By Gabriel Lee
For the second straight season, the men’s basketball team’s main adversary won’t be the University of Toronto Varsity Blues, nor will it be the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) powerhouse Carleton Ravens who knocked them out of the playoffs last season. No, the Rams’ main adversary this season will be their ability to stay healthy.
The 12 players that head coach Roy Rana put on the hardwood throughout the Rams’ recent pre-season home stand was not indicative of the talent he will have on the floor night-in, night-out. Not only was their co-captain and starting shooting guard Ola Adegboruwa getting back into shape after off-season surgery, limited, but forward Bjorn Michaelson re-injured his forearm. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the team’s all-world point guard, Jahmal Jones, wasn’t even in the country for the preseason, as he was representing Team Canada at the Pan Am Games in Mexico. In their places were players who made the team through the open tryout process thrusted into action, while veteran role players where forced to take on a larger roles.To put it simply, the Rams were just above mediocre in the pre-season
With a healthy roster, there is no doubt the Rams will make a lot of noise in the OUA East, but without three of their projected starters, the Rams squeaked out a nail biter against Dalhousie 71-68, before receiving a dose of reality from Manitoba, losing 74-66 in a game the Rams looked out of from the start.
Jones’ absence left the Rams without a point guard, as the Rams were unable to handle Manitoba’s full court pressure defense without Jones calling the shots. However, second-year shooting guard Jordon Gauthier was given the green light on offence and he showed why he was an OUA all-rookie last year, leading the Rams in scoring both nights and converting seven three pointers en route to a game-high 27 points in the game against Dalhousie.
While most of his veteran players graduated at the end of last season, Rana’s done a great job at replenishing the team’s already youthful roster. At 6’4, Aaron Best is a rookie who’s built and plays like a poor man’s Kevin Durant, while another name you should become familiar with is Nem Stankovic, a 6’9 monster of a forward who was forced to sit out last season as a transfer from Chicago State.
If Stankovic and the aforementioned Michaelsen stay healthy, the Rams pose a frontcourt that very few teams in the country can match. But that’s a big if.
In the 2010-11 campaign, Michaelsen, who is 6’11”, appeared in just three conference games due to injuries. He enters 2011 with another injury to his forearm
How high can the Rams climb in the standings? That depends on how well Jones plays. As electric as Jones was last season, the Rams need their floor general to take the step from a great player on an average team to the best player on a contender, and playing alongside the top Canadian university players during the Pan Am Games can only boost Jones’ confidence.
That being said, th–e measuring stick of success in Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) basketball has been the Ravens, who have won seven of the last nine national championships. Their dominance in the CIS circuit is comparable to the John Wooden led UCLA teams in the 60’s and Bill Russell’s 11 championships with the NBA’s Boston Celtics.
Both of those teams eventually ran into a foe that ended their decade of dominance, and I genuinely believe that if the core of this Rams team meshes over the next couple years they could be the next dynasty in the OUA.
Friday night will usher a new era of Ryerson men’s basketball, and as history has proved, nothing can stop a team whose time has come.
That is, nothing except for injuries.