INDIANAPOLIS, IN–Everyone from the event organizers, to opposing teams and referees didn’t expect such a Canadian presence so deep in the tournament. Team Ontario 15U lost in the semi-final round and the 17U and 14U teams walked away with a championship. In the 14U final the gym felt like we were in Toronto as Team Ontario and CIA Bounce faced off. Ottawa’s Noah Kirkwood had a very impressive performance and showed some advanced moves for his age. CIA Bounce guard, Kayon Gordon-Stevens, also had a solid outing and was able to score when he wanted. The difference was that the provincial team had many touches in each possession that got multiple guys going and they rebounded well, much like the older unit.
A down to the wire championship win is exactly what Team Ontario’s 17U team needed before heading off to Orlando for the AAU Super Showcase at ESPN Wide World of Sports. Prior to this game they had not really been tested as they swept through the competition at the Hoosier Shootout. In the finals they played a team from Indiana called Evansville who shot the ball well from outside and never gave up. This was a win that they had to really squeeze out, a game similar to the pool play games that will happen at the Super Showcase.
Coming into Orlando they will be challenged by stronger, bigger and more athletic front lines which will make guys think twice before taking it to the rack. One of their major strengths is a vulturous back court that includes Russell Baker, D’wan Williams and Glen Thelemaque, and a few other interchangeable pieces that work well when Coach Fatih Akser calls the press on.
Ontario has been able to make many 5-10 point swings as a result of their press and have been able to keep momentum to build leads. Spurts of scoring from their young star Tyrell Gumbs-Frater also fuels the rest of the team and provides energy coming off the bench.
Baker and Brody Clarke are instrumental pieces if this team is to win games. They are considered vets on this team while Clarke is an excellent communicator and knows how to get his teammates to do what is needed of them. Baker is the motor and he and Clarke are nursing some injuries from the battle in Indiana. Without these two in the lineup the teams chemistry and flow in games will be disturbed.
Can they afford to sit out the first game in Florida? Yes, Team Ontario has enough fire power to make it through a pool game or two without them. Daniel Cummings can turn it on and light up the scoreboard through his multi-dimensional scoring. They will depend on the reliable play of Calvin Epistola who is the team’s primary ball handler and a guy that gives them extra possessions off deflections and steals. Epistola will take the new young guns under his wing.
The journey continues tomorrow, and then followed by a Las Vegas tournament to wrap up the AAU circuit and lastly Canada Games.