It has been a successful season thus far for the uOttawa men’s basketball program as they have already accomplished some impressive feats and will be looking to carry that momentum into this weekend for the 40th annual Jack Donohue tournament at Monpetit Hall. It will be uOttawa fans’ first opportunity to witness their Gee-Gees action since mid-August when the team battled NCAA competition.
The Gee-Gees greeted some stiff competition from their neighbors to the south as the University of Indiana, the University of Vermont, The University of Chicago-Illinois and the University of Memphis each made their way passed the border. The garnet and grey surprised many by winning their first three and dropping one to the Memphis Tigers.
“We went into these NCAA games for the first time with the mentality that we were going to try to win them all. The fact that we were able to start by winning three straight was obviously really special and something I am happy with. It shows that we can compete not only with team from the States but also with any of the top teams in Canada,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin.
The Gee-Gees were most recently in action last weekend when they took part in the annual pre-season Redbird Classic tournament at McGill University. The other teams taking part in the tournament were the McGill Redmen, the Brock Badgers and the St. Francis Xavier X-men, all of which the Gee-Gees were able to defeat to take home tournament champions honours. Johnny Berhanemeskel was named tournament MVP as the All-Canadian averaged 23.6 points per game and shot 9-16 from long range over the weekend in limited playing time.
“It’s important not to waste these tournaments because they are great preparation. We’ve been going hard in practice and it’s important to see how the things we have been working on in practice translate into game situations,” said Berhanemeskel. “Making sure that we can build off of the preseason is always important because we want to expose as many issues as we can now so that they are not a problem during the season.”
uOttawa will now turn their attention to their home gym as they prepare to host the annual Jack Donohue tournament. They will be looking to repeat last year’s result as they won the tournament in three straight games. Taking part in the tournament this year will be the Toronto Varsity Blues, the Bishop’s Gaiters who won the tournament in 2012 and the Worcester Polytechnic Institute, a division three NCAA program who will be playing in the tourney for the first time.
Ottawa will be showcasing a similar line-up as last season led by fifth years, Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue and Johnny Berhanemeskel. Fourth years Vikas Gill and Mike L’African will also be returning as starters on the squad while third year Caleb Agada will fill in the final starting spot for the Gee-Gees. Transfer and OUA All-Star Alex Ratte will be unavailable to start the season as he is still dealing with some injury issues.
“It seems like the pre-season has been long this year and I am eager for the regular season to get going. With that said, we still have a lot on our plate in terms of reaching our objectives and being exactly where we want to be,” said starting centre Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue. “Right now we have to keep working hard heading into this tournament and playing as if the games counted because every game is important in terms of learning.”
Rookies Brandon Robinson and Mackenzie Morrison are also expected to see some minutes this season as they have impressed in pre-season action and fit in well with the team. Finally the team will be rounded off by a secondary unit comprised of third-years Mehdi Tihani, Moe Ismail, Matt Nelson and Matt Plunkett who will be relied on this season to provide support.
“The fact that we have such a talented and experienced bench will be important for us this year. They played well for us last year but this season they are in their third years and we expect those guys to step in and play well. They have been to two national championships and that is experience you just can’t simulate,” added Derouin. “Overall I am really pleased with how this team has formed and some of the things we have done in the pre-season. If we are going to be a national championship team we need to keep working on little things and getting better as a team every day.”
The Gee-Gees’ first game of the weekend will take place on Friday evening at 6 p.m. versus WPI in Monpetit Hall. The Toronto Varsity Blues and the Bishop’s Gaiters will tip-off at 8 p.m.
Full tournament schedule and ticket information is available here.