By Libaan Osman
With only three weeks left in the off season, it’s time to breakdown the new-look Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team. And with some new additions to roster, this season will be anything but predictable.
Coming off of a heartbreaking loss in the U SPORTS championship finals in Halifax against the Calgary Dinos, the Rams just like any other team in the country, are starting from the bottom.
The Rams are welcoming a few new players to their roster that will be crucial to the rotation and quest to get back to final 8 tournament for the fifth consecutive year.
Former Seneca Sting guard, Yusuf Ali, will be reunited with head coach Roy Rana after leading the team to their first ever national championship in CCAA Men’s Basketball. Ali averaged 15.6 points and 6.2 assists on 36.4 per cent shooting from deep last season.
Ali, who contacted Rana about joining the Rams for his final year, said he was told he was “more than welcome.”
In Ali’s debut for Ryerson against the NCAA’s Duke Blue Devils, he came off the bench and poured in 11 points, five assists and four rebounds. The 5’11” guard’s ability to attack the basket and find the open receiver will give Rana some flexibility at the point guard position with fifth-year guard Myles Charvis set to lead the charge.
Next up is 6’5″ guard Jayden Frederick, a transfer from York who spent the entire 2017-18 season on the sideline with the Rams, due to transfer eligibility rules.
In a press release dating back to September 2017, Rana described Frederick as a “tremendous athlete” that will be huge piece for the program. Frederick led York in scoring with 15.1 points per game in the 2016-2017 season.
In his third-year of eligibility, Frederick talked about what it was like spectacting the Rams for a full season.
“Being able to watch Manny was pretty cool,” Frederick said. “His work ethic, coming here everyday, how professional he is, how he stretches before every practice, after every practice. He’s a special player, it was a blessing to be able to just watch him and it made me better by just watching him.”
The additions of Frederick and Ali will help Ryerson bare the loss of one of the best players in the country, Ammanuel Diressa, who signed his first pro contract this summer in Serbia.
The Rams will also be adding former York forward Brandon Ramirez and former Nippising guard Jaaden Lewis, who won’t be eligible until 2019-20 due to eligibility rules.
Ramirez started nine games for the Lions last season, averaging 9.8 points and 5.5 rebounds in 23.3 minutes per game. He’s a big that can stretch the floor and the Rams witnessed this first-hand when he dropped 21 points and six rebounds back in January at the Coca Cola Court.
Lewis, who played all 23 regular season games for the Lakers last season, averaged 14.2 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.7 assists in 30.8 minutes.
Returning and impact players
With the Rams also having Nathan Culbreath return for his fifth-year, Rana has a ton of options at the guard position.
The depth doesn’t stop there with forward Keevon Small and guard Chase Vassell prepared to rejoin the team after sitting out the second half of the season for academic reasons.
All eyes though will be on a sophmore centre Tanor Ngom, who the Rams are banking on to elevate his game to new heights in hopes of winning their first national championship.
This summer, Ngom became the first U SPORTS player to receive an invite to Nike’s Basketball Academy in Los Angeles, where he took part in several workouts and scrimmages with current and former NBA players.
Behind Ngom, the young bigs on the roster will be relied on this season to carve a name for themselves with new alumnus Adam Voll joining Rana’s staff this season as a strength and conditioning/nutrition coach.
A potential x-factor for the Rams is third year forward Warsame Mohamed. Ranking 182nd in the OUA in minutes played last season, Mohamed is expected to be huge part of the rotation this year.
In Ryerson’s two exhibition games this summer, Mohamed’s soft touch around the rim was on full display. Putting up 14 points and 4 rebounds against China’s men’s senior team and eight points and six rebounds in 15 minutes against the Blue Devils.
“He’s gonna be under the microscope this year,” Jean-Victor Mukama said. “Rana’s expecting big things from him, I think he’s gonna shock a lot of people.”
In Ryerson’s two exhibitions this summer, they’ve rolled out the same starting five of Charvis, Frederick, Mukama, Filip Vujadinovic and Ngom. But with tons of depth on this roster, and numerous veteran players, you can most certainly expect Rana to mix and match throughout the year.
Mukama recalls Rana bringing him off the bench in his third year alongside Diressa and former Rams guard Kadeem Green when they could’ve easily started.
“He wanted us to be in the second unit so we can kill the bench on the other team,” Mukama said. “And because we put our ego aside that was the first time we won a OUA championship in Ryerson history.”
For a Rams team that was a possession away from hoisting a national championship, they’ve used that nail-biting loss to fuel their off-season to come back better than ever. With returning core players and a number of added pieces, it’s a championship or bust season for the Ryerson Rams.
“There might be a lot of sacrificing this year, but we’re excited for it.”