‘Pops’ Takes it On the Road to Regina
Rawane ‘Pops’ Ndiaye has had an eventful last few weeks; the 25 year old former University of Tennessee player finished his requirements for a Psychology degree from UT in mid-December, and, late in the month, traveled to Phoenix, AZ to meet his new teammates and coaches with the Regina Cougars, who played 3 games just prior to New Years.
The young man returned to his family home in Raleigh, North Carolina, to pack his things for his trip to, hopefully, a new chapter in his basketball and academic life in Regina, Saskatchewan. Feeling he needs his car to get around in his new town, ‘Pops’ decides to drive from N.C. to Southern Saskatchewan. Cougars teammate, Brian Ofori, obviously with the right team attitude and adventuresome spirit, volunteers to fly to Raleigh from Phoenix, and accompany ‘Pops’ on the highway journey North. They pull into Regina on January 4, and Ndiaye is practicing with the team, and getting classes organized this week.
Coach Steve Burrows is counting on ‘Pops’ to “ adapt to a new team, a new group of guys, and a new style of play.” Burrows says, “He is a great young man; very friendly, confident, and a knowledgeble, and capable player.” “It’s certainly a risk to bring in someone in January, and we’ll have to see how he progresses (Ndiaye was forced to quit at Tennessee after an ACL knee injury in 2014; UR is hoping he can return to playing form). But, as Coach Burrows says, “‘Pops’ didn’t get any shorter when he crossed the border!” He’s 6-10, 270, with skills and the experience of playing in the NCAA Tournament.
With the benefit of a home date this Saturday and Sunday vs Trinity Western, then a bye week following, the big man will get some time to become acclimatized to his new surroundings. Rawane will, everything going as it should, play in his 1st game as a Regina Cougar on February 2 in Vancouver against the UBC Thunderbirds.
Now, about the block heater for his car ….
Canada West Resumes Play This Week –
After a month-long hiatus, Canada West teams will re-engage in regular season games this week. There may be some rust this early in January, but most squads played in tournaments, exhibition games, scrimmages, and/or team practices over that Holiday break.
Series of the week – Pioneer Division –
Lethbridge Pronghorns 5-1 vs UBC Thunderbirds 6-2 – The ‘Horns start their onerous 2nd semester schedule ‘in the belly of the beast’, at venerable War Memorial Gym on Point Grey, where they are they are 0-12 since the turn of the century. But, there is fresh hope for ’Horns Nation’, as they shoot it well, rebound it consistently, apply defensive pressure, and have a deep bench. On the flip side, they are troubled by turnovers, and give up more treys than they make. Brandon Brine up front and Dejon Burdeaux in the back-court are 2 very valuable imports. Local 2nd year wing man, 6-7 Zac Overwater is stepping up his game, and becoming a force on offense.
The Thunderbirds are reputed to have the deepest well of talent in the League, and may be tough to beat, at their very best; but Coach Kevin Hanson has had moments where he hasn’t been totally convinced. Conor Morgan can be all-star material on one night ( the 6-9 wing man scored 34 vs Hope Int’l last week in California), then not so much the next. David Wagner inside and Jordan Jensen-Whyte on the perimeter have been the driving forces for the ‘Birds. Home court will be big this week, and UBC figures to sweep if they win the rebounding, and can slow down the U of L attack.
Games Spread from Thursday to Sunday this week –
Winnipeg 3-5 at Brandon 0-6 in game 1 of their home and home – The Bobcats quite clearly are desperate for a win, but they’re 1-10 vs the Wesmen in the past several years. Winnipeg haven’t yet found their rhythm yet, however, and Brandon’s Earl Thompson Jr., with his tireless rebounding, and the shooting of D.J. Jordan may get the ‘Cats off the schneid.
Saskatchewan 3-5 at Calgary 6-3 – The Huskies are 9-2 over the Dinos in the past 4 seasons, and Calgary has to find the key to beating a scrappy Saskatchewan team that may be under-manned in the post. Both teams are blessed with talented and quick guards, with Thomas Cooper of Calgary leading Canada West scorers (26.7 ppg), and The Dogs scoring more by committee, with Evan Ostertag (15.9 ppg), Chan DeCiman (14.5), and Jacquin Bennett-Boire (13.3). Rebounding will be key, along with the ability to get more shared scoring by the Dinos.
Manitoba 6-2 at Victoria 5-3 – In the last 4 seasons, the Vikes are 6-1 over Manitoba, and home court helps UVic here; the Bisons are as good as they’ve been for many years, however, and they are on a bit of a roll. Victoria must find a way to gel on offense, and depend on aggressive D to curb the prolific scoring of the Herd (85 ppg).
And, in the Explorer Division –
Thompson Rivers 7-1 at UBC-Okanagan 4-4 – The Wolf Pack won 3 of 4 games last season, and they look stronger this time around with Josh Wolfram joined by Ukrainian import, Volodymyr Iegorov, in a heavyweight 1-2 punch in the front court. Okanagan has improved over past seasons as well, with Heat point man Aldrich Berrios set to give TRU’s Reese Pribilsky a tussle.
Mt. Royal 2-6 at Fraser Valley 5-3 – The Cascades have beaten MRU 4 of the last 5 times they’ve met, and they will not want to give up any more ground to the Wolf Pack in the race for top spot. Kevon Parchment is relentless for UFV, and Vijay Dhillon is now a go-to shooter. The Cougars need big men James Lefebvre and Brett Layton to win the war inside if they are to stay close.
MacEwan 3-5 at UNBC 3-5 – The Timberwolves won 3 of 4 from Mac in the Griffins opening season in Canada West, and in the friendly confines of the Northern Sports Centre, the Wolves are hard to handle. Guards Rhys Elliott and Billy Cheng lead UNBC, so Denzel James and Thadius Galvez will have to respond for the Griffs.
Trinity Western 0-8 at Regina 5-3 – The Cougars have won 3 of the last 4 vs the Spartans, and, with the home court advantage, there is little reason that should change this week. Jonathan Tull and company should give the Trinity defense a real test, and TWU has allowed 86 ppg, while scoring just 68 ppg.
Brandon travels to Winnipeg for game 2, Saskatchewan at Calgary, TRU at UBC-O, MRU at UFV, Manitoba at UVic, Mac at UNBC, and Lethbridge at UBC.
Sunday – Trinity W. at Regina
- Gil Cheung, Brandon Coach, on leadership (by Robin Wark in the Westman Journal) , “They always say that you can choose your captains, but you can’t choose your leaders,” While captains are chosen for leadership roles, other players often emerge as important leaders as well. For example, Cheung said that first-year player Tyler Anderson has led this season. The 6-foot-7 forward from Langley, B.C. has done so by putting in the extra work, competing, and being one of the team’s hardest workers”, his coach explained.
- The Calgary Dinos , as one of the fortunate hosts for the Bell NBA All Star Challenge, may sell-out Saturday’s Dinos-Huskies game! The NBA Challenge is crossing the country as part of the 65th NBA All-Star celebrations to be held in Toronto on Sunday, Feb. 14 at the Air Canada Centre. On Saturday, January 9, at the Jack Simpson Gym starting at 12 noon, any local b’baller 14 or over can compete (no charge to enter) in skills competitions, 3 point shooting, and/or a dunk contest. Top performers will advance to UC – U of S game time competition for various prizes, including a trip to the game in Toronto and a chance to compete with other winners from across Canada. More details at the Go Dinos website.
- Positive comments from “Pops’ Ndiaye, the 6-10 U. Tennessee transfer, upon his arrival in Regina for the Cougars 2nd half of their season in Canada West. “The guys are really friendly, so we’re just kind of building our relationship and getting to know each other,” said Ndiaye, “Hopefully I’ll be a good fit for them.” From a story in the Regina Leader-Post by Ian Hamilton.