CIS Top 10 Performers, Back in Action – #TheCBGBunch
Welcome to the second season of The CBG Bunch, a specialized column dedicated to the CIS season. Every week, CBG parses through the CIS box scores over Sunday brunch while looking for #TheCBGBunch, a group of the top performers of the weekend’s action.
We start the week in #badpuns by wishing all readers, whether you are an aficionado or not, a Happy New Year.
Apologies to Cape Breton’s Meshack Lufile, MacEwan’s Lee Danderfer and Brandon’s Kenonte Ramsey. #ThereWillOnlyBe10, and you three were cuts No. 11, 12 and 13—use this as motivation, because there’s nothing else I can do.
Johnny Berhanemeskel, Ottawa Gee-Gees VS Carleton Ravens: 21 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists, 1 block
You keep the best for last, unless the best is too good to pass up—that’s where we are this week for #TheCBGBunch. It’s not so much that No. 2 beat No. 1, or that the Ravens will (presumably, because you never know with the CIS) not be ranked No. 1 for the first time since November of 2012, or that Ottawa beat Carleton in the regular season for the first time since 2007.
Those are mere facts, and superheroes like Johnny B Goode don’t rely on facts, because their universe finds order with chaos. Difficult takes a day, and impossible takes a week. But beating the Ravens at the buzzer for a second time? The smile says that’s been a lifelong dream. The table is set for the sequel to the sequel at the CIS Final 8, Johnny.
Alexandre Leclerc, Laval Rouge et Or at UQAM Citadins: 25 points, 7 rebounds, 2 steals
Alexandre Leclerc is the prototypical modern Quebecker, and it starts with his name. Leclerc. Le clerc, in French, is an expert or an intellectual according to the same 1996 Petit Robert dictionary I bought for school in Grade 7. Should we then nickname this rookie “The Expert”? Let’s ponder something else—in English, a clerk is many things, most notably a scholar. It’s the archaic meaning of the word, sure, but I’ll take it because a scholar is also basically what the French’s “clerc” means.
That’s right, Leclerc has a name that means scholar in both French and English and lives in a province where both languages mingle with one another every single day. Oh, he’s also proven himself to be fairly decent at basketball with 19 points per game, and I suppose that this is more telling. (Talk about burying the lede, yep.)
Mike Shoveller, Queen’s Gaels VS Nipissing Lakers: 21 points, 12 rebounds, 1 assist, 1 steal
Mike Shoveller is a player worthy of our winter, but don’t let the spelling of his last name fool you. In theory, a shoveler needs only one “l” while Mike has two in his last name, but you’ll never go too far if you just rely on theory. Sometimes, you have to go to the driveway and shovel some snow.
That’s what Shoveller has done all season long for the Gaels, shoveling the snow out of their driveway. The sophomore is shooting well from the field and from the three-point line, and this tells me that he stays within himself and the Gaels offense. Because to shovel the snow without hurting your back, you have to bend your knees. (Take it from someone who knows.)
Javon Masters, UNB Varsity Reds VS Saint Mary’s Huskies: 37 points, 2 rebounds, 8 assists, 2 steals
The second chapter in the career of Young Icarus seems to be following the same script as the first. Our hero is scoring a ton of points only one season after reinventing the CIS rookie records book, but all the buckets in the world didn’t always equate team success a season ago. That’s the problem with Young Icarus’s quest to fly the closest possible to this big, round bulging disk he sees in the sky—the journey upward is so treacherous that no matter how strong your wings are, they turn to feathers when you approach the Sun. And it’s awfully hard to do everything and carry an entire team on just feathers.
Nikola Mandic, UNB Varsity Reds VS Saint Mary’s Huskies: 30 points, 14 rebounds, 1 assist
But if Young Icarus got his revenge against the Saint Mary’s Huskies, it’s thanks in part to the bad man. If you’re Young Icarus, sometimes you have to understand that you need to let others carry you and your feeble feathery wings. And if you’re the bad man Nikola Mandic and Young Icarus is recovering from a long, long ascent the day prior, you are more than willing to be the one doing the carrying and to score 20 points in the first half. You’re the bad man and you met Young Icarus halfway… and now he can carry you all home.
Does our hero now have a sidekick? “Young Icarus and the bad man” has a nice ring to it. Coincidentally, it would make a great name for a glam metal band.
Ben Baker, Saskatchewan Huskies VS Brandon Bobcats: 13 points, 24 rebounds, 7 assists
Can this performance from Ben Baker be my single favourite of the CIS season thus far? In an age where youngsters grow up wanting nothing but to play hero ball, Ben Baker is a refreshing figure and should be cherished. Here’s a man who stands six-foot-three and who weighs 182 lbs., yet who understands that basketball is a process. Not all the shots you take will go in, but you take many jump shots over many hours of practice in order to increase the odds that the next shot does go in. And that still, not all the shots that you take in practice go in, which means that someone has to clean up the glass.
That someone is the fifth-year guard. While we don’t know if he rebounds for his teammates during practice because we are not privy to Saskatchewan’s practice habits, we know that Baker does it during games. He’s the first guard in Canada West history to lead the conference in rebounding, and that happened a year ago before this 24-rebound output. A year before, Baker was the conference’s defensive player of the year. Should he end his CIS career with a national title this year, we may start calling him the Small Man Bill Russell.
Aaron Best, Ryerson Rams VS McMaster Marauders: 30 points, 4 rebounds, 2 steals, 1 block
Ottawa beat Carleton behind Johnny B Goode’s smile, but the Ryerson Rams pummeling the McMaster Marauders was equally telling. For a team like Roy Rana’s, which has seen its aspirations of grandeur fall just short in each of the previous two seasons in Ottawa in the playoffs, this is a statement win.
Maybe the Rams don’t quite belong with the big, big boys of Ottawa right now, but no one else does. And the CIS rankings will say that they destroyed the No. 4-ranked Marauders in large part thanks to a ruthlessly efficient game from their shooting guard. The big boys’ dance, the CIS Final 8, is in Ryerson this year… and as a host team, the Rams are guaranteed a spot. We’ll never know, but this type of game tells me they would have earned one regardless.
Tommy Nixon, UBC Thunderbirds at Lethbridge Pronghorns: 36 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Perhaps Tommy Nixon saw the numbers Ryerson’s shooting guard put up and said, “You got the name, but I’ll have the scoring output.” Or better yet, “Everything Best can do, I can do best.” It’s like Nixon had seen Best’s performance and decided to raise him with a gem of his own—because that’s exactly what he does. Just like Best, Nixon made 11 of his 13 field goal attempts… and yet, he finished with six extra points? It’s not so much that field goals are worth more points where Nixon plays, in Beautiful British Columbia (i.e. Canada’s own BBC, FYI). It just so happens that the fifth-year forward also shot all the free throws in the world.
You bested Best this one week, Tommy, but you can do better.
Justin Bakuteka, Trinity Western Spartans VS Regina Cougars: 35 points, 6 rebounds, 2 steals
“This is madness!! There’s one of I, and two of them!!”
Indeed, it was and indeed, there was. The Spartans were fighting valiantly, but it seemed like another stream of enemies was always ready to pounce, just behind the stream you had just disposed of. It didn’t matter how many skulls you broke, or how many eyes you gauged out with your own hands, or how many armors your sword pierced through, always there were more. The enemy was probably better, and the Spartans could have accepted this if that were all it was—but no, not this.
Sparta knows that life isn’t meant to be fair. You’re born, you grow up and, if you’re lucky enough, you’ll have a family and a loving wife for whom you hunt and kill. Maybe somewhere along there you get the sweet taste of playoff basketball, or maybe you start 1-10. When you’re a Spartan, you expect the madness, but it’s like this was too much. The sages of Sparta were preaching that Ares and Artemis, the two Gods, were testing the men’s will. Was that what the prophecy had called for? But if you have only one (30-point scorer), how do defeat the enemy who has two (Tull brothers)? Life sucks, because life is never fair but along the way you hope to find a way to live the proper life of a Spartan warrior. That of a proud, honorable and fiery people.
Just because it’s unfair doesn’t mean that you stop. You keep fighting on, breaking skulls and ripping hearts out, while you are still standing and still breathing. The Spartans are down, but they fight on.
Dominique Brooks, UFV Cascades VS Mount Royal Cougars: 30 points, 7 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals
The professor looked at the class and asked aloud if anyone knew why 3, 4 and 7 were such wonderful numbers.
“Excuse me, Mr. X, it’s digits and not numbers.
-Yes, you are right.”
The professor turned back toward the class.
“Why the three are such wonderful digits? Well you can do everything with them. You can have 37 (3 and 7) minutes played, 30 (3+0) points scored and all relevant statistics regarding rebounds, assists, steals, turnovers and personal fouls made up of just 3, 4 or 7.”
The professor paused.
“Oh, but what about 10 of 15 field goals? How can you get these?”
He knew the answer, he just wanted to gives his pupils the chance to find it on their own. Right then, a particularly eager student-athlete raised his hand.
“I know the answer!
-Go for it, then.
-Add 10 to 15, and you get 25. Multiply 4 by 7 and you get 28. Subtract 3. There’s your 25.”