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.”
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.
Kadre Gray wins second consecutive U Sports MVP
Laurentian guard Kadre Gray took his game to another level this season.
That’s saying something.
A year ago, Gray was the top Canadian university male athlete in any sport, the first Laurentian student to win the honour.
He led the country in assists, narrowly missed a scoring title, and — perhaps by default — also won the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as men’s basketball player of the year.
“Kadre’s work ethic continues to shine bright,” said Laurentian head coach Shawn Swords in a statement.
“He is always looking for ways to improve and refine all aspects of the game.”
If there was any doubt, Gray stifled it in his junior season.
He averaged 31 points, 7.4 rebounds and 6.2 assists per game en route to his second consecutive Moser trophy.
“It’s an amazing accomplishment to do it once,” said Swords.
“And now, to be named MVP twice, is truly a testament to his willingness to learn and improve.
“The Kadre effect has spread throughout our community as well. It is great to see him support our local youth and realize the positive impact he has on everyone.”
Gray received the 2019 Moser trophy Thursday at a gala in Halifax, N.S., ahead of the U Sports Men’s Final 8 tournament.
University of Calgary guard Mambi Diawara, Concordia guard Ricardo Monge and St. Mary’s University guard Kemar Alleyne were also finalists for the award.
Gray was simply a cut above. He posted gaudy stats with notable efficiency, shooting 48.8 per cent from the floor.
He was also a First Team All-Canadian and played with Canada’s national team in FIBA World Cup 2019 Americas Qualifiers against Venezuela and Brazil.
Gray was the only U Sports player to participate in the qualifiers.
Other award winners:
Rookie of the Year (Dr. Peter Mullins Trophy): Alix Lochard, UQAM.
Ken Shields Award for Student-Athlete Community Service: Tanner Graham, Queen’s.
Defensive Player of the Year: Marcus Anderson, Carleton.
Stuart W. Aberdeen Memorial Trophy (Coach of the Year): Dan Vanhooren, Calgary.
Carleton Ravens reclaim OUA Basketball Supremacy
The road to Ontario University Basketball supremacy has been firmly cemented through the Carleton University Ravens.
The Canadian basketball powerhouse has continuously dominated the toughest conference in the country year-in, year out, earning eleven (11) conference titles in Dave Smart’s 19 seasons as head coach.
Recently, the Ryerson Rams have threaten to end the Ravens dominance, earning the first non Carleton Ravens’ back-to-back (2016, 2017) conference titles since Joe Raso and the McMaster Marauders pulled it off in 1996 and 1997. Furthermore, despite the Ravens dominance of the Rams, they have managed to beat Carleton and win meaningfully games in March.
Ryerson, playing in their fourth straight Ontario University Association (OUA) conference championship game — a feat that not even the Ravens have accomplished, were looking for their third conference title in four years, having cut down the mesh at the Ravens’ Nest to win their second straight conference banner two years ago.
Add to the fact that Ryerson ended the Ravens hopes of a perfect season, pulling off a 78-74 road win less than five weeks ago and we once again had the ingredients for another great game.
“Coming into game we put a lot of focus in practice on limiting their key players and making it tough for them.” discussed Ravens’ point guard Yasiin Joseph after the Ravens executed their game-plan to perfection, beating the Ryerson Rams 81-61 to reclaiming Wilson Cup supremacy with their second straight conference title.
Carleton ripped off 12-0 run and held the Rams scoreless for over four minutes to grab 25-18 lead after one quarter. Ravens starting back-court of Yasiin Joseph (20 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists) and Munis Tutu (16 points, 6 assists, 2 rebounds) both played outstanding, controlling the offense and were great on the boards.
“Ryerson is a tough team and you have to be prepared. We made some adjustments from the previous game that helped us come on top.” Also commented Tutu, a Windsor, Ontario native who is looking for his first national title with the Ravens after falling short to the Rams in the national semi-final game.
Now three games away from potentially tasting national glory, Tutu understands the importance of staying focused and trusting the plan. “It’s going to be difficult, we are going to put in a tough week of practice, and prepare for our next opponent and try to bring the championship back to Ottawa.”
Eddie Ekiyor continued his All-Canadian campaign with 16 points and 6 rebounds in 22 minutes. TJ Lall returned from his one game suspension and almost had a perfect game with 10 points, 7 rebounds on 5-of-6 shooting.
Both teams shot poorly from the three-point line going a combined 8-of-49 (16%). Carleton limited the Rams offense to just seven assists and had fairly comfortable +17 (43-26) advantage on the glass.
6’11” Tanor Ngom continued to showcase his upside leading Ryerson in scoring with 15 points and four rebounds including a few exciting dunks for the standing room only, capacity crowd. JV Mukama was largely held in check and finished with 12 points and 8 rebounds including 0-7 from three-point shooting. Myles Charvis started off hot, but cooled down considerably, scoring 8 of his 10 points in the first quarter in 34 minutes.
Carleton won their first OUA conference basketball title of the Dave Smart era in his fourth year and they went on to three-peat on two occasions, from 2003-2005 and again from 2008-2010. They also took home top honors in 2011, 2013, 2015, 2018 and now once again 2019.
The only years the Ravens have failed to win the national title as conference champions were in 2008 when they lost to the Acadia Axemen, 2010 against Saskatchewan and recently against Ryerson in 2018.
The Ravens are now the odds on favorites to earn the top seed at next weeks Final 8 National Championships in Halifax, Nova Scotia — a place where they have won 8 of their record 13 national titles.