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Andrew Spagrud: Blowing up the spot without making a sound

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A midcourt inbounds pass, early in a game isn’t usually something anyone pays much attention to. The ball goes in to play, the offense sets up and the game continues. That’s what everyone in the gym was thinking when the Saskatchewan Huskies visited the University of Alberta back in October for a preseason tournament. The defense waited, stagnant for a second, their mistake was already made. While the players watched the inbound pass, Andrew Spagrud cut to the basket, caught the pass in midair and rammed it through the hoop on a helpless Golden Bear defender. The sound of the breakaway rim snapping echoed through the gym and was followed by a collective cheer from the shocked crowd. Spagrud then dropped from the rim and ran back down the court as if he had just made a free throw.

This is Andrew Spagrud’s M.O., you won’t see him pounding on his chest, screaming at the top of his lungs after dunks, or celebrating after a spectacular play. The scary part of his game is that he’s as good as he is quiet. Averaging 23.5 points and 11 rebounds per game in only his second season with the Huskies, last year’s CIS rookie of the year is getting the nation’s attention without having to say a word.

“Defenses are a lot tougher this year,” the 6-7 forward says, noting that he’s having to work harder for his points, now that coaches have seen what he can do offensively. “I’ve got to pick my spots now and sometimes I have to be a passer.” While he’s sharing the rock with his teammates, Spagrud is still proving himself to be the most potent offensive player in the country, as he’s currently the CIS’ second leading scorer. “Not having Pasha Bains around this year makes it a lot easier,” he jokes.

“I’d like to think I pattern my game after Kevin Garnett”

More than any other player in the country, Spagrud lets his game do the talking when he’s on the court. Getting him to talk about it off the court can prove to be as much a challenge as defending him on the court. After de-clawing the Golden Bears in a 67–62 January win, he was hesitant to talk about any of his highlights. “You know you got the same guy tonight that you did back in October when you dunked on him, right?” He pauses for a minute, thinks about it and shrugs. “I don’t mind that myself,” he says with a small laugh. “He got in my face one time tonight, and for some reason that team (the Golden Bears) just hates me. If I fall down in front of their bench I hear it.” It’s moments like this that Spagrud’s grounded nature seems to fail him, like he can’t see that the opposition’s going to say and do whatever they can to slow his roll. They have to. “It doesn’t matter though,” he says, his confidence making up for his meekness. “It just makes me play harder.”

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When he sets foot on the court, you won’t see Spagrud’s facial expression change too much. Even when games get tight, he looks like he’s shooting buckets on his driveway. He takes the ball on the block, holds it high as he sizes up his opponent; squares up and throws a jab, steps back and goes glass. Square. Step. Glass. Net. Next. Sounds like a center from San Antonio you might know? “I’d like to think I pattern my game after Kevin Garnett,” Spagrud says, and in terms of his all around ability, he might be right. But the fundamentally sound skills mixed with an almost automatic ability to calmly deliver down the stretch again and again makes you see visions of the 21 with two rings when he’s doing his thing.

As calm and humble as Spagrud comes across, don’t let yourself be fooled by his lighthearted demeanor. There’s a serious com-petitor behind what may seem like a passive exterior. After being selected as a reserve for the Under-21 Canadian team that competed in the Tournament of the America’s this past summer, Spagrud declined the spot on the Winnipeg head coach Dave Crooks’ roster. “I could have stayed and worked with them but I chose not to. I don’t know if it was a good idea or not,” he says. “But scoring 36 against Winnipeg [in a 101–90 win on November 19th] was good vengeance.”

As Spagrud will tell you, vengeance, like silence, is sweet.

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Highly touted Alabama Crimson Tide Return To Canada

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Alabama Crimson Tide Avery Johnson Return To Canada

The Alabama Crimson Tide led by former NBA Head Coach Avery Johnson, a 16-year veteran and NBA champion point-guard during his playing days will bring his highly touted Alabama Crimson Tide to Canada for series of games against Canada’s top university basketball programs.

The Crimson Tide will visit both Montreal and Ottawa for a three-game exhibition schedule against McGill Redmen (Mon Aug 7), Carleton Ravens (Wed Aug 9) and the Ottawa Gee-Gees (Thu Aug 10).

The Tide competed hard last year and took a step in the right direction with a 19-15 record, 10-8 SEC record and have NCAA March Madness tournament aspirations thanks to solid recruiting class which ranks amongst the nations best.

Led by a talented crop of returning guards, Dazon Ingram (10.6 PPG, 4.5 RPG), Riley Norris (9 PPG, 3 RPG), the coaches son Avery Johnson Jr. and forwards Braxton Key the Tide will be a handful for the it’s Canadian opposition.

Key a 6’8″, 220 lbs flirted with the  2017 NBA draft after a stellar freshman season, the Charlotte, NC native led ‘Bama in scoring with 12 point per game and was second in rebounding at 5.7 per game. The Tide will also welcome incoming red-shirt sophomore 6’10”, 240lbs Daniel Giddens to a line-up that returns four starters.

Alabama anchored by current NBA player Alonzo Gee (Denver Nuggets) last visited Canada back in 2007 and finished with a record of 4-1 against the same exact teams, dropping a tight 83-72 decision against the Carleton Ravens who have won seven straight Canadian titles including 13-of the-last-15 championships.

Carleton’s signature win over Alabama was only their second ever against a NCAA division one team after 16-game losing streak from 1999 to 2006. The Ravens current record against NCAA teams in Canada stands at an impressive 26-23 (.531%) record.

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Calgary Dinos Thomas Cooper Senior Highlights

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Calgary Dinos Thomas Cooper Senior Highlights

Calgary Dinos senior guard Thomas Cooper had himself and impressive CIS/Usports career to say the least. The Chattanooga, Tenn. native, a 6-5, 200 lbs guard earned himself two first team All-Canadian awards while leading Dinos back to the championship game for the first time since 1966.

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No. 1 Carleton Ravens 81-40 lock-up rivals No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees

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Eddie Ekiyor Carleton Ravens Vs.Ottawa Gee Gees USports Basketball
Photo - Valerie Wutti

Ottawa, ON – The twelve-time defending CIS/USports National Basketball Champions and No.1 Carleton Ravens went into Monpetit Hall and completely dominated the No. 2 ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees, locking up their Bytown rivals with a blistering 81-40 win.

The Ravens, the top defensive unit in the country, allowing an incredible low of only 60 points to opponents, dominated every aspect of the much anticipated game holding Ottawa to four points in the first-quarter and thirteen in the second for a grand total of seventeen first-half points and 35-17 half-time lead.

The first-quarter ended with Ravens leading 11-4 as both teams slugged it out in front of a jam packed standing room only Monpetit Hall which hasn’t seen the Gee-Gees get dismantled like this on their home floor in 32-game OUA conference games – snapping home winning streak which dated back to 2012.

Fifth-year senior Guard Connor Wood caught fire in the second-quarter after a cold start scoring all but 14 of the teams 24 points in the quarter and finished with 16 in the half and game-high 19 points. Starting point guard Kaza Kajami-Keane added 10 points, six rebounds in just 19 minutes.

The Gee-Gees were limited to 6-of-32 (18.8%) shooting, 3-of-17 from the outside in the opening 20 minutes and managed to only connect on 12-56 (21.4%) of their field goal attempts for the entire game and only 6-of-26 from the outside.

Carleton shot 50% in the second-half and finished 31-68 from the floor and 13-of-28 from downtown while turning the ball over 9 times compared to the Gee-Gees 18.

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The 40 points allowed by the Ravens is their lowest against the Gee-Gees since a 74-34 smack-down in January 18th, 2012 at the Sixth Annual Capital Hoops Classic.

Carleton Ravens 6’10” freshman Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, ON) and senior forward Ryan Ejim (Toronto, ON) finished one point shy of double-doubles with 9 points and 8 rebounds respectively, and shutdown the Gee-Gees dynamic duo of Caleb Agada (12 points, 4 rebounds) and former Ravens Jean Emmanuel Pierre (7 points, 6 rebounds). Gee-Gees Guard Brandon Robinson had a team-high 15 points on 4-of-8 shooting, 3-of-4 triples.

Carleton’s record  stays unblemished at a perfect 10-0, 16-0 against Canadian competition and 22-2 overall with the only losses coming from two NCAA opponents on the road in Rhode Island – Providence Friars 87-69 and in Philadelphia against LaSalle Explorers 79-73.

Both teams will meet again in just over two weeks (Feb 3rd) at the 2017 Capital Hoops Classic at the ScotiaBank Centre.

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