By Gavin Mackenzie
Ryerson’s assistant men’s basketball coach Bob Marsh reeled in one of Canada’s most sought after prospects this summer.
Karlo Villanueva, a two-time high school player of the year in his native British Columbia, was baited by Ryerson recruiters who flew him from his hometown of Richmond to Toronto and gave him a tour of the city and campus, which he swallowed whole.
“I really liked it down here,” Villanueva said. “I had a great visit and met a lot of good people.”
The 5 foot 3 point guard was courted by several Canadian universities and a few American colleges, but chose to attend Ryerson because of the school’s growing reputation as a basketball powerhouse.
“I like the style of basketball Ryerson plays,” he said. “It’s very up and down and isn’t too structured, which suits my game. I knew I would fit in.”
It’s apparent that Ryerson’s upsetting playoff loss to the Queen’s Golden Gaels last year hasn’t hurt its ability to recruit. The Rams, who had an overall record of 24-4 before bowing out of in the OUA Eat division semi-final have collected a talented group of athletes who will compete for spots on the team at a training camp being held in Kerr gym this week.
Among those recruited to fill the void left by OUA East second-team all-star guards Sam Gilbert and Ben Gorham, who both left Ryerson to pursue pro careers, are American guards Carlen Miller and Alfred McAllister. Miller played last season at Faulkner State College in Alabama, while McAllister spent two seasons with Lafayette College in Pennsylvania.
The Rams also recruited some size at centre, picking up 6 foot 11 centre Aron Molnar. The Mississauga native played three seasons at Northwestern University in Illinois, but sat out his senior year to focus on academics. He’s salivating at the thought of getting back on the court.
“There are a lot of great players here and I think I might be the last piece to the puzzle,” he said. “This is an up-and-coming program that has a very good shot at a national championship.”
In addition to the 12 new recruits at camp are returning starters Jan-Michael Nation and Sasha Ivankovic, along with reserves Duane Quashie, P.J. Kerr and Dwight Chambers. Bill Crowdis, an OUA East first-team all-star from last year, was at one practice last week and might join the team again.
Nation, who is entering his third year at Ryerson, believes this year’s team will be just as good as the last, which was ranked in the top five in the country for the most of the season.
“I think last year’s team was more talented,” he said. “But now we have a better core of guys who are more willing to learn and have the team aspect, which we didn’t have last year.”
“Head coach Terry Haggerty, now in his 20th year with the Rams, said with so many talented players at the training camp, returning players will have to earn their spots back on the team. This will force him to make some difficult decisions over the next few weeks as he tries to finalize the roster.
Haggerty’s life is also being made more difficult by the fact that some recruits and returning players—although he would not specify who—have academic and eligibility problems that may prevent them from playing when the Rams open their CIAU season with a tournament at Wilfred Laurier, Oct. 27-29.
“Everyone you see on the court right not might now be available to us,” he said.