Canadian basketball is undoubtedly rising, but don’t for a second think it’s just Toronto and the GTA on the come up. The nation’s capital, a city we call Ottawa holds a plethora of talent and a special 2016 group that demands your attention.
The youngest team in the Etobicoke Thunder Jam is powered by four 2016 prospects, all of which are starters–the Ottawa Guardsmen are for real. Lead by stand out point guard Jacques Lukusa and 6’8 Eddie Ekiyor throughout the tournament, the G-men defeated a strong Toronto Triple Threat team 66-63 to capture the title.
While Lukusa and Ekiyor spearheaded this team offensively throughout the weekend, it was Maxime Boursiquodt who stepped up to nail a massive three-pointer with three seconds left in the game. This dagger would send the entire team into a frenzy as the bench was emptied to flood the floor in celebration.
Following the game, Boursiquodt explained “My coach told me to stay confident and I just let it go.”
Lukusa posted a game-high 22 points, Boursiquodt added 15 points, while Ekiyor & Yasiin Joseph chipped in with 12 points apiece. As evidenced statistically, many players stepped up at different moments. Joseph was an x-factor as he provided great energy making big defensive plays in addition to his offensive production.
It was a physical game all the way through, a grind it out type game that could have went either way. Ekiyor stated, “It shows that we can fight through it…stuff like that happens in basketball.”
“We’ve worked a lot…defence, that’s our mentality. We have to keep pushing hard, we’re young but we’ll grow,” added Boursiquodt.
Although @Elias_NPH predicted this victory, Toronto Triple Threat had the #1 seed in this tournament and a tonne of talent to match up. Josiah Riley lead with 16, D’Wan Williams 15, while Russell Baker put in 11 points before leaving the game in the third quarter with back spasms.
Calvin Epistola came up big for TTT during crunch time making back-to-back crucial threes, including a bank shot to help eventually tie up the game with less than a minute to go.
For Ottawa, Head Coach Aaron Blakely was wired on the sideline throughout the entire tournament, actively engaging his team, pacing back and fourth and demanding 100% effort. His excitement is certainly contagious.
“It keeps us amped up and ready to go…it gets us energized,” said Boursiquodt, with a smile from ear to ear.
Boursiquodt earned defensive player of the tournament while Ekiyor was named MVP, however the 6’8 forward believes his lead guard Jacques Lukusa is a major reason the Guardsmen stand as champions.
“Personally I think Jacques is the best point guard I’ve ever seen. He goes by anyone, he creates most of our offense, without him I don’t know how we’d do.”
Ekiyor makes a good point; Lukusa was simply unstoppable at times, evidenced by four different Triple Threat defenders put on the crafty PG. He is able to blow by the opposition due to the combination of his quick first step and a tight handle.
All this young talent is exciting to witness, especially against older competition; but if you ask Coach Blakely about their early success, he’ll tell you, “we have a ways to go, the talent is there in terms of players but we need to stay in the gym.”
“I love the fact that we had an opportunity to win but I’m a little bit scared of it at times when you know these are 15 year olds that physiologically might think that they’ve made it already.”
It is critical that the Ottawa Guardsmen remain sharp and alert as teams will be gunning for them, while collectively improving.
“Lets take it for what it is…it’s great that we win but understand this is just going to make teams want to play us even more,” continued Blakely. “We have a ways to go.”
Not yet where they want to be…but the Ottawa Guardsmen have arrived.
Whitby Saints make a come up against the Barrie Royals for the 55-51 victory, claiming the AA #ThunderJAm Championships. Isaiah Wilson lead the way with 14 points, while Isaiah Cummins & Daniel Wright added 10 apiece for Whitby.
Nick Stacey and NPH Showcase alumni Connor Laronde lead Barrie with 19 and 16 respectively.