He may have cut the afro, but the Raven’s starting point guard, Kaza Kajami-Keane, has more swagger than ever.
Kajami-Keane was selected to the All-Canadian Second team in his first season in the CIS, averaging 14.1 points and 6.6 assists on the season. He was the floor general for a Ravens team in a state of change, after the departures of not only the Scrubb Brothers, but coach Dave Smart, who took a sabbatical for the year.
“It’s something that a lot of people praise and whatnot, but for me, like I tell everybody, I didn’t come to Carleton to win individual awards.” said Kajami-Keane on his All-Canadian selection. “Individual awards are nice, and you put them up in your mom’s house” he chuckled, “but they don’t help you out much other than that.”
A transfer from Cleveland State University, Kajami-Keane played three years in the NCAA Division 1. In his fourth year, however, he chose to return to Canada. Born and raised in Ontario, Kajami-Keane opted for Carleton University, historically the most successful team in Canadian InterUniversity Sports (CIS).
“The NCAA is a lot slower, more methodical because of the 35 second shot clock. Things like the difference in free throws and media timeouts. I personally like the CIS rules better” said Kajami-Keane on the move from the NCAA.
When asked why he chose Carleton in particular, he responded by saying: “I came to play for the best coach, to compete, to get better and win basketball games. This program is historic for winning a lot of games, and the main thing for me is to play for a coach who will help me get better.”
Kaza put an emphasis on the quality of Carleton’s coaches, speaking about how both Dave and Rob Smart have helped him groom his game. “That’s why I came, that’s why I’m going to continue to play for these coaches, and continue to put Carleton on my chest, because these are the best coaches in the country.”
Hopes were high for a Ravens team that had won five national titles in a row, and Kajami-Keane had the unenviable job of replacing three-time CIS player of the year winner Philip Scrubb at point guard. “When you play for Carleton, you have high expectations for yourself and your team.” Said Kajami-Keane. He did a magnificent job, however, leading the Ravens to the OUA silver, and putting the Ravens in a position to win their sixth straight national title.
“I’m a guy who takes it day by day, gets better, so I see that the progress I’ve made this year, there’s nothing compared to it.” Said Kajami-Keane on his first season with the Ravens.
Some of Kajami-Keane’s biggest games this year were against Queens (Jan 30) where he scored 20 points along with ten assists and eight rebounds, and against Laurentian (Feb 26) when he dropped 13 dimes. His game goes beyond just numbers however, as he is the engine that gets the Ravens offense running.
Looking into next year, Kaza said there isn’t much to change. “We want to continue to get better, and keep putting ourselves in a position to win. We got good transfers coming in, and I don’t know any of the rookies yet, but knowing coach Dave, he’s going to get some good guys.”
“When this season is done, we’re going to be right back in the gym on monday and tuesday working on our game again. It’s kind of like a train, once one wheel gets going, the next takes off too.”
As for personal goals, Kajami-Keane keeps it simple. “We haven’t won a championship yet so I’d love to do that.”
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.
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