By Jason Primo
For the first time in 15 years, the Ryerson men’s basketball team failed to win a game all season. Ryerson’s streak of making the playoffs for 11 straight years is also finished.
“I thought we would have a better season. I knew things would be tough but I didn’t expect to lose every game,” said David Dubois, director of recreation and athletics.
Despite his team’s futility, first-year head coach Patrick Williams guaranteed there will not be another winless season while he is at Ryerson.
“There was a lot learned. We learned that we’re not just here to participate, we’re here to win,” Williams said. “Despite our record there was incredible advancements in terms of where we brought our rookies and our senior guys.”
The Rams’ season officially ended two weeks ago, with two losses to the University of Toronto.
The team’s hopes for a playoff spot ended when star guard Errol Fraser tore all the major ligaments in his knee at an exhibition tournament late last December. At the time, Fraser was the second leading scorer in the country with 23.4 points per game. When he got injured, Fraser was frustrated that he could no longer help his team on the court.
“I was a mental block for my team. I was the piece of the puzzle that was missing,” said Fraser. He was disappointed by the way the season went and feels worse when he thinks of the good job Williams did.
“I know how much work Pat put in, but the record doesn’t reflect the knowledge he instilled in us. He did a good job but we didn’t implement it on the court. We didn’t reflect his coaching style.”
It’s amazing how quickly the team has plummeted considering Ryerson finished 17-3 four years ago and advanced to the national championship just five years ago.
‘In the good old days,’ Ryerson had basketball recruiter and assistant coach Bob Marsh. Prior to coming to Ryerson, Marsh helped Durham College win the national championship. Although he received 44 charges of recruiting violations — he was acquitted of all but one — Marsh brought Ryerson some of its most legendary players such as Jan-Michael Nation, Karlo Villanueva, Sandy Brar, Ben Gorham and Fraser.
Marsh did whatever it took to win, even if that meant letting a star point guard live at his house.
However Pandora’s box was opened for the basketball program on March 20, 2002, when Dubois told Marsh his contract would not be renewed. Ryerson won’t see another recruiter during Dubois’ tenure. “Recruiters don’t know the philosophy and goals of the team. We don’t need them, we have Williams to do that kind of stuff,” said Dubois.
But does Ryerson recruit the quality of players it needs to compete? Shae Frattura, Filip Krstevski, and Sherif Shehata all got noticed at the RAC. But Dubois says he doesn’t rely on the RAC as a basketball farming system.
“No! Never! But if we got a god player from the RAC, that’s great,” said Dubois. Chances are slim the team will find another phenom like Villanueva. Dubois says that they have 43 recruits on their list for next season. “We are adding to the core. I’m quite confident the team will be better,” says Dubois.
Dubois doesn’t doubt coach Williams’ coaching ability but feels he himself was too optimistic. “I underestimated the impact of a new coach and how a new coach would fit in,” said Dubois.
Assistant coach O’Neil Kamaka feels the winless season was a result of inexperienced players playing under pressure.
“Our guys are not fundamentally sound. We didn’t have the most talented players,” said Kamaka.
With last year’s twin towers Jon Reid and Sasha Ivankovic out of the lineup, the Rams got bullied in the post.
“Our inexperience showed in the rebounding department because they were not positioning themselves properly,” said Kamaka. The two big men were dearly missed as the Rams got out-muscled for rebounds night after night.
The Rams tried to make up for their lack of size by playing an up-tempo style of game. This played into the hands of their opponents because the Rams would panic, take quick shots and commit turnovers. “We didn’t have the experience to finish games,” Dubois said.
He doesn’t expect the basketball team budget will increase.
“I doubt it. We’re going to do things differently,” said Dubois.
Next season, the Rams will face new challenges without the services of Fraser, Vladmir Matevski and Mark Ibrahimovic.
“We’re building a program here at Ryerson. We’re going to be great next year,” said Dubois.
Even though this season will mark the sixth time in the school’s history that it had a winless season, Williams can see the team making a complete turnaround next year.
“In this league I can definitely see that happening … I wouldn’t be surprised. If we were taking this same team and moving forward next year, I guarantee we would be right at the top.”