Regardless of sport, class, gender, league, gym size or any other nouns, adjectives, verbs you can come-up with it’s always a big deal when number one versus number two get together for any sporting event. It’s even better when the billing lives up to the buzz and over delivers on the hype.
Recently, for Canadian University basketball enthusiasts #1 vs. #2 has quickly become synonymous with one of the fiercest and most exciting Canadian sporting rivalries. Pitting the undisputed kings of Canadian Basketball, the Carleton Ravens against the emerging two time reigning national finalist Ryerson Rams.
Bill it up as Rana versus Smart or call it the 613 versus the 416, or for political heads, Queen’s Park not getting along with Parliament Hill.
Ottawa, Toronto have a long standing history of rivalries from the NHL’s Leafs/Sens to the CFL’s Redblacks/Argonauts and now we can safely add the Ravens and the Rams at the U Sports Basketball level.
Like it or not, the Ryerson Rams have emerged as the unlikely Toronto university to dethrone Carleton’s long standing basketball dynasty.
Mixed in the shuffle of Canada’s largest sports and entertainment market are three, soon to be four, Greater Toronto Area (GTA) universities, responsible for providing Canada’s long standing code of academics over athletics. The York Lions, The Toronto Blues alongside Ryerson and newcomer, University of Ontario Institute of Technology (UOIT) Ridgebacks make-up the GTA’s U Sports landscape that is eager to carve out their own niche and grow their respective brands.
Similar to the transformation of the Carleton Ravens with the 1996 hiring of Dave Smart, the Ryerson executive brass formulated their own blueprint for success, beginning with the 2009 hiring of Rana with visions of “starting from the bottom and now we here”, like Toronto’s own Drizzy Drake did to the music game.
At the helm now for his ninth season, it’s fair to say that the foundation of becoming a national powerhouse and regularly competing for national championships is nearly complete and clearly resonating with current players. As evident when speaking with point guard Myles Charvis who transferred from Waterloo to Ryerson two years ago and is now being touted “as an extension of his coach” on the floor.
“It just starts from the top down, administration up to athletic directors, down to the coaching the staff all the way down to the fans, we all demand excellence and you can see it throughout, not just the basketball team, but the volleyball team is doing well, the women’s hockey team, basketball, everyone is doing well, so it’s really just from the top down.”
Charvis alongside senior forward JV Mukama and the rest of Rana’s troops were responsible for orchestrating and putting an end to yet another long standing Ravens streak — beating Carleton 78-74 to end their perfect (28-0, 17-0 conference) start to the season. Ryerson also beat Carleton 84-76 in a thrilling 2018 national semi-final, snapping the Ravens 27 game winning streak, while also ending their seven year grip on the National title.
“If it wasn’t for Myles Charvis we are not in this position. He has been everything we hoped for in a point guard — extension of a coach, I’m happy to call him that for me. He’s the engine of the team and arguably our most valuable player, when he’s going he controls things and he was great again today and he was great when we played them at home.” Alluded Rana about his starting point guard.
Mukama buried his 25 point of night on a deep go ahead three-pointer with 33 seconds left to put Ryerson ahead 75-74, completing Ryerson’s comeback in front of standing room only Raven’s nest in Ottawa. Charvis added 21 points, 6 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals in the victory.
For Mukama, a senior that has been apart of several thrilling battles between the two teams it was just another regular season victory on their way to their ultimate goal.
“We are the top two teams in the country, we knew it was going to be an exciting game, especially on their home-court. They came and beat us at home, it was only fair that we returned the favor. We are going to see them again, this was a statement game, but this is not the goal, it’s just another game, just the top two teams playing hard and it was big game.”
As for Rana, a win over Carleton is always a big win, specially in their building, but ultimately he’s also glad his star player is getting some well deserved credit.
“He’s arguably the best player in the country now, with what he can do on the glass and his length, he can make three’s, he can play point at 6’8″, he is a unique talent in our league and I’m just really glad that he is finally expressing that at highest levels.” spoke Rana on defining his star players growth under his watch.
Rounding out Ryerson’s win were key plays from Yusuf Ali (12 points, 5 rebounds) and Tanor Ngom with 8 points, 8 rebounds and a disruptive 6 blocks.
Carleton was led by double-doubles from standouts Eddie Ekiyor (21 point, 10 rebound, 3 blocks) and TJ Lall 16 points, 10 rebounds and 5 assists. Isiah Osborne hit some big shots and finished with 17 points, 6 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Rams limited Carleton to just 6-of-27 shooting (22.2%) from downtown including just two second-half three-pointers after hitting four-of-five in the opening quarter.
The two teams split the season regular season conference series at 1-1, however, despite the Ryerson win, Carleton managed to cling on to the points tie-breaker advantage thanks to their seven point, 76-69 win in Toronto.
With just five conference games remaining and barring any upsets, and should both teams finish with similar conference records, the tiebreaker could be the determining home-court factor.
With a 2-0 weekend sweep of both Ottawa teams, the Rams will leap the Ravens in the rankings polls taking over the number one spot in the country for the first-time since Feb 1 2016.
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.