By Thien Huynh
Ryerson’s men’s basketball team can be described in three words this year: run and gun.
For the first time in five years, the Rams do not have a superstar. Throughout the ‘90s, there was always an Alex Beason, Scott Belasco or Carl Harper to dump the ball into for the easy basket.
Harper graduated last season and his replacement, Daryl Gee, quit the team, to concentrate on his studies. That leaves last season’s rookie of the year winner Sasha Ivankovic as the go-to-guy under the opponent’s net.
Ivankovic is coming off an ankle injury and may miss the Nov. 14 home opener.
Coach Terry Haggerty thinks the team will be better off with a fast-paced offence.
“We have an athletic team. We’ll use this to our advantage on fast breaks and easy,” Haggerty says.
Eight players have returned from last year’s roster. However, that includes the little used Giuseppe Pompei, Duane Quashie and Geoff Hebert.
Haggerty insists this year is not a rebuilding year. He even hopes to improve on last season’s first round playoff loss to powerhouse Laurentian. “This is a talented team that will improve as the season progresses. We’re going to surprise people,” Haggerty says.
Let’s see what he has to work with:
Point guard and captain Brian Smith returns for his third and final season with the Rams. Smith is one of the top guards in the league. For the first time as a member of the Rams, Smith will be relied upon for consistent scoring. A consummate leader, Smith will run the offence and dish out his usual seven assists per game.
The go-to guys
Ivankovic’s play is a huge factor in determining how far this team can go. He averaged more than 10 rebounds and 10 points a game last year. Solid numbers, but his coach and teammates think he will improve. “He’s stronger, bigger, and smarter this year,” says Smith.
Rookie guard Ben Gorham has looked impressive in exhibition games is even more dangerous when coupled with Smith. Gorham is bigger than most guards and his athleticism is perfect for the Rams open attack.
The Rams have a pure shooter this year in Jan-Michael Nation. Big Will Sealy Jr. comes over from Carleton to take some pressure off Ivankovic at the centre position. Trevor Challenge is new at Ryerson but he’s a grizzled veteran coming here after a U.S. scholarship. Challenger comes from the respected Runnymede High School basketball factory and brings stability to a young squad.
Watch out for
Guiseppe Pompei was a walk-on last season and didn’t play much. But he can hit the basket from anywhere on the floor. He’ll do damage if given more floor time. Veteran point guard Dave Petropoulos is bulkier and still handles the ball well but may surprise some opposing defenses with his jumper.