By Armen Zargarian
Toronto Metropolitan University’s (TMU) men’s basketball team started its pre-season against U Sports opponents on Saturday afternoon, beating Bishop’s University 94-77 behind a team-high 25 points from newcomer David Walker at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC).
A late addition to TMU’s roster, California State University Bakersfield transfer Walker was subbed into the game with 4:15 left in the first quarter.
Walker made an instant impact in his return to Toronto, sparking a 14-4 run for the Bold, who went on to win the first quarter 25-16. In addition to his scoring output, he shot an impressive 68 per cent from the field.
“I’m glad to be home,” said Walker. “You can expect a lot of energy and working hard [from me].”
His team-high 25 points also included a memorable buzzer-beating half-court heave that banked in.
“That was unbelievable,” he added.
Walker’s teammates were excited for him, running to meet him with a round of chest-bumps and high-fives at half-court after his basket.
“You saw a little bit of everything from David today,” said head coach David DeAveiro. “I don’t think anywhere David has gone he has had the opportunity to do that, he’s been a role guy, he’s not that guy for us.”
The Bold started the scoring with second-year Aaron Rhooms finding guard Ankit Choudhary in the corner for a three-point swish.
Saturday’s game started off on an intense note, with both teams pushing the pace and the bench players screaming instructions and support from the sidelines.
Bishop’s was switching everything on defense in the first quarter, which caught the attention of DeAveiro who shouted instructions to his team mid-game.
“If they want to switch we want to make sure we control the switch,” said DeAveiro. “Try to find one or two people that we can attack, so that we can put their worst defender on our best player.”
Walker opened the scoring in the second quarter, beating his man on a backdoor cut and getting the ball from guard Lamar Evered.
It was evident that TMU’s coaching staff had put an emphasis on communicating during the game. Terms like “one more” (pass), “switch,” “I got you” and “get up” were consistently heard on the court and throughout the game.
“We always wanna talk and make sure we know where we are in the gaps and on the nail,” said first-year recruit Isaiah McRae. “We emphasize that a lot.”
The rookie McRae underlined his desire to be a true point guard, pushing the pace, finding his teammates and looking to get everyone involved.
The second quarter was choppy, with a lot of fouls and turnovers, indicative of a pre-season contest. At the 2:16 mark a loud collision at the scorer’s table caused a lengthy stoppage of play. The half ended with TMU on top 52-28.
TMU started the second half without any defensive discipline. They fouled unnecessarily, left driving lanes open and allowed consecutive offensive rebounds.
“We had some defensive breakdowns and we didn’t follow the scouting report,” said DeAveiro. “That’s a great teaching moment for our guys [on] how important it is to follow the scouting.”
On the other end, Bishop’s turned up their defensive intensity, helping and recovering with pace and stifling the Bold’s offense. Their improved defense also catapulted the visitors to score 37 points in the third quarter, 12 more points than they had in the entire first half.
But TMU’s defense stood tall in the fourth quarter and Bishop’s outside shooting cooled off. The Bold quickly pushed the lead back into double-digits and never looked back.
“I think these exhibition games are more about learning about who we are and building that chemistry and camaraderie,” said DeAveiro. “I can just imagine how good we are going to be over time.”
UP NEXT: TMU takes on Trinity Western University in Montreal, Que., on Oct. 7 for the Concordia Classic Tournament.