The 2014-15 CIS Men’s basketball season is here and so are the BasketballBuzz Top 25 Power Rankings. This season promises to be as good as ever and with several big changes to transfer rules, including the realignments and renaming of conferences the future of Canadian university basketball hasn’t looked this brighter. On the hardwood, although parity continues to spread across the country both the Carleton Ravens and the Ottawa Gee-Gees dominated the early CIS preseason buzz by going a combined 7-2 against NCAA division one teams and 19-2 overall, including several major over Top 25 CIS teams. The top 10 features a total of five teams from the Ontario, three from the Atlantic and two from out west.
#1 Carleton Ravens – (OUA 0-0, Overall 10-1) (LW: NR)
The Carleton Ravens once again open up the 2014-15 rankings looking down at the competition thanks to arguable their most successful preseason to date during the Dave Smart era. The Ravens who are no strangers to beating NCAA opposition ripped off four straight victories over division one teams back in August, roasting the Memphis Tigers twice (86-76, 92-60) and set the largest margin of victory (32) over a NCAA team. Carleton’s lone loss came at the hands of an angry Indiana Hoosiers squad that wanted no thoughts of entertaining a 0-2 start during the 2014 Canadian trip. Although the Ravens were without three-time league MVP Philip Scrubb and head coach Smart during the loss, the opportunity provide us with an early look at the Ravens post the Philip Scrubb era. The ten-time CIS Men’s basketball champions look better than ever and are once again the leading candidates to extend their dominance of the Canadian University basketball landscape, led by the Scrubb brothers, Carleton the four-time defending champions look meaner than ever as they look to win a fifth-straight National title since Dave Smart took over the program 16 years ago in 1999. Yes, that would be 11 championships in 16 seasons for Dave Smart!
Top players: Phillip Scrubb, Thomas Scrubb, Jean-Emmanuel Pierre-Charles, Connor Wood, Victor Raso
Key preseason victories: Vermont Tigers (NCAA D1), Illinois-Chicago Flames (NCAA D1), Memphis Tigers x 2 (NCAA D1), Victoria Vikes, Alberta Bears, Acadia Axemen
Key preseason losses: Indiana Hoosiers (NCAA)
#2 Ottawa Gee-Gees – (OUA 0-0, Overall 9-1) (LW: NR)
There’s no team across the CIS that is more tired of all the “Carleton this, Carleton that” talk than the Ottawa Gee-Gees, after-all the crosstown-rivals along with the rest of the league have become somewhat of a practice field for the Ravens since the Dave Smart domination began. The Gee-Gees are coming off the programs most successful season and are looking to return to the National title game after coming-up short against big brother Carleton last year. Ottawa returns four starters and head coach James Derouin and his staff brought in a strong recruiting class with hopes of earning the schools first ever basketball banner. After tasting last years success Derouin and his crew established the mindset of a championship team and opened-up the preseason with a goal of winning all their NCAA preseason games. The Gee-Gees shocked the entire North American college basketball landscape by earning a signature win against one of college basketball’s all-time greats, when it knocked-off the Indiana Hoosiers 105-95 in Montreal. Ottawa’s lights-outs three-point shooting barrage is led by fifth-year senior and first-team All-Canadian guard Johnny Berhanemeskel, who much like Phillip Scrubb will be playing with a chip on his shoulders as they make their swan song and look to cement their names as their schools best ever basketball talents.
Top players: Johnny Berhanemeskel, Caleb Ageda, Mike L’African, Mehdi Tihani, Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue, Gill Vikas, Alex Ratte, Mohammed Ismail
Key preseason victories: Indiana Hoosiers (NCAA D1), Vermont Tigers (NCAA D1), Illinois-Chicago Flames (NCAA D1), ST. F.X, McGill Redmen, Bishops Gaiters, Toronto Blues
Key preseason losses: Memphis Tigers (NCAA D1)
#3 Ryerson Rams – (OUA 0-0, Overall 7-0) (LW: NR)
It’s now or never for Ryerson! The Rams surprised everybody by earning a berth in the 2012 CIS Final 8 for only the second time in school history. Ryerson bid and secured the hosting rights for the prestigious national event and will host the 2015 CIS Final championships in their beautiful home facility at the Mattamy Athletic Centre in downtown Toronto. With the automatic bid guaranteed at the national showcase the pressure to get there is somewhat removed and if things align for Ryerson it could just be the beginning of massive shift from Ottawa to Toronto down highway 401. Unlike last year the Rams opted for lighter NCAA preseason schedule, instead they focused on playing tougher CIS teams and have come away with a perfect 7-0 record to start the season. Now in his sixth season head coach Roy Rana has slowly but steady improved and turned the program into annual national contender by increasing his teams regular season win count ever year since he assumed responsibilities of the team back in 2009. Ryerson returns an experienced and talented group that features All-Canadian candidate point guard Jamal Jones and former NCAA player Kadeem Green (Missori Tigers/Ohio bobcats) who made an immediate impact last year, the Rams roster is deep and well rounded with talent, length and athleticism at almost every position.
Top players: Jamal Jones, Kadeem Green, Aaron Best, Adika Peter-McNeilly, Jordan Gaunthier, Jean-Victor Mukama
Key preseason victories: Saskatchewan Huskies, UNB Varsity Reds, Fraser Valley Cascades, McGill Redmen
Key preseason losses: None
#4 Windsor Lancers – (OUA 0-0, Overall 10-0) (LW: NR)
The Windsor Lancers along with the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens were the only teams to knock-off a NCAA division one team during the preseason. The Lancers program under the tutelage of Chris Olivier are no strangers to national attention and have become one the most consistent teams across the country posting 15-plus conference wins dating back to the 2006-07 season. Windsor is once again expected to challenge for a nationals berth and boost a strong roster that returns seven veterans as well as key transfers that are set to make the Lancers a contender despite the loss of some major talent both in the back-court (Josh Collins, Enrico Diloreto) and front-court with former OUA West defensive player of the year in Lien Phillip. Look for Windsor to play a fast pace up-tempo transition game led by their solid wings in Rotimi Osuntola Jr. and Bradford Parker who both love to play above rim and slash to basket.
Top players: Rotimi Osuntola Jr., Mitch Farrell, Bradford Parker, Evan Matthews, Khalid Abdel-Gabar, Alex Campbell, Mike Rocca
Key preseason victories: IPFW Mastodons (NCAA D1), Humber Hawks, Fraser Valley Cascades (2x), UBC Thunderbirds, McGill Redmen, Regina Cougars
Key preseason losses: None
#5 McMaster Marauders – (OUA 0-0, Overall 7-1) (LW: NR)
The McMaster Mauraders are coming off a successful 2013-14 season with a 18-4 conference record, posting their most win totals since 2002-03 when former head coach Joe Raso took the program to CIS Final 8 quarterfinals. Entering his sixth season, head coach Amos Connolly is looking to repeat the magic with arguably the most talented team in the country. The Marauders return all their starters and have taken full advantage of the newly instated CIS/NCAA transfer rule which allows current NCAA division one athletes to transfer to the CIS without being forced to sit-out a year with signing of Troy Joseph (LUI Blackbirds).
Top players: Adam Presutti, Rohan Boney, Leon Alexander, Taylor Black, Troy Joseph, Aaron Redpath, Nathan McCarthy, Joe Rocca, Trevon McNeil
Key preseason victories: Mohawk Mountaineers, Laval Rouge et Or, Manitoba Bisons, St.FX. Acadia Axemen, Cape Breton Capers
Key preseason losses: IPFW Mastodons (NCAA D1)
#6 Cape Breton Capers – (AUS 0-0, Overall 7-1) (LW: NR)
The surprise of the 2014-15 BasketballBuzz CIS Top 25 rankings has to be Cape Breton. The Capers are coming off their worst season since 2002-03 they were hit hard by the graduation bug after the lost of former All-Canadian PG Jimmy Dorsey who led the school to the top of the national rankings with a 19-1 season in 2012-13. With a near perfect preseason record the Capers look like the early favorites to capture the AUS crown and make a return trip to the Final 8. The improved play of 6’8″, 265 pound mammoth Meshack Lufile will be something to watch as the season progresses, if the fourth-year senior can stay out of foul trouble it could be solid season for Capers Nation!
Top players: Meshack Lufile, Seth Amoah, Arild Geugjes, Sean McCormick, Cedric Kasongo, Kayon Mayers
Key preseason victories: UPEI Panthers, UNB Varsity Reds, St. FX X-Men (2x), Calgary Dinos
Key preseason losses: vs. McMaster Marauders
#7 UBC Thunderbirds – (CW 0-0, Overall 6-2) (LW: NR)
The Thunderbirds are loaded with talent and length at nearly every position giving Head coach Kevin Hansen a bevy of options and the ability to unleash a variety of different looks causing mismatches. Junior Forward Conor Morgan has the ability to take over a game should be considered a serious threat to win the Canada West Player of Year award and hopefully some additional hardware for the UBC.
Top players: Conor Morgan, David Wagner, Tommy Nixon, Brylle Kamen, Jordan Jensen-Whyte, Tonner Jackson
Key preseason victories: Seattle Mountaineers, Western Mustangs, Waterloo Warriors, Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks
Key preseason losses: vs. Detroit Mercy, vs. Windsor Lancers
#8 Saskatchewan Huskies – (CW 0-0, Overall 6-2) (LW: NR)
There’s no doubt as to who has been the most dominate program over the past decade, Carleton Ravens aside, the Saskatchewan Huskies have arguably been the most successful, consistent and exciting CIS Men’s basketball program over last ten years winning their first ever championship in 2009-10. Head coach Barry Rawlyk has quietly build himself the resume in five short seasons with an impressive overall record of 116-35 (.768) which only trails Dave Smart amongst active head coaches and his absurd 92.9% winning percentage. The Huskies are looking for back to back appearances at the big dance after falling short last year in national quarter-finals to the Ottawa Gee-Gees. Rawlyk returns all but one starter on a team that features one of the toughest front courts in the country in Dadrain Collins, Matt Forbes and Connor Burns.
Top players: Dadrain Collins, Matt Forbes, Connor Burns, Ben Baker, Andrew Henry, Evan Ostertag
Key preseason victories: MacEwan Griffins (x2), Guelph Gryphons, Victoria Vikes
Key preseason losses: @Ryerson Rams, @Toronto Blues
#9 UNB Varsity Reds – (AUS 0-0, Overall 8-2) (LW: NR)
Never underestimate the impact that an All-Canadian player can have on a program. The Varsity Reds are on the rise thanks to the addition of 2013-14 CIS Rookie of the year Javon Masters, who last year become the first true freshman to ever lead the country in scoring by unloading a 27.4 clip per game on AUS opposition. Masters rookie campaign helped him rack up the awards, second-team All-Canadian, All-rookie team, school athlete of the year and more. Unfortunately the individual success didn’t translate to the ultimate team goal, as UNB struggled in the second-half of the season with 4-10 record and eventually lost in the AUS quartefinals in heartbreaking
fashion to the St. FX X-men. A promising preseason schedule and solid returning line-up have the Varsity Reds eying their first trip to nationals since 2004.
Top players: Javon Masters, William McFee, Nikola Mandic, Jordan Irvine, Matthew Daley
Key preseason victories: UPEI Panthers (2x), Calgary Dinos, Holland College Hurricanes, UQAM, Toronto Blues, York Lions
Key preseason losses: @Ryerson Rams, vs. Cape Breton Capers
#10 St. Mary’s Huskies – (AUS 0-0, Overall 5-2) (LW: NR)
The defending AUS championships are once again out to proof that last year AUS run and Final 8 appearance wasn’t a fluke. Third-year head coach Jonah Taussig returns three-starters including a talented backcourt duo of Marquis Clayton and Theon Refeer. The Huskies like to get up and down in transition and with an overall lack of size in the conference don’t be surprised to see St. Mary’s back in the national spotlight come March.
Top players: Theon Reefer, Brian Rouse, Jeremy McAvoy, Marquis Clayton, Kadeem Scott, Achuil Lual
Key preseason victories: York Lions, UQAM Citadins, Wilfred Laurier Hawks, Holland College Hurricanes
11. Winnipeg Wesmen (CW 0-0, Overall 5-1) (LW: NR)
The Wesmen nearly cracked the top 10 with a solid preseason schedule and near unbeaten record. Winnipeg is coming off its second straight 14-8 season under head coach Mike Raimbault and have been knocking at the door! Will this be the year they final bust through and win a Canada West playoff series?
Top players: Travis Krahn, Jordan Clennon, Mark McNee, Jelane Pryce
Key preseason victories: Lakehead Thunderwolves (2x), Regina Cougars, Algoma Thunderbirds, Brandon Bobcats
Key preseason losses:UNBC Timberwolves
12. Calgary Dinos (CW 0-0, Overall 5-2) (LW: NR)
Veteran Head Coach Dan Vanhooren kicks off his fifteen-year at the helm of a Dinos program eager to resurrect their status amongst the elite teams in the country. Calgary hasn’t been to the Final 8 since 2010 when it made back-to-back appearances but failed to advance to the title game with losses to UBC on both occasions. Led by exciting fifth year point guard and conference MVP candidate Jarred Ongunbemi-Jackson the Dinos will be competitive and challenge for a playoff spot in the always tough Canada West.
Top players: Jarred Ogungbemi-Jackson, Josh Owen-Thomas, Philip Barndt, Matt Letkeman, Adonis Montfort-Palomino
Key preseason victories: Alberta Bears, Lethbridge Cougars (2x), UPEI Panthers
Key preseason losses: @ Cape Breton Capers, @UNB Reds
13. Manitoba Bisons (CW 0-0, Overall 5-2) (LW: NR)
The Bisons took a step back last year with 6-16 Canada West record failing to qualify for the playoffs. As usual W’s over conference heavyweights will be the only way Manitoba sneaks into the post season.
Top players: Stephan Walton, Andre Arruda, Marjit Basi
Key preseason victories: Algoma Thunderbirds, Regina Cougars, Brandon Bobcats, UNBC Timberwolves
Key preseason losses:UNBC Timberwolves
14. Lakehead Thunderwolves (OUA 0-0, Overall 5-4) (LW: NR)
Head coach Scott Morrison left a pretty solid legacy at Lakehead by becoming the schools all-time winningest coach with 185 wins in 10 seasons. Former Carleton Ravens assistant coach Manny Furtado takes over the coaching duties looking to make an immediate impact on a program that is only two years removed from a CIS title game appearance.
Top players: Dwayne Harvey, Bacarius Dinkins, Alexandre Robichaud, Brent Wallace, Anthony McIntosh, Henry Tan
Key preseason victories: Brandon Bobcats (2x), MacEwan Griffins, Alberta Bears
Key preseason losses:Winnipeg Wesmen (2x), Minnesota–Duluth Bulldogs (2x) NCAA DII
#15 Alberta Golden Bears – (CW 0-0, Overall 4-4) (LW: NR)
The Golden Bears are coming off a well deserved CIS Bronze Medal thanks to a 20-2 conference and 38-7 overall record. Head Coach Barnaby Craddock had a definite case for Canada West coach of the year last year and will be tough pressed to repeat last years success due to the graduation of All-Canadian forward Jordan Baker. Still some promising pieces remain and as long as Alberta stays healthy you can expect them to be in the running for another deep Canada West title.
Top players: Youssef Ouahrig, Joel Friesen, Kenneth Otieno, Mamadou Gueye, Ethan Dixon
Key preseason victories: Victoria Vikes, Bishop Gaiters
Key preseason losses: Carleton Ravens, Calgary Dinos, Mount Royal Cougars, Lakehead Thunderwolves
#16 Victoria Vikes – (CW 0-0, Overall 4-3) (LW: NR)
Head coach Craig Beaucamp hasn’t had a losing season since he took over the Vikes in 2003. During that stretch he has guided Victoria to four CIS Final 8 appearances in 2005, 2006 and now the past two seasons. Yes the Vikes three-preseason losses came at the hands of Carleton, Saskatchewan and Alberta, all top competition, but their wins weren’t that impressive either. 6’10’ forward Chris McLaughlin will shoulder the workload inside while Seattle duo of Marcus Tibbs and Kai Green will handle the majority of the point guard duties.
Top players: Marcus Tibbs, Chris McLaughlin, Reiner Theil, Mack Roth, Jeremy Leonard-Smith,Patrick Pilato
Key preseason victories: Bishop’s Gaiters, Fraser Valley Cascades, MacEwan Griffins
Key preseason losses: Alberta Golden Bears, Carleton Ravens, Saskatchewan Huskies
#17 Fraser Valley Cascades – (CW 0-0, Overall 6-5) (LW: NR)
In only nine seasons in the CIS the Fraser Valley Cascades have established themselves as a consistent team in the Canada West and are coming off the programs most successful season by going 17-5 in conference play. The Cascades are battling the injury bug and with another tough preseason schedule behind them they look to continue to be right in the mix for another post season trip.
Top players: Kevon Parchment, Kadeem Willis, Jasper Moedt, Manjodh Dulay
Key preseason victories: Seattle Mountaineers, Trinity Western Spartans (2x), Brock Badgers
Key preseason losses: Detroit Mercy (NCAA DI), Windsor Lancers (2x), Victoria Vikes, Ryerson Rams
#18 Mcgill Redmen – (RSEQ 0-0, Overall 4-9) (LW: NR)
The preseason wasn’t kind to the McGill Redmen or any of the other RSEQ teams. Head Coach David Deaveiro put together arguably the toughest preseason schedule to date in hopes that it will translate to a third straight trip to nationals. The two-time defending Quebec champs are still the favorites in a division that only features five teams and could use a complete overhaul in the upcoming years.
Top players: Dele Ogundokun, Vincent Dufort, Francois Bourque, Christian McCue, Rodrigo Imperador
Key preseason victories: Trinity Western Spartans, Guelph Gryphons, Brock Badgers, York Lions
Key preseason losses: Indiana Hoosiers (NCAA DI), Memphis Tigers (NCAA DI), Loyola Maryland (NCAA DI), Fordham Rams (NCAA DI), Queens Gaels, St.FX, Ottawa Gee-Gees, Windsor Lancers, Ryerson Rams
#19 Brandon Bobcats – (CW 0-0, Overall 5-4) (LW: NR)
The Bobcats have yet to have a winning season under head coach Gil Chueng who took over in 2010. Brandon will need to play inspired basketball all-season long if they want to stay close to a Canada West playoff spot. Look for 6’5′ guard/forward American import Earl Thompson Jr. (Henderson, NV) to have a breakout year.
Top players: Earl Thompson Jr., Denham Buchanan, Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak, Mikee Dosado
Key preseason victories: Algoma Thunderbirds, Acadia Axemen (2x)
Key preseason losses: Lakehead Thunderwolves (2x), Manitoba Bisons, Winnipeg Wesmen
#20 Brock Badgers – (OUA 0-0, Overall 7-4) (LW: NR)
Only two teams have won championships during the Dave Smart era, the Saskatchewan Huskies (2010) and the Brock Badgers (2008). The Badgers made some necessary off-seasons moves and are now in position to be competitive once again in the OUA. Second-year head Coach Charles Kissi has brought in a promising recruiting class in Johneil Simpson, and Yusuf Ali who automatically improving Brock’s hopes of making a playoff run.
Top players: Johneil Simpson, Yusuf Ali, Dani Elgadi, AJ Manguerra
Key preseason victories: St.FX X-men, UQAM, Regina Cougars
Key preseason losses: Illinois-Chicago Flames (NCAA DI), Ottawa Gee-Gees, McGill Redmen, Fraser Valley Cascades
#21 Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks – (OUA 0-0, Overall 7-5) (LW: NR)
A few big preseason wins earn the Golden Hawks a spot in the Top 25, the loss to Memorial didn’t help solidly their status.
Top players: William Coulthard, Owen Coulthard, Kyrie Coleman, Filip Cvrkalj
Key preseason victories: Humber Hawks, Manitoba Bisons, Concordia Stingers
Key preseason losses: Memorial Seahawks, St. Mary’s Huskies, Dalhousie Tigers, UBC Thunderbirds
#22 Laval Rouge et Or – (RSEQ 0-0, Overall 7-9) (LW: NR)
The most active team in the preseason, Laval has played a total of 16 preseason games, more than Carleton and Ottawa. The Rouge et Or have played inconsistent ball for much of the preseason, but with a few adjustments and better effort from their young bench head coach Jacques Paiement Jr. and Laval could surprise and make a run into the conferences championship game.
Top players: Karl Demers-Belanger, Thibaud Dezutter, Boris Hadzimuratovic, Hugues Ryan
Key preseason victories: Holland College Hurricanes, Acadia Axemen, Mount Royal Cougars, Western Mustangs
Key preseason losses: Indiana Hoosiers (NCAA D1), Vermont Tigers (NCAA D1), Ohio Bobcats (NCAA D1), ST. F.X, McGill Redmen, Bishops Gaiters, Toronto Blues
#23. York Lions (OUA 0-0, Overall 4-7) (LW: NR)
After spending the past three seasons developing a nucleus around Nick Tufegdzich (13.4 PPG/10.4 RPG), Daniel Tulloch (18.7 PPG) and Ryan Ejim (15PPG/7.7RPG), they will need find another scoring option as Ejim decided to transfer to the Carleton Ravens, leaving a huge scoring load to fill for a team that averaged over 80 points per game.
Top players: Nick Tufegdzich, Daniel Tulloch, Richard Iheadindu,
Key preseason victories: Dalhousie Tigers, Concordia Singers, Regina Cougars, UQAM
Key preseason losses: IPFW Mastodons (NCAA D1), Illinois-Chicago Flames (NCAA D1), Fairmont State Falcons (NCAA DI), St. Mary’s Huskies. UNB Reds, McGill Redmen
#24 Concordia Stingers – (RSEQ 0-0, Overall 6-4) (LW: NR)
The Concordia Stingers are looking to regain their usual spot as Quebec’s top team, unfortunately things haven’t been easy since the arrival of David Deaveiro at McGill. The Stingers are extremely young with only one fifth-year player logging significant minutes in Mukiya Post it could be another long season for head coach John Dore. The Stingers will rely on some key transfers (Jean-Louis Wanya, Ken Beaulieu) to lead them back to relevancy.
Top players: Mukiya Post, Michael Fosu, Jean-Louis Wanya
Key preseason victories: Queens Gales, Waterloo Warriors
Key preseason losses: Fordham Rams (NCAA DI), Loyola Maryland (NCAA DI) York Lions, Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks
25. Western Mustangs (OUA 0-0, Overall 7-3) (LW: NR)
The addition of Acadia Axemen transfer Thomas Filgiano gives the Mustangs an additional scorer to help bolster a Mustangs team that has racked up a 19-46 conference record over the past three seasons under Brad Campbell.
Top players: Thomas Filgiano, Greg Morrow, Anthony Spiridis, Quinn Henderson, Elliott Dooley
Key preseason victories: Trinity Western Spartans, Mount Royal Cougars
Key preseason losses: UBC Thunderbirds, Thompson Rivers, Laval Rouge et Or
Queens Golden Gaels (OUA 0-0, Overall 5-6) (LW: NR)
Dalhousie Tigers (AUS 0-0, Overall 6-3) (LW: NR)
Mount Royal Cougars (CW 0-0, Overall 4-5) (LW: NR)
Dropped from previous week
*OUA (Ontario University Association)
*CW (Canada West)
*AUS (Atlantic University Sport)
*RSEQ (Réseau du Sport Etudiant du Québec)
*LW – Last Week
*NR – Not Ranked
Omar Shiddo: Soft-spoken assassin
It’s around 8:30 p.m. on a frigid Wednesday in the dead of winter, and Omar Shiddo is having one of his worst games of the season.
The fourth-year Western Mustangs guard, who has drawn comparisons to Damian Lillard for his clutch shooting, has just five points in the first half of a tight game against the Guelph Gryphons.
In the second half his game marginally improves, but there are a series of missteps — layups that don’t go down, jump shots that rim out and an occasional lack of motion without the ball.
Shiddo also gets hit with a technical foul after a physical bucket he felt should have resulted in an and-one, clapping back at two Guelph players who allegedly chirped at him during the play.
This is a far cry from the kinds of performance Shiddo is known for, and light years away from the 35-point outburst he had four days earlier in an 84-79 win over rival McMaster.
It doesn’t matter — not even remotely.
Western clamps down on defence in the second half and several teammates make big shots. Shiddo helps neutralize Guelph guard Malcolm Glanville, who had 11 first-half points and showed signs of catching fire.
Shiddo finishes with 12 points on 4-15 shooting, his second-lowest total of the year. Five other Mustang players players score in double-digits, including 27 points from sharp-shooting guard Eriq Jenkins.
Western pulls away and cruises to a 94-73 victory that’s as ugly as it is decisive.
“That’s a win, boys!” someone shouts emphatically as the team gathers for a post-game huddle in the cavernous, mostly-empty Alumni Hall in London, Ont. — Western’s home court.
“Guys on my team stepped up,” said Shiddo minutes later in an interview, his soft-spoken analysis tumbling out as quickly as he jukes opponents, like water over Niagara Falls.
“The second half was more of other guys doing their thing and me not having to do as much scoring, which I love to do. It’s all about team … we got a big win.”
Shiddo is unquestionably a leader — and on most nights, the most effective offensive weapon — on a Western team loaded with potential.
In his tenure, the Mustangs have been as good as they have been in a decade, with a legitimate chance to challenge for a berth in the U Sports Final 8 — Canada’s version of March Madness — in Ottawa.
“That’s our goal from the beginning of the year — trying to get to nationals,” said Shiddo, who grew up in Brampton, Ont., a hotbed that has produced several NBA players, including Cleveland Cavaliers forward Tristan Thompson and former No. 1 pick Anthony Bennett.
“We think we’re a top-five team in the country,” said Shiddo. “We’ve just need to continue to play like it.”
Western is ranked outside the Top 10 nationally, but has the second-best record in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA), four points behind the Carleton Ravens.
They’re also first in the OUA West division, with a roster that skews relatively young: Seven of the 12 players are freshmen or sophomores.
Nikola Farkic, a 6-foot point guard from Waterloo, is team captain and Jenkins (Windsor, Ont.) is arguably its most reliable three-point threat. Veteran forward Julian Walker (Barrie, Ont.) anchors a front court with considerable promise, thanks in large part to lean, athletic second-year players Aaron Tennant (London, Ont.) and Ukasha Khan (Brampton, Ont.).
“A lot of stuff goes unnoticed on the stat sheet,” said Shiddo. “But we’ve got a full team and we’re 10 deep. Everybody plays their role. We’re not a team where it’s one guy.”
He’s right. This win over Guelph is proof enough of that. And yet in crunch time, Shiddo has a penchant for taking over games, Lillard-style, and making big shots.
It has become part of Western lore.
When Lillard puts a team on his back and wills it to victory in the fourth quarter, fans and media call it Dame Time. When Shiddo does this, it’s #Omellytime.
Shiddo showed hints of his #Omelly mentality early against Guelph. After Western fell behind 10-2 in the first quarter, his demeanor shifted from deferential to aggressive, pushing the ball up the floor and calmly making a mid-range jumper to cut the lead to six.
Minutes later, he drilled a three-pointer to make it 12-7, and attacked the basket for a layup that lingered on the rim but didn’t fall. His teammates took their cue and soon Western had its first lead of the game.
At the end of the first quarter the score was 28-28. At halftime Western led 47-46, and they never looked back.
“I’m not the rah rah type of — football type of leader,” said Shiddo. “I try to lead by example.
“Say what has to be said, and other than that just lead by example. It’s not how much you say, it’s about what you say.”
In U Sports, most teams are at the mercy of a Carleton dynasty that has won 14 of the last 17 national championships.
Western is a long shot to come anywhere near the title game this season, and Carleton is favoured to win it. When the teams meet for a regular-season tilt at Alumni Hall on Jan. 31, it will likely be for the last time.
Shiddo is nobody’s fool. He knows the odds are stacked against his team, even if he’s at his best and #Omellytime is in full effect.
His confidence is tempered with realism, but it’s still there.
“Against a team like that we’re not going to be up by one at half — we’ll probably be down by 20,” he said. “We have to play our perfect game.”
They will almost certainly not be perfect. They will almost certainly lose. And yet Omar Shiddo, the soft-spoken assassin, has a question for you.
“Why not shock the country,” he said, “and beat the No. 1 team?”
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.