By Ben Waldman
After months of promotion, the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) Final 8 Tournament kicked off Wednesday night with the CIS All-Canadian Awards Gala.
On hand at the event was Ryerson president Sheldon Levy, who was a little bit excited for his school to play host to the championships.
“If you haven’t seen the [Mattamy Athletic Centre], you’re in for some fun,” Levy told the crowd at Uniun Nightclub. “The sports that we have at the university level in Canada are as good as anywhere else.”
That narrative of Canadian basketball renaissance will likely receive vast attention as the weekend progresses, and justifiably so.
Toronto is indisputably the centre of Canadian basketball, with players from the city receiving more attention than ever.
At the gala, the teams from Ontario cleaned up, with OUA players and coaches collecting every award solely related to basketball.
Ryerson point guard Jahmal Jones was named a second team All-Canadian, a distinction he had yet to receive in his illustrious five-year career as a Ram.
“It’s an honour,” Jones said. “When you first come into the league, its something you dream about.”
Brock University guard Johneil Simpson, a Toronto product, took home the Rookie of the Year award and was extremely impressed with the gala.
“This was put together well,” Simpson said. “Everything is always done bigger in Toronto.”
Simpson’s team did not qualify for the Final 8, but the other major individual award winners all came from Ottawa and Carleton, two of the top teams in the country.
Carleton forward Thomas Scrubb was voted as the Defensive Player of the Year after a dominant season for the number one ranked Ravens.Ottawa Gee-Gees guard Johnny Berhanemeskel was named the winner of the Mike Moser Memorial Trophy as the country’s most outstanding player.
Berhanemeskel led the OUA with 23.2 points per game, and is hoping to lead his team to the W.P. McGee Trophy. With coach James Derouin at the helm, that is a solid possibility.
Derouin was named the nation’s coach of the year after leading the Gee-Gees to a number one ranking throughout the regular season. He is the first University of Ottawa coach to ever win the award.
Memorial University forward Noel Moffat beat Ryerson forward Bjorn Michaelsen for the Ken Shields Memorial Award, given to a player for excellence in basketball, academics and community service.
Tessa Bonhomme, a Canadian Olympic hockey player, gave the athletes present one piece of advice in her speech at the banquet.
“Seize the day,” she said. “[And] go out and make your schools proud.”
With basketball supremacy on the line, there is little doubt that the athletes will do just that.