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CIS Final 8: RSEQ/Quebec struggles continue as McGill fail to advance

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CIS Final 8: RSEQ/Quebec struggles continue as McGill fail to advance
Photo: Rich Lam/UBC Athletics

Vancouver, BC – The struggles continue for the Réseau du Sport Etudiant du Québec (RSEQ) Quebec conference at the CIS Final 8 National Championships.

With the No. 5 McGill Redmen dropping a 72-69 nail bitter to the No. 4 seed Calgary Dinos it has now been eleven years (2005) since an RSEQ team has won a quarter-final game at Nationals, and over 18 years since the 1998 Bishop Gaiters lifted the WP. McGee trophy, claiming bragging rights as the best conference in the country.

A lot has changed between 1998 and 2005 when the Concordia Stingers knocked off the St. Mary’s Huskies 87-57 to advance to the national semi-finals. The University game as a whole has improved by leaps and bounds, we’ve seen realignment changes across two conferences, both in the OUA and CanWest divisions, CIS transfer rules have opened up the floodgates for NCAA transfers to return home without being forced to sit out a mandatory one year, and much more.

But outside of RSEQ teams competing during preseason exhibition against top NCAA teams during August and early September things have been pretty much status quo, for a conference that routinely challenged the rest of the country during the 1990s.

Majority of the problems with the RSEQ can be traced to the fact it only features five teams in comparison to the rest of the league. The Ontario University Conference (OUA) and the Canada West boast a total of 17 teams across multiple divisions, while the Atlantic University Sport (AUS) conference only has 8 teams.

UQAM-Kewyn-Blain-Citadins
Kewyn Blain – 2015-2016 RSEQ Player of The Year

The lack of competition and expansion have forced Quebec University Basketball teams to play fewer league games against the same underachieving opponents during the season, resulting in one or two teams finishing above 500% in the standings. Although not factually, it’s valid to argue that the conference is also losing the recruiting battle as most of the top high school players from Ontario, Canada West or Atlantic Canada rarely consider the RSEQ as a conference of choice for championships and exposure. Majority of the rosters across the five teams are filled with local CGEP Quebec talent and a few imports from french-speaking nations like France, Belgium, Haiti and few African countries.

Must Read:  Carleton Ravens Isiah Osborne Detonates on Guelph Gryphons

With all these disadvantages and rapid growth of the game across the country, from prep leagues to professional ranks (NBL Canada), the RSEQ still has plenty to offer from high-level educational opportunities to top-notch coaching and features one of the most diverse provinces Canada has to offer.

For the RSEQ the road to supremacy will require time, funding, strategic thinking, and potential realignments with the OUA and/or CEGEP additions to grow the university/collegiate game throughout the province. Adding more teams will surely make the league more competitive and attractive, improving facilities, scholarship offers and most importantly winning will also help solve some these dilemma’s and hopefully restore the conference as a prime destination and end championship drought.

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U Sports

Kadre Gray career-high 51 points keep Laurentian Voyageurs unbeaten

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Two Time U Sports Mvp Kadre Gray Declares For Nba Draft
Kadre Gray erupts for career-high 51-points.

Kadre Gray scored a career-high 51 points as the Laurentian Voyageurs (4-0) stayed unbeaten with 107-77 win over the Algoma Thunderbirds. The reigning two-time U Sports Most Valuable Player (MVP) torched Algoma — shooting 17-for-24 (70.8%) from the floor and burying 9-of-15 (60%) triples including 8-of-12 (66%) from the foul line — adding 9 assists and 2 steals in 32 minutes.

Gray scored 14 points in the opening quarter and added 11 more in the second-quarter to finish the half with 25 points as Laurentian trailed the Thunderbirds 51-46. The former Rookie of the Year (2016-17) added to his count with 10 more in the middle frame helping Laurentian rally to take a 74-69 lead.

Kadre Gray wins second consecutive U Sports MVP
Laurentian’s Kadre Gray U Sports Basketball MVP

The Toronto, Ontario native doubled-up the Thunderbirds in the fourth quarter — scoring 16 points in 10 minutes as Laurentian outscored Algoma 33-8 to run away with the game.

Gray has been on a tear to start the 2019-2020 U Sports men’s basketball season pouring 40 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists in a win over the Bishop Gaiters just four days ago. The two-time first-team All-Canadian also racked-up 25 points against the Western Mustangs and 19 points in the preseason opener over the Waterloo Warriors.

Gray is currently averaging 33.7 points per game, slightly higher than the league-leading 31 points per game a year ago. Gray’s previous career-high was a 48-point game in 101-81 win over the Lakehead Thunderwolves on November 3rd 2018.

Kadre Gray on pace to become U Sports All-Time Scorer

With two years of eligibility remaining and currently sitting at 1549 career points the Laurentian guard is on pace to surpass UNB Reds standout Javon Masters to become the all-time greatest scorer in U Sports basketball men’s history.

Must Read:  Ottawa Gee-Gees get past Vermont Catamounts for second straight victory over NCAA team

Masters had 1608 entering his junior year and scored 799 in his final two campaigns to finish with 2407 career points — surpassing Ryerson’s Boris Bakovic’s 2319 total points. Kadre Gray scored 620 points in 20 regular season games last year alone and should he come anywhere near that pace this year and opt to return for a final fifth-year he could shatter the mark.

The four-year stand-out guard is coming off a stellar season and opted to declare for the 2019 NBA Draft and will once again look to make his mark on Canadian University basketball.

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U Sports

Former Carleton All-Canadian Eddie Ekiyor charged sexual assault, kidnapping

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Former Ravens Eddie Ekiyor Charged Sexual Assault And Kidnapping
Former Carleton Ravens Eddie Ekiyor vs. Cincinnati Bearcats - Photo Edilson J. Silva

Surely not the headline you and I were expecting, and the news couldn’t get any worse for former Carleton Ravens forward and two-time All-Canadian Eddie Ekiyor.

According to a report from the Ottawa Police , the 22 year-old Ekiyor is facing serious charges of sexual assault and kidnapping of a 23-year old women following an April 7th, 2019 incident that occurred in Ottawa’s west end.

“The charges come after police received a complaint from a woman regarding an incident in the Market-area and the west end of Ottawa on April 7, 2019. A male suspect met a 23 year old female victim at a downtown bar where he plied her with alcohol and drugs. He then took her to a west end address where he sexually assaulted her. Throughout the incident, the female was in and out of consciousness. Following the sex assault, the victim was put in a taxi cab which drove her home.”

Source – Ottawa Police Services

Ottawa Police have charged Ekiyor with the following three charges: sexual assault, kidnapping and rare, and extremely serious occurrence of overcome resistance to commit an offence.

The news comes on the heels of the start of new season and new head coach Taffe Charles confirming Ekiyor’s departure that the former U Sports All-Canadian was leaving the national championship program to join the pro basketball ranks.

Why didn’t Ekiyor declare for the 2019 NBA Draft?

Interestingly enough, and perhaps not so coincidental is the fact that Ekiyor didn’t test the NBA draft waters by declaring himself eligible for the 2019 draft — taking advantage of the recent changes in NCAA draft rules that permits players, including U Sports athletes to go through the draft process and return to their respective school if no serious interest is garnered.

A record two U sports players (Kadre Gray – Laurentian Voyageurs, Tanor Ngom – Ryerson Rams) plus a Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) player declared — in American born Jalen Sykes (Reford, Michigan) who played for the St. Clair Saints in Windsor, Ontario.

However, there was no mention or sign of Ekiyor who had just finished dominating the 2019 U Sports Final 8 Championship which ran from March 7 to 10 in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

At this point, questions and commentary started circulating about Ekiyor’s NBA aspirations — given that he joined the Ravens program with the intention of doing just that — and clearly had more upside than all of the three-players that declared and actually went through some stages of the NBA draft process.

Must Read:  Carleton Ravens Isiah Osborne Detonates on Guelph Gryphons
Former Ravens All Canadian Eddie Ekiyor Charged Sexual Assault And Kidnapping
Former Ravens All Canadian Eddie Ekiyor Charged Sexual Assault And Kidnapping – Photo Edilson J. Silva

Most early-entry NCAA basketball athletes make their NBA draft declarations around mid-to-late April, as were both the cases with Gray and Ngom.

If Ekiyor and his camp had serious intentions of going pro, why not follow the Canadian NBA hype train and throw his name in the record number of Canadians who did so? After-all the “all gain, nothing to lose” scenario would’ve only benefited Ekiyor’s game, exposure and further bring attention and recognition to the heralded Ravens program.

Timeline of events

Dave Smart shocked the Canadian basketball world by announcing his retirement on March 19, 2019, nine days after winning his record 14th national championship.

The incident in question as per the Ottawa Police occurred less than a month after the National Championship on April 7th and around early May 2019 rumors started surfacing that Ekiyor was looking to leave Carleton to a chase a pro contract.

Those ramblings continued throughout the summer and recently picked-up steam when Ekiyor’s name didn’t appearing on the box-score of the Raven’s first exhibition preseason game against the University of South Florida in Laval, Quebec.

Intrigued by the mystery and lack of details by the both the university and professional teams overseas I reached out to new head coach Taffe Charles via e-mail on August 9th 2019 who provided a very brief statement regarding Ekiyor’s status.

“It is my understanding that Eddie wanted to go pro and is in the midst of doing that.”

Taffe Charles – Head Coach Carleton Ravens Men’s basketball program

Based on the timeline of events, it will be interesting to know if and when did the Ravens program found-out about the incident and, if it tried to distance itself from Ekiyor with the rumor that he was going pro or weather Ekiyor himself and his camp misled the university.

Ekiyor also pled guilty and was conditionally discharged of a hit and run incident of an off-duty Ottawa police officer in 2016, curtailing his NCAA basketball aspirations.

The Ottawa native averaged 12.7 points and 6.7 rebounds in three seasons with the Carleton Ravens — winning two national championships, including being named second-team All-Canadian in 2018 and improving on that mark to claim first-team status and the Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Final 8 championships in his last year (2019) with the Ravens program.

Out on bail, passport surrendered

According to Mike Arsalides, Ekiyor has been released on bail to a surety and has surrendered his Canadian passport. Further to that, Arsalides reports that “Ekiyor is no longer a member of Ravens team and “he informed the team a couple of weeks ago of his intentions of wanting to purse a professional basketball career — according to an official statement from Carleton University.

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U Sports

Valparaiso’s OT buzzer-beater ends Carleton Ravens 12-game NCAA winning streak

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Canadian Daniel Sackey Buzzer Beater Helps Valparaiso Sink Carleton Ravens In Ot
Valparaiso's Daniel Sackey sinks Carleton Ravens with OT Buzzer Beater - Photo: Edilson J. Silva

Ottawa, Ont. — It was one for the ages at the Ravens’ Nest as Canadian Daniel Sackey drilled a running one-footer at the buzzer — helping the visiting Valparaiso Crusaders sink the 14-time defending Canadian university champions Carleton Ravens 83-80 in overtime — ending their unprecedented 12-game winning streak over NCAA division one schools.

Sackey, a 6’1″ sophomore point guard from Winnipeg, Manitoba found himself with the basketball in his hands at the top of the three-point line after a wild sequence of events which included missed foul shots and two forced turnovers in the final 7 seconds of an entertaining and hard-fought August basketball battle.

Sackey finished with 13 points, 4 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals and a ESPN SportsCenter Top 10 game-winner in his home country.

Canadian Point Guard Daniel Sackey Game Winner Over Carleton Ravens
Canadian point guard Daniel Sackey celebrates after game-winner over Carleton Ravens – Photo: Edilson J. Silva

“This feeling is ecstatic! Not one of my best games, but it feels good to come home and get a win” – an excited Sackey opened-up post-game and further expanded on how the Crusaders are soaking-up the experience and building their team chemistry on their second Canadian tour.

ESPN SportsCentre Top 10 Play of the Day

Valparaiso’s “Brotherhood” Approach

“Brotherhood.” That’s what we are trying to build here, last year that’s what we lacked, but this year we are trying to do it as unit, as team. No individuals, we do everything as a team.”

Valparaiso Crusaders fourth-year Head Coach Matt Lottich echoed those same sentiments about his team after the win.

Valparaiso Basketball Head Coach Matt Lottich In The Huddle Against Canadian Basketball Powerhouse Carleton Ravens
Valparaiso Basketball Head Coach Matt Lottich in the huddle against Canadian basketball powerhouse Carleton Ravens – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

“Honestly, we were here four years ago and got our butts-kicked by 20 points (77-59) with what I thought was a better team at the time — so we knew what kind of challenge Carleton presented. We have been taking this trip one day at the time and working on getting better as team each day and it obviously feels good to beat a team of Carleton’s status.

Javon Freeman-Liberty at home with Valpo

Talented sophomore guard Javon Freeman-Liberty led a full-team effort with four Crusaders in double-figures with a game-high 23 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals to beat a Carleton Ravens squad that hadn’t lost to a NCAA team on their home floor since dropping a 76-64 decision to the Towson Tigers on August 7, 2017.

Javon Freeman Liberty Valparaiso Basketball Star Player Against Canadian Basketball Powerhouse Carleton Ravens
Valparaiso’s Javon Freeman-Liberty takes on Carleton Ravens – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

The former Chicago high-school all-state standout and NCAA Missouri-Valley all-defensive and freshman team from a year-ago contemplated leaving the program during the off-season but decided to return to a team that went 15-18 overall in 2018-2019 and is expected to drastically improve in 2019-2020.

“Javon is a great guy and we are extremely excited to have him back and are working hard in developing his game and making sure that he feels apart of the team and community.” added a energized Matt Lottich.

Nick Robinson shot 5-of-6 from the floor on his way to a 14 point, 8 rebound, 2 steals, 2 blocks and Eron Gordon chipped-in with 13 points and 6 rebounds for the Crusaders who improve to 3-0 on their 2019 Canadian tour.

Valparaiso jumped to a 18-14 first-quarter lead by limiting the Ravens to just 4-of-15 shooting in the opening 10 minutes, and further extending the lead to 37-28 at half-time as they outplayed Carleton in every significant aspect of the game.

Taffe Charles – New Ravens Head Coach

Taffe Charles Head Coach Of Carleton Ravens Mens Basketball Team
Taffe Charles new head coach of Carleton Ravens Men’s basketball team – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

Carleton Ravens new head coach Taffe Charles and his relatively new coaching staff regrouped after the break by outscoring Valparaiso 29-24 in the third-quarter — knocking down five of the Ravens eight three-pointers and putting on a better defensive rebounding effort to cut the lead to 61-57 through three-quarters.

Must Read:  Thomas Scrubb triple-double gives Carleton 76-64 win over Vermont

The fast-pace action came to a halt in a low-scoring fourth-quarter with both teams combining for just 24 points. Carleton continued to battle and knotted the game at 64-64 but trailed 71-66 with 2:00 minutes remaining and managed to send the game into overtime on a late inside basket by Lloyd Pandi.

Elie Karojo Carleton Ravens Basketball Freshman Against Ncaas Valparaiso Crusaders
#15 Carleton Ravens freshman Elie Karojo in action against Valparaiso Crusaders – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

The Ravens took control of the game in overtime holding a 78-75 lead with 2:29 left to play but uncharacteristically fell-apart down the stretch, letting Valparaiso steal a winnable home outcome. Ravens sophomore guard Aiden Warnholtz stepped-up to the free-throw line and missed two crucial foul shots with the game tied at 80-80 with just under 20 seconds remaining — Carleton managed to grab the offensive rebound but were called for a push-off offensive foul — sending the Crusaders to the opposite end of the court for their own two missed foul shots.

Carleton grabbed the defensive rebound and called a timeout with 7.9 secs remaining in hopes of attempting a game-winning shot. Facing full-court pressure and attempting to inbound under their own basket Valparaiso’s Freeman-Liberty forced Carleton to turn the basketball over twice setting — up the wild and fittingly game winner from the kid from Winnipeg, Manitoba.

“It’s August, we have a new coaching staff and a new group of players. We are trying to find new roles for players as well as coaches – discussed Ravens Head coach Taffe Charles after the disappointing loss.

Valparaiso out-rebounds Carleton

Mileek Mcmillan Helps Valparaiso Crusaders Basketball Out Rebound Marcus Anderson Carleton Ravens
Valparaiso Crusaders basketball Mileek McMillan snatches a rebound from Carleton’s Marcus Anderson – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

Valparaiso’s 54-48 out-rebounding of the Ravens was a point of emphasis post game for the Ravens head coach.

“I think they came-out and they knew who we were and we didn’t fully respect the fact that they knew who we were, and they weren’t in a panic and they obviously wanted to play harder and we didn’t match their energy and intensity. I mean when was the last time you saw a team come into our own gym and beat us up on both sides of the backboards.” – added Taffe Charles.

Carleton was paced by Munis Tutu with 18 points, 5 assists and 3 rebounds and got a solid performance from freshman duo Lloyd Pandi (Ottawa, Ont.) 10 points, 5 rebounds, 3 steals and Elie Karojo (Montreal, Que.) with game-high 10 rebounds and 7 rebounds. Marcus Anderson nearly missed out on a double-double with 9 points and 9 rebounds.

The Ravens were without the services TJ Lall, a 6’6″all-conference senior forward who averaged 12.5 points per game, 5.8 rebounds in his junior campaign. Starting point guard Yasiin Joseph only played 10 minutes, scoring 8 points and grabbing two rebounds as the coaching staff got a look at various new faces including last minute NCAA transfer in Ivan Cucak a third-year 6’11” junior center from Austin Peay State University.

Canadian big men on campus

Valparaiso Ben Krikke Battles Carleton Ravens Ivan Cucak
Valparaiso’s Ben Krikke battles Carleton Ravens Ivan Cucak – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

Cucak (Kitchener, Ont.) played well in limited action, adding 8 points, 3 rebounds and 3 assists in 14 minutes and forced Valparariso to go big and match-up with their own Canadian 7-footer in Ben Krikke (Edmonton, AB) who finished with 4 points, 3 blocks and 2 rebounds in 14 minutes.

Valparaiso shot the ball well going 14-of-40 (35%) from downtown and harassed Carleton into a 8-of-29 (27.6%) shooting from deep — including 2-of-10 in the first-half. The Crusaders managed to win the game despite going to the free-throw line just four times and shooting 1-of-4 (25%). Carleton didn’t fair much better, connecting on 14-of-24 (58.3%) foul-shots.

Dave Smart sitting on the Ravens bench

Former Head Coach Dave Smart Sitting At End Of Carleton Ravens Bench Basketballbuzz
Former Head Coach Dave Smart sitting at end of Carleton Ravens bench – Photo: Edilson J. Silva/BasketballBuzz

It felt just like the good ol’days with former head coach Dave Smart opting for a seat at the back of the Ravens’ bench rather than the front. Smart called it a career after winning his untouchable 14th Canadian university basketball championship in 17 years and has take a role of basketball operations with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs.

The Ravens (1-1) beat the University of South Florida 78-69 in their preseason opener in Laval, Quebec and will look to start new winning streak against NCAA opposition when they take on the University of Albany Great Danes on Sunday August 18 at the Ravens Nest.

Valparaiso who went (2-1) in their 2015 Canadian tour will wrap-up a successful 2019 edition with another tough match-up against UQAM in Montreal.

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