Men’s basketball takes off at ACC

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By Gavin Mackenzie

On the court, Ryerson men’s basketball forward Sasha Ivankovic makes for a scary sight.

A tensor bandage is wrapped around his torso, keeping his shoulder form popping out of place.  His sprained ankle is supported with rolls of tape.  A head butt last year knocked out a few of his front teeth so a black mouth guard protects the ones he still has.  An adhesive strip covers the bridge of his nose, allowing him to breath easier.

“He looks like we’re holding him together with tape out there,” Ryerson assistant coach Bob Marsh said with a smile.

While Ivankovic may look used and abused, the fourth-year veteran proved at the Raptors Cup he’s far from being used up.  Saturday night he scored 21 pointed and pulled in 15 rebounds in a 82-37 rout of the Seneca College String at the Air Canada Centre.

“It’s important for me to show some leadership out there,” said Ivankovic, who was named player of the game Saturday.  “Despite my injuries I give it everything I’ve got and play the best I can.”

Ivankovic thought about packing it in at the end of last year because of a chronic shoulder injury.  He decided to return only after successful rehabilitation in the summer.  But a few weeks into this season, the nagging injury started to resurface.

“The shoulder is probably the worst it has hurt in the four years I’ve been here,” he said.  “During the game I felt the shoulder just jump right out and rotate, and there is a lot of pain going through it right now.  But if I want to make a name for myself and this team I have to play through it.”

There’s no doubt the Rams will need Ivankovic’s experience this year.

He’s one of just four players back from last year’s team, which went 17-3 in the OUA regular season but was upset in the OUA East-Division semifinal.

Eight players are donning the Blue and Gold for the first time, including touted British Columbia high-school products Sandy Brar and Karlo Villanueva.

Although the team is young it has high expectations.  Even after the team pummeled Seneca on Saturday it was hard to find a player happy with the performance.

“We didn’t play as well as we wanted or as well as we could,” Brar said.  “Sure we won by a lot of points, but it wasn’t because they just missed their shots.”

The win capped a 3-0 week for the Rams in Raptors Cup action.  Last Tuesday Ryerson survived a second-half collapse and hung on to defeat George Brown College 86-83, led by Brar’s 19 points.

At the Air Canada Centre on Wednesday, Ryerson comfortably beat Centennial College 77-42.  Alfred McAllister was the leading scorer, with 16 points.

Ryerson, ranked seventh in the country in a preseason coaches’ poll, looked sluggish and unorganized at both ends of the court against the three college teams they were expected to beat without much effort.

“We have a lot of talent on this team but we are definitely not there yet,” said Jan-Michael Nation, a guard in his third year with the team.  “We still have a lot of work to do.  There’s a lot of new faces and coming together is something that is going to be a gradual process.”

Head coach Terry Haggerty isn’t hitting the panic button though.

“There is definitely room for improvement,” he said.  “But this team has the potential to be as good as last year’s.  IT will take us a bit longer to come around because we are a lot younger.”

The Rams, now 4-0, get their first chance to play other university teams this weekend.  Friday they take on the University of Waterloo Warriors at a Wilfrid Laurier tournament.  A championship game is slate for Saturday night in the four-team tournament, which also features the host Golden Hawkes and University of Toronto Varsity Blues.

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