By Charles Vanegas
The Ryerson men’s basketball team capped off the first annual Ryerson Hoops Festival with a solid but losing effort against the Wake Forest Demon Deacons.
The Rams came out swinging – having a 39-37 lead at halftime – but were eventually overcome by their NCAA opponents, losing 88-80. But in a game no one expected them to win, the Rams see their strong play against a high-calibre competitor as a sign of where the team is at, and where they can go.
“It was good competition, I think we grew as a team,” said guard Yannick Walcott. “Even though we lost, we know what we’re capable of. On any given night, we know that if we put out a complete game, we can beat the best of them.”
The Rams were led by guard Aaron Best’s 26 points and two-time OUA all-star point guard Jahmal Jones’ 20 points and 8 assists. The team’s play earned them praise from Wake Forest head coach Jeff Bzdelik.
“Ryerson did a great job throwing a bunch of different things at us,” said Bzdelik. “They play competitively, they’re athletic and they’re really well coached.”
With the Mattamy Athletic Centre arena stands about three-quarters full, director of athletics Ivan Joseph deemed the event to be a success. The high-profile event also brought in high-profile guests. Toronto Raptors head coach Dwane Casey and general manager Bryan Colangelo sat courtside.
“Roy’s been to a lot of our team’s practices and meetings, so it’s nice to be able to see his team perform against an ACC team,” said Casey. “They’ve definitely [held their own].”
Colangelo said he was impressed by the new facility and Ryerson’s ability to stage such an event, and that he and Ryerson University brass had also discussed the possibility of staging Raptors events at the MAC.
“It’s a great facility, a terrific event. To bring in an NCAA team and play as competitively as they did, it’s a credit to coach Roy Rana and his staff,” he said. “But it’s great to see this building come to life.”
Guard/forward Greg Osawe said the presence of Casey and Colangelo, as well as the high fan turnout, is indicative of the growth of Ryerson’s basketball program.
“We’re coming at the right time, being able to see everything evolve,” said Osawe. “It’s good, I’m happy to be here.”
The Rams will open their regular season at home on Nov. 9 against the Lakehead Thunderwolves – the team the Rams beat in the OUA semi-finals last season to earn them a spot in the CIS championships.
Photos by Brian Batista Bettencourt, Marissa Dederer and Sean Tepper