It’s been a long eight months for the Gee-Gees who finished third in the country last season. After being one win away from the gold medal game at the CIS Final 8 and having one the programs best ever seasons, uOttawa is anxious to be back on the court this weekend. There is plenty of reason for excitement in Gee-Gees nation as the team capped off a perfect 8-0 CIS pre-season and is ready for league play which starts at Monpetit Hall this weekend.
The no. 3 ranked Gee-Gees will open their regular season this weekend when they tip off versus the Western University Mustangs on Friday night followed by a match up against the Windsor Lancers on Saturday. uOttawa has not faced the Mustangs since opening weekend last season where they took a 77-61 victory. Western has had a strong pre-season, most notably capturing a victory over the Acadia Axemen who finished fourth in the country last season.
On Saturday night Ottawa will tip-off versus the no. 7 ranked Lancers whom they played twice last season. After suffering a 72-68 loss early in the regular season, the Gee-Gees got their revenge when they handed Windsor a 78-58 loss in the OUA Final Four semifinal.
Expectations are high for the Gee-Gees, who despite losing star forward Warren Ward, Dimitrious Seymour and Jordan Vig will keep most of their roster intact and feature only two rookies. “I can’t stress the importance those guys had on our team. Warren’s impact was obvious but I think that the importance of Vig and Seymour was underestimated at times and we can definitely see that now that they’re gone.”
Point guard Mike L’Africain will be looked upon to carry the reins for the Gee-Gees and is expected to have his best season yet in a garnet and grey uniform. Despite leading his team to a third place finish in only his second season, the point guard was criticized at points last season.
“I think if you look at last season from a statistical standpoint it might seem like Mike didn’t have the best season but he did a lot for us. It’s also important to realize that running our offence through Warren Ward, he did not have the ball in his hands as much as we would have liked,” commented Derouin on his starting point guard. “He was outstanding for us throughout the entire pre-season and NCAA inter-league play so we are very excited to see how that translates to league play. We have big expectations towards Mike. This is his year and his team.”
The third year Oakville native averaged 16 points per game and 6.5 assists per game this pre-season. He also was named an All-Star in the UNB tournament in New Brunswick while being named tournament MVP for his performances during the Jack Donohue Invitational held in Ottawa earlier this month.
“I have worked so hard to get in this position my whole life. I’m so blessed to have this type of opportunity. The pre-season was lucky for me individually but my plan is to stay hungry and act accordingly to reach mine and more important, the team’s goals,” said L’Africain. “We have been waiting since March to get our hands on a second opportunity. Our team can’t wait to get going again.”
A few key additions were made this off-season as the team added forward Jeff Plunkett who was a redshirt for Ottawa last season after transferring from Laurentian. They also added forward Terry Thomas who is transferring from St-Francis Xavier University and will be eligible to suit up for uOttawa on November 29th. Thomas was named to the All-Canadian second team in 2011-2012. The dynamic forward will certainly add a positive scoring touch for the Gee-Gees and will look to pick up where he left off at St-FX.
The OUA East will be tighter than ever this season with many teams having made key additions and strides for improvement. “I think we can’t underestimate anyone this year. There are so many good teams in the OUA this year that the entire season will be an all-out war, which is not necessarily a bad thing. Any coach will tell you that a difficult regular season makes a team that much better for the post season,” said Derouin.
However, before the team can play its OUA East opponents they will need to play the OUA West to start the season which appears to be no easier. The Gee-Gees will start by taking on Western University on Friday night at 8 p.m. in a packed Monpetit Hall.
All regular season basketball games at Montpetit Hall are free for uOttawa students to attend. All games are also streamed live on SSN Canada.
Projected opening day starting line-up:
G: Mike L’Africain
G: Johnny Berhanemeskel
F: Caleb Agada
F: Vikas Gill
C: Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue
Gee-Gees 2013-14 Regular Season Home Schedule (all games at 8 p.m.)
Friday, Nov. 1 vs Western
Saturday, Nov. 2 vs Windsor
Friday, Nov. 22 vs Waterloo
Saturday, Nov. 23 vs Laurier
Friday, Jan. 17 vs Toronto
Saturday, Jan. 18 vs Ryerson
Tuesday, Jan. 21 vs Carleton – Capital Hoops Classic at Canadian Tire Centre
Friday, Jan 24. vs York
Saturday, Jan. 25 vs Queen’s
Friday, Feb. 14 vs Laurentian
Saturday, Feb. 15 vs Algoma