Star forward Boris Bakovic has always been the king of the Ryerson court. But now he’s gone with no heir to assume the throne. Is there life after Boris? Sean Tepper investigates
For the past four years, one player dominated the courts in Ontario University Athletics: Rams forward Boris Bakovic. Last season, the 6’8” behemoth finished first in the league in scoring with 576 points in total — over 110 points more than the next leading scorer.
But despite having one of the best players of the past decade, the Rams never advanced past the first round of the playoffs, bowing out on three separate occasions. Now his eligibility is up and Bakovic is no longer with the team.
So the big question is obvious: does a team that finished 10-12 last season with a mega-talent like Bakovic have any hope of taking the next step without him? Is there life for Ryerson basketball after Boris?
If there is, it’s thanks to coach Roy Rana. His reputation as the coaching incarnation of King Midas — who turned everything he touched to gold — is what will draw the next wave of Canadian superstars to Ryerson University.
He won five provincial high school championships with the Eastern Commerce Saints over his nine years there and boasts 14 regional and citywide titles. This summer, he led the Canadian men’s team to a bronze medal at the Nike Global Challenge.
“I think I have a very good feel for what’s happening in the Greater Toronto Area and in the province as well. There is not a gym that I haven’t been into, there is not a coach that I don’t know and for the most part there is not an athlete I don’t know,” Rana said.
Rana admitted that losing Bakovic was a serious blow to his team’s chances. But punctuating his uncertainty about this year’s standings is his confidence in this year’s recruits.
“I really believe that this is one of the better [recruiting] classes in the country. We really went the high school route and are trying to build from the ground up. Everyone we targeted, we got.”
Of the six recruits that he brought to Ryerson this year, point guard Jahmal Jones and power forward Bjorn Michaelsen are the two main prizes. Both players were ranked in Canada’s top-ten at their respective positions by Hoopstars Canada, a scouting site that ranks the country’s high school talent.
Rana was also able to lure Ola Adegboruwa away from Lake Region Community College. The third-year guard knows what Rana demands of his players and has already emerged as a presence on the young Rams team.
“He’s a winner and he can turn a program around,” said Adegboruwa, who will share the captaincy with fifthyear guard Ryan McNeilly. “That’s why I wanted to play here [at Ryerson].”
“Ola is a product of my time in high school basketball,” said Rana. “He’s the poster-boy of what I want in a player.”
While winning is certainly the objective, the team’s success won’t be determined solely by W’s in the standings. For Rana, it’s about using basketball as a means to mould his players into leaders in society.
“I think that the program here will eventually reflect a lot of what I have been able to do with at-risk kids and inter-city kids who are more than capable of being university students,” explained Rana.
“I’m hoping that some of those kids will be attracted to our program because winning is the goal, but developing leaders and character people for the future is maybe more important.”
As for their outlook on the upcoming season, both players and coaches alike are excited for the challenges that come with being a young team.
“I have to make these guys compete,” said Adegboruwa.
“We are young but that’s not an excuse. Everyone has to be at the same level and it will take hard work.”
And as for the team’s future without go-to guy Bakovic, Rana shrugged.
“We have more talent than we did last year from a depth perspective and I think we are going to see a lot of different players score and become impact guys,” he said.
“I think we have really upgraded the team speed and athleticism.”
“Like most young teams I think physical strength and experience will become a factor for us.”
Photo: Tim Alamenciak