explorer Division’s 3rd place team, the TRU Wolf Pack (11-9), in the 1st cross-over series in this 2-Division format. It’s hard to tell how these teams match-up, since they did not play inter-Divisional games this season.

Coach Scott Clark of Thompson Rivers says that “ … it’s good we get to have more practices and spend more time with each other, and now it’s a new season.  They (Winnipeg) could have finished as high as third or fourth down the stretch. They have some athleticism and are well coached. We are going to have to do a good job of handling their athleticism. If we can do that, we should have a good chance.” (From TRU Athletics)

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The teams both come in sporting some ‘nicks and bruises’, with TRU having had both Josh Wolfram and Tallon Milne, their big men, at less than 100%, and Winnipeg missing 5th year forward Mark McNee last week. Wesmen Coach Mike Raimbault wasn’t sure about McNee’s availability.  “We may have to contend with (Josh) Wolfram’s  offensive abilities with a thinner line-up , if Mark can’t go”, he said. The Wesmen have one of the League’s more aggressive defenses, and, with their quickness, they can limit the ‘Pack’s offense. TRU has a capable point man in Reese Pribilsky (13 ppg, 4.5 assts) with the 6-11 Wolfram (18 ppg/ 9.9 rebs) and 6-4, 5th year Brett Rouault (13.6 ppg, 4 rebs) as his main targets.

Winnipeg is blessed with strong guard play as well, with point man, Jordan Clennon, the

Winnipeg point man  Jordan Clennon leads CW in assists.

Winnipeg point man Jordan Clennon leads CW in assists.

Canada West assists leader at 6.5 asst/game, and Chris Baxter a scoring guard (13 ppg, shooting 52% from the floor).  Up front, the Ws have scoring leader Jelane Pryce, a 6-7, 16.5 ppg shooter, who also snares 6 rebs. McNee adds 11 ppg/ 5 boards when he’s fit, and 5th year guard Travis Krahn is a dangerous 3 point shooter.

If McNee can suit up, it will make a real difference to Winnipeg, and we have a hunch they will be too much for TRU to handle with the added depth.

Games are  7 pm – Pacific on Thursday and Friday … 5 pm on Saturday, if a 3rd game is needed.  The winner from this series will play at Saskatchewan against the # 1 seed Huskies in one Quarter-final.

 

 

Overtime –

  •   Because of a Special Olympics event booked for the Tournament Capital Centre, the Winnipeg-TRU games will move to the smaller TRU gym on campus in Kamloops.  It should have little advantage either way, although just the travel will be a disadvantage for the Wesmen. TRU made the CW playoffs for the 1st time in their history last season; both the ‘Pack and the Wesmen lost in the Q-Finals last year.  Winnipeg went to the Final 4 in 2013, where they finished 3rd.
  •   Calgary missed the playoffs the last 2 seasons, and were beaten in the 3rd game at Victoria in the Q-Finals of 2012.  Manitoba made the 2013 playoffs, but lost in 2 straight in the Q-Finals, and, in fact, haven’t won a playoff series since the Great Plains 1st round in 2000.
  • The AUS playoff teams include UNB and UPEI , who get 1st round tournament byes Unknownas the top 2 teams, along with St. Mary’s, Cape Breton, Dalhousie, and Memorial in that order, at present. Memorial clinched the 6th spot with points difference the deciding factor over Acadia.
  • The Canada West Women’s playoffs this week – 2 play-in series –  #10 Calgary at # 7 Victoria and #9 Regina at #8 Fraser Valley.  The # 3 Saskatchewan vs # 6 Winnipeg quarter-final goes a week early as well (gym availability at Sask.).  All are Fri/Sat/Sun. best of 3 series.