By Steve Petrick
The York Yeoman basketball team was bigger, stronger and, according to CIAU rankings, supposed to be better than Ryerson.
It didn’t matter.
Although the Rams were playing with an almost entirely different roster from last year, when the team went 20-4, Ryerson picked up where it left off in OUA regular-season play on Friday, Nov. 10, beating the No. 7-ranked Yeomen 64-53 to open its 22-game schedule.
The next day, Ryerson bear the defending OUA East Division champions, the Laurentian Voyageurs, 77-52, putting the school in the same position it was in throughout last season — first place in the OUA East Division.
All this would be expected if Ryerson still has all-stars Ben Gorham, Sam Gilbert and Bill Crowdis on its roster.
But with Crowdis still waiting for the registrar’s office to okay his grades and allow him to play, and Gorham and Gilbert no longer attending the school, a new group of Rams have fans in Kerr gym the impression that a national championship is still in the team’s grasp.
“We have a lot more talent this year and we have a better group of guys who are team oriented,” said third-year guard Jan-Michael Nation, who led Ryerson in scoring on Friday, with 21 points. “We still want to go to the nationals and win a national championship. We just have to work a little harder this year.”
Almost every player contributed to the weekend’s wins. Against York, 11 of 12 players saw action and all but one player scored points. The next night, with starting point guard Alfred McAllister unavailable to play because he took a finger to the eye late in Friday’s game, 10 of 11 players saw action. Again, only one player didn’t score.
Even more impressive was the Rams’ defence. On Friday, Ryerson’s aggressive play in its own end contributed to York hitting only 30 per cent of its field foals. York’s all-star point guard Mike George was held to just two points, while 6-foot-9 post Tom Romas didn’t score any points.
The Voyageurs didn’t fare much better against the Rams on Saturday, hitting just 27 per cent of their free throws. In both games Ryerson has a wide lead by halftime.
“This team is committed to playing defence every game and ever possession,” said head coach Terry Haggerty, who’s been with the team for 20 years. “This is just an unselfish team. If there’s anyone out there just playing for himself, he’s on the bench pretty damn quick.”
Ryerson’s second-year forward Dwight Chambers said even though his team beat York, which is favoured by many to win the division, players were disappointed with the final score.
The Rams led 39-24 at the break, but they eased up in the second half, letting York get back into the game.
“We know what we can do to York and we only beat them by 11 points,” Chambers said. “We had them up by 20 and we made immature mistakes.”
The Rams’ next games are Friday against Bishop’s University (0-2) and Saturday against Universite of Laval (1-1). Both games are at 8 p.m. in Kerr gym.