By Charles Vanegas
Last season was a disappointment for Ryerson’s men’s basketball team as they failed to go to the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) Final Four after a dominating 10-0 start to the season.
So expectations are high once again for the nationally-ranked Rams, as head coach Roy Rana has his sights set on making the OUA Final Four this time around.
“Once we get to the Final Four, then the next step is nationals, but we’ve got to get to the Final Four first.”
In order to get back to nationals, Rana made significant additions from last year’s team — most notably six-foot-nine centre Kadeem Green, who transferred from the Ohio University Bobcats of the NCAA.
Green joins six-foot-eight Bjorn Michaelsen and six-foot-eight Juwon Grannum to form the strongest frontcourt the Rams have had in Rana’s five-year tenure as head coach.
“It makes our job a hell of a lot easier,” said third-year guard Aaron Best on the addition of Green. “As a guard you love driving to the lane because you know you can just dump [the ball] to a big [forward], and you know they’re going to finish it every single time.”
The Rams will have one of the best backcourts in the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) with Best, Jahmal Jones and Jordon Gauthier, who shot an efficient 43 per cent from the field in his three years with the Rams.
Both Jones and Best were named OUA all- stars last year, tied for number one in team scoring averaging 15.3 points per game and ranked amongst the top 20 in the OUA.
However, the season doesn’t come without loss as shooting guard Ostap Choliy, one of the team’s best shooters off the bench, will miss the entire season after tearing his ACL in the offseason.
“Ostap will affect our depth but we brought in a few new pieces this year so I think we’ll be good,” said Rana. “Obviously losing him hurts, but injuries happen so we’ll have to move forward.
“I think we’ve added more depth up front and I think we’re going to get more offence from the post position so we won’t have to rely on Michaelsen as much as we have in the past,” said Rana.
If the pressure to get back to nationals wasn’t enough, the Mattamy Athletic Centre will once again host the OUA Final Four.
“Last year we got ahead of ourselves, some guys in the locker room saw getting to nationals as the goal, but this year we’re tak- ing it one game at a time,” said Jones.
However, the Rams have their work cut out for them if they hope to live up to the hype.
Rana called the OUA east division “easily the toughest division in country by far,” as the Rams share the OUA east division with perennial powerhouse Carleton Ravens – who have won nine of the previous 11 CIS titles — and Ottawa Gee-Gees, who eliminated the Rams in the quarterfinals.
Only three teams from the OUA will reach the national championships (Carleton already qualified as the host) and only two teams from the OUA East will reach the Wilson Cup.
“We just need to be consistent,” said Rana. “This is a make-or-miss league and to be successful you just have to be good at the right time.”