By Luke Galati
With key veterans in their final year of eligibility, there is no better time than now for the Ryerson men’s basketball team to go all the way.
After finishing last season with a 16-6 record, the team lost to the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarterfinals for the second year in a row.
“This is a perfect opportunity for us to win it all this year,” Ryerson forward Kadeem Green said. “The window is closing, it’s either now or it might not be for another while.”
Green — who has a seven-foot-three wingspan — was Ryerson’s primary rim-protector and paint presence last season, averaging one block per game. As a team, the Rams ranked second in the OUA in blocks and third in defensive rebounds per game.
Green is part of a leadership group that is full of graduating veterans like Jahmal Jones, Bjorn Michaelsen and Jordon Gauthier.
Ryerson also has a few fresh faces joining the team, including Toronto-native Ammanuel Diressa, who played with the NCAA’s Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles for two seasons.
Another rookie to look out for is the six-foot-seven forward Filip Vujadinovic. He said that head coach Roy Rana has high expectations for him on both sides of the ball.
“They just want me to contribute as much as I can and not make mistakes in the defensive end,” Vujadinovic said. “Offensively you can make mistakes but [Rana] preaches defence because that’s what wins championships.”
With the goal being to win at nationals, which Ryerson is hosting this spring, guard Jean-Victor Mukama said that the best word to characterize this year’s squad is “focused.”
“We know that all of us have one goal,” the reigning OUA East rookie of the year said. “We have one thing to accomplish. So we’re focused from March 12 [on] winning the championship.”
When the national rankings came out last week, Carleton ranked first, Ottawa second and Ryerson third.
Mukama thinks lessons learned from the losses to Ottawa will push the Rams over the top.
“We had to learn how to play with each other on defence and offence,” he said. “I think that this year, we’re going to be really good.”