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Men’s Basketball Season Preview: On the Rise

Thursday October 27, 2011

Men’s Basketball (0-0 OUA, 1-5 pre-season)

Hosting Jack Donohue Tournament with UNB, McGill and Laurier on October 28, 29 and 30, 2011 at Montpetit Hall. (full details on games and times can be found at www.geegees.ca.)

With fresh energy and motivation, talented returning veterans, brilliant young rookies, strong coaching, and having a taste of near victory, the Gee-Gees are ready to win this 2011-2012 season.

Anyone who followed the Gee-Gees 2010-2011 season would find it near impossible to forget the painful few seconds that came between the Gee-Gees and the CIS Championships in their heartbreaking 71-69 loss to Lakehead in the OUA Final Four.

It was a comeback season for the rookie Gee-Gees who began the season with a 2-6 record before Christmas and ended third in the OUA East with an 11-11 record.  This season featured OUA First-Team All Star Warren Ward (London, Ont.) and OUA All-Rookie team member Johnny Berhanemeskel (Ottawa, Ont.) leading the charge in the team’s victories.

The Gee-Gees are looking to return even stronger this season with both Ward and Berhanemeskel returning and the addition of several key rookies. The departure of forward Nemanja Baletic (Ottawa, Ont.) and starting centre Louis Gauthier (Ottawa, Ont.) certainly will be missed on the court by the Gee-Gees, but head coach James Derouin is counting on rookies to fill those holes.

Heading up the class of new recruits is star point guard Mike L’Africain (Oakville, Ont.). “He’s a pretty special kid,” said Derouin, “He has brought a change of culture here with him because he is a kid that had opportunity to go to the United States with scholarships [but chose to come to uOttawa] and he is more than happy to be here. It’s really been contagious.”

“Mike’s a natural point guard [with] great vision,” said Derouin, “He’s real good at finding people and getting them the ball at the right time and right place. With what great scorers [Ward and Berhanemeskel] are, to have a guy to find them and pass them the ball [is key].”

Other rookies making their way into the Gee-Gees starting line-up are forward Vikas Gill (Stittsville, Ont.) and Shamus Ferguson (Toronto, Ont.), a 6’10” centre who brings “a whole lot of athleticism and energy to the team and fills the one big spot that we lost in our line-up last year [with Gauthier’s departure],” said Derouin on Ferguson’s addition.

Three leaders taking on the title of captain for the Gee-Gees this year are Ward, an on-the-court leader, Dimitrios Seymour (Ottawa, Ont.), a leader by example off the court, and Jacob Gibson-Bascombe, Toronto Ont., a social leader with strong influence.

The Gee-Gees have the same returning coaching staff, with Derouin leading for his second-season with the Gee-Gees. The only new addition is Curtis Holden as an assistant coach.

“Our goal is to make nationals this year,” stated Derouin. “Being so close last year, and I feel that we’ve upgraded and gotten better as a team and [with] a year under their belt understanding what I expect from them, I feel that national appearance is our goal this year.”

This weekend’s Jack Donohue Tournament with UNB, McGill and Laurier will be the first real showcase of the new team for Gee-Gees fans, though the team will be missing the presence of Ward due to his competing at the PanAm Games in Guadalajara, Mexico.

“[The] team has a very different dynamic without him,” said Derouin on Ward’s absence. “Warren is such a dominant player, to get a chance to play without him allows some of our other players to get some shots and put them in some leadership positions as well.”

Without Ward, the Gee-Gees will also be starting one of the youngest line-ups in the country composed completely of first and second years with first-year L’Africain, second-year Berhanemeskel, second-year Chris Anderson (Ottawa, Ont.), first-year Gill and second-year Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue (Gatineau, Qué.).

“My number one goal right now is getting healthy. We’ve had a lot of injury problems, nothing serious, but enough with two and a half weeks remaining before league play starts,” said Derouin on his primary goal looking to the tournament. Also, it’s “more preparation [and] gives us some flexibility to try some different things.”

Be sure to come out to Montpetit Hall this weekend to catch you’re Gee-Gees in pre-season action. Remember uOttawa students get in for free! Full schedule and details for the tournament can be found at www.geegees.ca.