NPH CIS Team Preview: UQAM Citadins
Head coach: Olga Hrycak
Assistant coaches: Nevio Marzinotto, Mario Joseph, Randy Alexandre
2012-2013 record: 6-10 (RSEQ)
Key players: Vincent Lanctôt-Fortier, Alexandre Bernard, Philippe Tamba, Richard Addai
- Rubens Poteau
- Rigo Katahwa
- Thomas Chabrol
- Simon Lavoie Lavallée
- Rudy Caufriez
Departures: Gregory St. Amand, Marvin Bazile
MONTREAL—To understand the UQAM Citadins, we must first understand the province of Québec, that with the accent aigu on the first “-e.”
This isn’t a history or a politics lesson, but let’s just say that the province has isolated itself due to various factors in its history. And these days, Québec attempts to preserve itself and its identity many different ways, the latest being the pending charter of values.
Like the province, UQAM is a minority in the CIS, and that’s the challenge for head coach Olga Hrycak—recruiting Francophone basketball players in a country that’s full of Anglophone ones. “I’m limited in recruiting,” she says. “I recruit in Québec.”
Point final—she says it. “I may, may get an extra kid out of Ottawa,” she adds.
The head coach has developed good relationships with the French cégeps, and this year she welcomes three new players from Montmorency. Hrycak expects good things from Rigo Katahwa, who steps up at the weakness that is the point guard spot. “The point guard and the perimeter,” she says, “have been our weaknesses.”
This season, the Citadins return a lineup that has a good mix of young and veteran players and that hasn’t lost many pieces—though that might not be a good thing, considering that UQAM went 6-10 last season. The key departure is forward Gregory St. Amand, now in Switzerland after having signed a contract with Villars Basket. “That hurts us,” Hrycak says. “But I have a good nucleus of veterans and my rookies…are going to help us.”
The biggest challenge might be overcoming the knee injury to fourth-year forward Vincent Lanctôt-Fortier. Hrycak expects him to be back in November, but it might take him more time to get up to speed once he’s come back.
Until then, Hrycak says she expects other players to step up. Richard Addai is moving from point guard to shooting guard, which Hrycak says is a more natural fit. “He’s looking to have a banner year, no question about it,” her coach says.
While fifth-year Paul Emile Colas is the team’s hardest worker, fourth-year players Alexandre Bernard, a first-team conference all-star last season, and Philippe Tamba will be counted upon to lead the Citadins. “(Bernard) is tough inside and now he’s developed a three-point shot so I can have him roll to the basket or pop out,” she says. “(Tamba) is a driver…and right now, he’s my best three-point shooter.”
The Citadins open their RSEQ season against the Concordia Stingers on November 7 and from there, the team will play the other four teams of its conference four times each. It quickly becomes a routine. “It’s tough. By the fifth game, I know what you had for breakfast,” she says. “It’s hard to go 16-0.”
Maybe that’s why UQAM has scheduled preseason games against teams like the trio of the OUA East, the Carleton Ravens, the Ottawa Gee-Gees and the Ryerson Rams. “I’m hoping it’s going to help us prepare really well for the season,” Hrycak says. “These trips are predominantly for team-building and promoting, motivating and encouraging the guys to play their best.”
Like most RSEQ coaches, Hrycak wishes the conference could get a bit more respect from others in the CIS. “I’d like to get back to the nationals,” she says, “and prove that Québec can do better.”
Winning will take care of it.
Follow Charles Blouin-Gascon on Twitter @RealCBG & NPH @Northpolehoops