By Eli Shupak
At the outset of this season, Ryerson’s men’s basketball coach Terry Haggerty said this year’s recruiting class is one of the best his program has ever had. But despite the accolades from Haggerty, it’s doubtful this group will come close to topping the 1993 recruits, which saw its last prominent member play his final game as a Ram last Thursday night in Sudbury.
Carl Harper, in his fifth straight playoff appearance, gave a valiant effort scoring 25 points and pulling down 12 rebounds. Unfortunately the team still came up short as the Rams succumbed 88-64 to the Laurentian Voyageurs.
It was the third time in Harper’s five year university career, and second in a row, that his season ended with a loss to Laurentian.
But this defeat was very different from the previous two. This was Harper’s team to carry and he brought Ryerson a long way, leading the Rams back from a 1-7 start to a 10-10 finish and the post-season berth that came with it.
Last year is was Scott Belasco’s team. In 1993 All-Canadian Alex Beason helped turn the program around, leading the Rams to their first winning season in school history and to within one game of the national championships.
Belasco and Harper were part of the ‘93 class who played in that OUA East final in Sudbury, gaining valuable experience before the torch was passed to them. And Ryerson can be proud of Harper because he’s carried the torch high.
Harper, co-captain for the past three seasons, was honoured prior to the Rams’ final home game in February when the team announced they were going to retire his number 43 at the end of the year.
“There’s a couple ways you can get recognized and have your number retired in our program,” said Haggerty. “One is you can put up huge performance stat or provide extraordinary leadership which is totally unique to us being successful on the court.
“Carl was probably both of those things. He put up big numbers in being able to rebound and block shots, and his scoring numbers were good as a product of that. The intangible that puts Carl over the top was that he was such a great leader to us.”
Harper was second in the OUA East (eighth in the CIAU) with 8.8 rebounds per game and led the conference with 33 blocked shots over the team’s 20-game schedule. Last week, he, along with teammate Brian Smith, were selected as second-team OUA East all-stars.
The Rams forward grabbed 176 rebounds this season giving him a total of 488 over his five years, good enough for third all-time at Ryerson. Harper holds the single game Ryerson rebounding record with 20 against Brock on Nov. 11, 1995.
Harper is sixth player at Ryerson to have his number retired. Beason and Belasco, his predecessors, are among the others.
Carl Harper, you’ve done us proud.