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.
Dave Smart steps down as Carleton men’s head coach after 14 national titles
It’s the end of an era at Carleton.
The school has announced that Dave Smart, who built a dynasty that dominated Canadian university sport for nearly 20 years, has stepped down.
Smart has accepted a new role as the university’s director of basketball operations, Carleton said in a news release.
He will be responsible for “developing the men’s and women’s basketball programs and continuing to build a culture of sport excellence,” the release said.
“Smart will provide operational support, mentorship and technical leadership to the coaching staff of both programs, and he will work with the Department of University Advancement in fundraising and community development.
“He’ll also provide mentorship to other U Sports coaches in Carleton Athletics.”
Taffe Charles, who coached Carleton’s women’s program for 12 years and won a national title in 2017-18 will succeed Smart as men’s team head coach.
“It’s been a great run,’’ said Smart in a statement.
“Coaching is my second love, my first being my wife and children. I am very thankful to the university and I am looking forward to my new role.
“This gives me an opportunity to stay involved in basketball while having more time to spend with my family.”
Smart’s 19-year tenure at Carleton was one of remarkable dominance, with 14 national championships.
He also won a record number of coaching awards and has been active as a coach with Canada Basketball.
“Dave’s success on the court has given Carleton great national visibility and we are sincerely grateful,” said Benoit-Antoine Bacon, president of Carleton University.
“I wish Dave all the best in his new role where he will share his ‘playbook’ with all our Ravens programs.”
Charles played on Carleton’s men’s team from 1990 to 1995 and began his coaching career as an assistant in 1995; he then served as an assistant with the men’s program from 1998 to 2007.
Since returning to the women’s program in 2007, Carleton won four U Sports Final 8 berths, four OUA East titles, and two OUA championships.
Carleton’s women’s national championship in 2018 was the first in school history.
“I am truly honoured to be entrusted as the next head coach of the Carleton University men’s basketball program,’’ said Charles in a statement.
“I look forward to the challenge of continuing the high standard of excellence that has been set by Coach Smart, his coaching staff and the players.’’
Carleton said it has launched a national search for a head coach of its women’s program.
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.