Currently ranked ninth in the country in pre-season rankings, the Gee-Gees have shown that they will be a force to be reckoned with this upcoming season.
Despite finishing last year’s regular season with an impressive 18-4 record, the Gee-Gees playoff run came to a disappointing end with a 78-73 loss to Lakehead in the OUA bronze medal game – denying the team a berth to the CIS championships.
Head Coach James Derouin is in his first year after being named to the position in June 2010. With two years as captain of the Gee-Gees team and six year as assistant coach, Derouin returns to uOttawa after spending two years as assistant coach with the UBC Thunderbirds. Joining Derouin is lead assistant coach Emil O’Neil and assistant coaches Clarence Porter and Kris Dale. Strength and conditioning coach Alex Ethier and special assistant coach Jonathan Daniels also join the staff, along with team manager Alex Markovic.
Third-year guard Warren Ward (London, Ont.) returns as one of the most talented player on the Gee-Gees team and arguably in the country. “When you have a player of this calibre, the team feeds off him. His dominance brings energy through the whole team.” With an amazing performance in last weekend’s three pre-season games in Halifax (totally 80 points in three games), Derouin says “He turned a corner in playing the right way. Regardless of his amazing numbers, it was the way he played this weekend; he found his rhythm.” Looking at what he’s already accomplished this short season compared to his career before this gives a glimpse into the further potential of Ward this season.
Returning for his fifth year at uOttawa is centre Louis Gauthier (Ottawa, Ont.). Derouin describes Gauthier as “Our big man. Our young team feeds off of him; he is older and experienced. Whenever he plays well, we’re rolling.”
Switching positions to centre this year is Nemanja Baletic (Ottawa, Ont.), also in his fifth year. Coming from not making the team in his first year to starting last year, Baletic’s story is one of perseverance and hard work. “He’s playing the best of his career right now. He’s playing like a fifth-year guy, controlling himself and the game with the most consistently good basketball.”
Also returning for uOttawa is OUA East rookie of the year Ryan Malcolm-Campbell (Mississauga, Ont.), Akeem Gardner (Brampton, Ont.), and Jordan Vig (Barrie, Ont.). Returning after a year break is third year point guard Jacob Gibson-Bascombe (Toronto, Ont.) who shows “excellent leadership skills, is a team guy, and works hard,” says Derouin.
Ward, Gauthier and Gibson-Bascombe will all be sharing team captain duties for the 2010-2011 season.
There are a large number of new recruits to the Gee-Gees this year, including Christopher Anderson (Ottawa, Ont.), Yacob Issayas (Vancouver, BC), Alex Lebranche (Ottawa, Ont.), Matthew Marshall (Burlington, Ont.), Luc Minani (Ottawa, Ont.), and Dimitrios Seymour (Ottawa, Ont.).
Highlighting this new class is Johnny Berhanemeskel (Ottawa, Ont.) and Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue (Gatineau, Qué.), both of whom are only 18 years-old. Berhanemeskel is a fan favourite, off to an incredible pace for a rookie and described by Derouin as “a good kid and [one of the] hardest working players [on the team].” Gonthier-Dubue is an “incredible athlete who brings toughness and energy. He is athletic, strong, tough and fearless – doesn’t back down,” says Derouin.
Looking ahead, Derouin is “really excited about the future. These guys all have something to prove and they are all buying into the system that I’m trying to work here. [The players] listen, they buy in and we can make huge strides in a short time.”
The Gee-Gees are coming off an incredible three pre-season games in Halifax last weekend, which saw the team go 2-1 against three top-competition teams. “This weekend was just a really pleasant surprise,” says Derouin, “I knew that’s where we could get to; I just didn’t know we would get there that quickly.”
Though the pre-season may have looked good, the regular season is where it counts and the Gee-Gees really need to prove themselves. “Coming off the big high in Halifax, [we need to get] grounded and focused. The home games are ones we have to win because we have the advantage of being at home.”
“Both Brock and Guelph are very good teams - very physical and have an excellent line-up; we need to match their physicality, rebound the ball, and defend. If we do that, we’ll be fine.”
The Gee-Gees will host Brock on Friday, November 5 for their home-opener and on Saturday, November 6, host Guelph. Both games are at 8:00 p.m. at Montpetit Hall. (SSN Canada)