By Daniella Lopez
Time is running out for the Toronto Metropolitan University (TMU) Bold men’s basketball team as the seconds tick by on the game clock.
The Bold are facing the University of Ottawa Gee-Gees in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) quarter-finals. TMU is trailing behind by one point. In less than five seconds, the Bold will know their fate: advance to the semi-finals or go home.
As play begins, the ball lands in third-year forward Simon Chamberlain’s hands. Seconds are speeding by now, even quicker than before. With just one second remaining on the clock, the Guelph, Ont. product puts up a shot.
For a moment, time freezes. Then, the world jolts back to life.
However, reality isn’t a movie. The Bold would soon realize that there would be no perfect ending.
The shot bounced off the rim, handing TMU a 73-72 loss on Feb. 25—the darkest day in Bold history.
Now, months later, with a mixture of fresh faces and seasoned vets, the close loss remains at the forefront of the team’s mind.
“[We] lost to Ottawa in a tough game,” said head coach Dave DeAveiro. “A game we felt we could have won.”
The Bold finished the 2022-23 regular season with a 14-8 record, earning them third place in the OUA Central Division that same year. They faced the McMaster Marauders in the first round before facing the eventual U Sports bronze medalists in Ottawa.
But, the team that tipped off its season at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) has a new look from the roster that competed in the nation’s capital in February.
The Bold lost 10 players from last season’s roster, including longtime players Nick Hamilton, Jaren Jones, Liam O’Leary-Orange and Ankit Choudhary. However, the team loaded up on fresh talent with seven new players and three former redshirts.
TMU recruited five first-years during the off-season: guards Kobe Charles, Gabriel Gutsmore and Michael Kayembe and brother forwards Roland and Galand Okeugo.
“We got some talented young guys,” said DeAveiro. “But they have to grow up fast.”
Despite Kayembe’s rookie label, he isn’t refraining from helping the team achieve their ultimate goal—making it to nationals. “I think I can win the OUA Rookie of the Year,” he said.
According to DeAveiro, the biggest challenge for the team this year is the fact there are players on the team who have never competed on the U Sports stage.
“With young kids come mistakes and we have to be patient with them.”
Thus, it will be up to the veterans to step them up. “We have expectations to win, so that means leadership from all the older guys,” said Chamberlain.
Along with Chamberlain, third-year forward Aaron Rhooms and fourth-year guard David Walker will play a large part in the team’s hopeful success this season.
Rhooms won the U Sports Rookie of the Year during the 2021-22 season and has averaged 18.8 points per game in his career on 49.4 per cent shooting from the field and 39.1 per cent from three.
Walker joined the Bold in the 2022-23 season after spending multiple seasons in the National Collegiate Athletics Association (NCAA). Last season, he averaged 15.5 points per game on 48.2 per cent shooting from the field.
TMU went 7-2 in their pre-season, only losing to NCAA Division I teams Towson University and Canisius College.
Additionally, the team competed in the Concordia Classic in Waterloo, Ont. where they finished first after winning against the Waterloo Warriors 80-65. Rhooms won the tournament’s MVP award.
While the win could be an early sign of what’s to come for the Bold this season, DeAveiro notes the team has growing to do before they can achieve their long-term goal of winning a championship.
“We definitely need to get better in terms of growing together and trusting each other a lot more, on both the offensive and defensive end,” said DeAveiro.
The Bold made it to two consecutive Wilson Cup Finals during the 2017-18 season and the 2018-19 season. But the team hasn’t advanced past the semi-finals since the 2021-22 season.
“A lot of great guys came up short last year,” said Kayembe. “So they know what it takes, they’re teaching us and they’re walking us through it.”
TMU will begin their season at home with back-to-back games against the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Nov. 3 and 4. Every possession, every point, every win and every loss will matter.
For Chamberlain, it’s up to the team to take it seriously. “We got to treat every game like it’s the most important game [of] the season,” he said. “Just take it one game at a time.”
When the Bold take the court for the first time since February, the past won’t be forgotten. Instead, it will be a fire lit underneath the team as they look to right their wrongs.
“The vets [are] coming back thinking we have some unfinished business to take care of,” said DeAveiro.