You may think that for some Canadian university basketball teams, playing their American NCAA Division-I counterparts, long perceived to be superior, might test the nerves of coaches and players alike. For men’s basketball coach James Derouin and his 2011-2012 squad of Gee-Gees, this is definitely not the case.
“I think everyone is curious to see the NCAA mystique that surrounds teams,” said Derouin, “but I think what gets forgotten is that these teams are really just one or two players difference between us.”
As part of their annual pre-season schedule, the Gee-Gees will be taking on two NCAA Division-I schools; Albany on August 24 and St. Louis University on August 25. While these games will raise the intensity of play, and challenge the skill and endurance of both Gee-Gees veterans and rookies, Derouin says that these games are perfect preparation for the kind of play the team will expect when it opens its OUA season at Brock University on November 11.
“These NCAA teams are as good as, or better, than every Canadian team we’re going to play,” said Derouin, “Better competition allows you to go back to practice and see what you need to work on both as a team, especially individually. In the long run it really pays off.”
The Gee-Gees will also be looking to continue to feature four new additions recently made to the team: third-year NCAA Division-I transfer Shamus Ferguson, Toronto, Ont., rookie point-guard Mike L’Africain, Oakville, Ont., rookie guardSerge Grenon, Orleans, Ont., and rookie forward Vikas Gill, Ottawa, Ont., who just recently had a strong performance in the team’s exhibition game against LaSalle University earlier in the summer. In the game, Gill recorded 20 points and 4 rebounds in 34 minutes of playing time in the 73-61 loss.
Despite the strong showing in the LaSalle game, Derouin will be looking for a tighter effort against both Albany and St. Louis, as the team can expect a stronger challenge. For Derouin, expectations remain high regardless if his team is playing a Canadian or American opponent.
“There were some definite positives from the [LaSalle] game,” said Derouin, “but as a coach I don’t want to walk away from a loss and see it as a positive because the team is Division-I. I don’t want to be just happy to be there.”
“Canadian basketball is improving every year and getting closer to the NCAA and it shouldn’t come to a shock to our players anymore,” added Derouin.
The Gee-Gees game against St. Louis will also feature a bit of NCAA basketball royalty in the form of coaching legend Rick Majerus, head coach of St. Louis. Majerus, who has an unbelievable 479-189 career record, will be a definite draw for anyone who is an NCAA basketball fan. Regardless, Derouin expects fans will be witnesses to two great games.
The Gee-Gees will face off first against the University of Albany Great Danes on August 24 at 8:00 p.m. followed by the St. Louis University Billikens on August 25, also at 8:00 p.m., both at Montpetit Hall. Tickets can be purchased online atwww.captialtickets.ca or at the door.