At this point in the CIS basketball season there are two teams that seem to be leaps and bounds above the rest of the competition in the nation. Both of these teams are highly talented, packed with exciting players, and both also happen to call the same city home.
The Ottawa Gee-Gees and Carleton Ravens are now in their third straight year of sitting atop the national rankings and look to have a guaranteed another bid to the CIS finals, despite being only at the midway point. Both teams sit undefeated at 8-0 in regular season play and will return from the holiday break to finally matchup head-to-head. The date for the “Bytown Battle” is set for Jan. 10th at Montpetit Hall on the campus of the University of Ottawa, before the teams once again meet on Feb. 6th for the Capital Hoops Classic at the Canadian Tire Centre.
This season, the Ravens have taken a slower and more strategic approach to their play where defence is a focus and the offence will do enough to pull away. On the other side, the Gee-Gees are arguably more exciting to watch as they combine being an offensive powerhouse with a defence that shows flashes of being as lockdown as it gets.
To better understand the members of this pack of wild horses, here is a detailed breakdown of who makes up the garnet and grey squad:
PG, 4th-year: Mike L’Africain – Controlling ball handler who is equally as dangerous passing, shooting, and cutting through the lane to the hoop. Easily neutralizes opposing point guards on the defensive end and is vocal in running the floor.
SG, 5th-year: Johnny Berhanemeskel – Undoubtedly the most feared shooter and one of the best overall collegiate players in the nation. “Johnny B” is crafty and consistent on both ends and in transition. He can shoot anyone out of the gym and can begin and end any game.
SF, 3rd-year: Caleb Agada – A budding star with a flair for the dramatic. Talented all-around and is a nightly double-double threat. From shooting threes to rim rattling dunks, to big blocks and steals, Agada has it all.
PF, 4th-year: Vikas Gill – A ‘stretch 4”, consistent and solid on either end with a shooting touch particularly behind the arc.
C, 5th-year: Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue – “Gab” is the team’s most vocal leader and anchor in the paint. A high percentage shooter down low and from the line, defensive power with the ability to close out opposing bigs.
Bench Role Players:
PF, 3rd-year: Matt Plunkett – Once stationed at the end of the bench and now shares duties as the team’s “sixth-man”. When he is hot Plunkett can be one of the best three-point shooters in the nation and score in bunches. Length is a problem for defenders also a skilled passer and solid in setting picks.
G/F, 3rd-year: Moe Ismail – A true swingman with great speed and leaping ability. An outside threat that with more playing time could become a dangerous offensive weapon.
PG/SG, 3rd-year: Medhi Tihani – All-around guard that shares “sixth-man” duties with Plunkett. The former Raven has proved his value for the Gees providing a spark off of the bench.
F, 3rd-year: Matt Nelson – An early season breakout, “Nellie” went from next to no minutes last season to playing solid minutes giving opposition a difficult matchup with a slim build paired with 6’9″ height.
PF, 3rd-year: Noel Jones – A transfer NCAA basketball powerhouse Syracuse University, Jones is slowly becoming more comfortable with the Gee-Gees and is expected to show the potential that earned him a spot on a Div. I roster. A talented big that will be seeing more minutes in the second half of the season.
G/F, 1st-year: Mackenzie Morrison – After attending prep school in Connecticut, Morrison returned to Canada to bring his superb athleticism and strength to Ottawa. Already showing early flashes of how good he can be, Mack will only get better in time.
G/F, 1st-year:: Brandon Robinson – A former first team collegiate all-star while attending CÉGEP at Dawson College in Montréal last year, Robinson is a scoring threat that is great on defence. In limited minutes he has shown some flashes but will form a powerful tandem with Morrison in years to come.
PF, 1st-year: Kiari Gerba – Another Dawson College product with limited playing time, a strong rebounder will provide good power down low.
PF, 1st-year: Andrew DeGroot – With a large frame and good athleticism, the freshman from Toronto could be very solid in the next few years for the Gees.
SF, 5th-year: Alex Ratté – The third leading scorer in the nation last season transferred from Laurentian to his hometown for his Master’s program. Knee problems have kept him sidelined so far but a second half return is possible. Ratté could single handedly push Ottawa to favourites for the championship with his return.
SG, 3rd-year: Zach Traer – A redshirt so there has not been much to see playing wise but Traer is perhaps one of the best personalities on the team playing a valuable role in keeping the team together as a unit.
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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.