By Eli Shupack
Life goes on in the world of basketball even as Michael Jordan is set to announce his retirement from the game Wednesday.
And so, after a well-deserved day off, the Ryerson Rams return to practice this afternoon in preparation for their weekend trip to the nation’s capital where they will resume conference play after a seven-week break in the schedule.
The Rams have come a long way since the 92-81 home-court loss to Concordia back on Nov. 28 that gave them a 3-3 mark heading into the break.
“We worked really hard on defence since our last conference game,” said coach Terry Haggerty, who has been stressing the fundamentals to his team.
“[The players] now have a pretty good idea of what we’re trying to do. Everybody forgets it was a very young team we had coming in here.”
With two freshmen starters in Ben Gorham and Jan Michael Nation along with sophomore Sasha Ivankovic, just on the rebound from an ankle injury, the team had some growing pains.
But after the exam break, the Rams wen tout and beat the Toronto Force, a senior men’s team featuring Ryerson alumni Scott Belasco and Carl Harper.
The win gave them some confidence leading into the Nike/Excalibur Basketball Championships at York University.
Ryerson pulled off a huge upset in the opening round, stunning the country’s fourth-ranked Victoria Vikings 70-69.
The Rams scored the game’s final 12 points, holding the Vikes off the scoreboard for the final 6:40 in recording their first back-to-back victories of the year.
“This team has come together a lot sooner than the past two teams have,” said third-year Rams’ guard and co-captain Brian Smith, who was named to the tournament all-star team, averaging 14 points/game.
“The young guys on our team still think they’re invincible so they’re always really confident, but I think it was good for our bench guys because they came in and played well. Everybody gave something in that game,” Smith said.
Ryerson eliminated Laurier 62-55 in the semi-finals to set up a rematch of the final from four years ago against Brandon Bobcats.
The seventh-ranked Bobcats prevailed 84-75 in an outstanding game that went down to the final 30 seconds.
The Rams spent last week training in Barbados and won a tournament while soaking up the sun.
Ryerson defeated St. Lawrence College (Kingston, Ont.) and a Barbados combined club featuring four national team players, including two who play pro ball in South America.
“When you have some success against good teams, then that just reinforces in the players’’ heads that what we’re doing is going in the right direction,” said Haggerty.
Ryerson is at Carleton Friday night before facing another MJ they should be familiar with on Saturday, former Rams’ centre Marvin Johnson and the Ottawa Gee Gees.
The Rams return home to play two big division games starting on Jan. 23 when they play the OUA East-leading Laurentian Voyageurs (7-0) at 8 p.m. They play the York Yeomen the next day at 4 p.m.