OSHAWA,ON–With just over a month to go in the CCAA basketball season, national men’s basketball convenor Jeff Harris is monitoring each team’s performance closely. Harris is responsible for compiling the CCAA’s weekly rankings, where the nation’s best squads continue to battle for the top spot. Eight will go on to compete at the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championships, taking place March 17-19 at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario.
Currently in first place are the Algonquin Thunder of Ottawa. Harris was surprised how dominant the OCAA team has been this season- the Thunder were undefeated in league and tournament play throughout the fall semester. Algonquin athletic director Ron Port credits head coach Trevor Costello and strong rookie performances for their success, while staying cautiously optimistic regarding the Championships. “The provincial championships come first,” he says, “but we feel we’ve got as good a chance as any to qualify.”
Currently sitting in second place are the Vancouver Island University Mariners (NPH #5) of Nanaimo. The team got off to a solid start in the fall, and are “right where we want to be at this point of the season – battling for the league title,” said head coach Tony Bryce. The team includes 2010 All-Canadian Andrew Kaban and a core group of players that “keep getting better every time out. All you can do is put in the work and do your best to prepare. We’ll have to see if it all pays off in March.”
Harris expected the BCCAA league to be a strong contender this year, and had similar expectations of Alberta’s ACAC conference. “Teams from Alberta are consistently ranked among the nation’s top teams,” said Harris. This year Lethbridge College finds themselves at the top of the pile – they’re currently ranked third in Canada. This despite a tough road schedule and several injuries. “We have a strong core team of returning veterans,” said Coach Mike Hansen, “and we’re looking to be healthy going in to championships.”
Just behind them are the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics (NPH #4) of Halifax. Veteran coach Rick Plato has been with the men’s basketball team for 22 years, recently celebrating his 500th win. Past highlights include participating in 12 national Championship tournaments. With a current record of 12-0, the team just may be ready for another. “He has established a quality program here,” confirms June Lumsden, athletic director at Mount Saint Vincent University.
Rounding out the current top five are the Humber Hawks (NPH #3) of Toronto. “It’s been a good season,” said James DePoe, Humber basketball coordinator. “Our new head coach Shawn Collins was an assistant coach for five years. He has a different coaching style, but the team has responded well. Athletes in their third, fourth and fifth year provide leadership, but there are also second-year players performing a stronger role this season.”
Despite weeks of league and tournament play, the outcome of the men’s basketball league has not yet been determined. The CCAA national rankings continue to fluctuate, with significant jumps this week from the Dawson College Blues and the Vanier College Cheetahs, both competing in Quebec’s RSEQ conference. “It’s been a season of strong performances,” says Harris, “which is sure to result in an exciting national championship.”
The CCAA Men’s Basketball Championships take place March 17-19 at Durham College in Oshawa, Ontario.
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