Can a younger Winnipeg team go further than last year’s edition in the difficult Canada West?
Head coach: Mike Raimbault
Record in 2014: 12-8 (Sixth in Pioneer division of Canada West Conference)
Playoffs: Canada West Play-In series
Points scored per game: 77.6
Points allowed per game: 71.8
Key players: Jelane Pryce, Denzel Lynch-Blair, Jamar Farley
Key losses: Jordan Clennon, Mark McNee, Travis Kahn
In a tough conference like the Canada West (and division like the Pioneer), Winnipeg Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault has the right mentality. “We’re just getting started,” he says, “and we try to not ever get past who we’re playing (that) week.” He doesn’t want his team to look ahead, because “the schedule tests your ability to stick with things and push through some adversity.” The latter, adversity, starts right from the jump in 2015-16, as the Wesmen go on the road to battle the two teams that finished just above them a year ago in the Calgary Dinos and the Alberta Golden Bears. “On any given night, if you don’t have your best night you’re going to get beat,” he says. “Every win is so important that if you don’t concentrate on what’s in front of you, you’re going to get bit.”
Key games: at Calgary Dinos, Nov. 6 and 7
at Manitoba, Feb. 5; VS Manitoba, Feb. 6
Winnipeg Wesmen head coach Mike Raimbault doesn’t believe in season predictions; they’re for myself, he tells this reporter. “Just want to keep working hard at getting better and take it one week at a time,” he says, “I’ll let you do the predictions.”
Predictions aside, the Wesmen opened the season with an 87-67 loss against the Calgary Dinos, so the only definite is that the team will not go undefeated this year. Raimbault likes his roster, though the group is a little younger than in years past. “That’s one of the neat things as a coach, to see guys who have been waiting in the wings,” he says, “put their own stamp on (the season).”
One who certainly will, though he’s no newcomer, is fifth-year dynamic and versatile senior Jelane Pryce. “He’s capable of having big scoring nights,” his head coach says in praising him, “but he probably doesn’t get enough credit for the things he does at the defensive end.” And that’s where the key will be for the Wesmen. “I like to think that we tend to focus more on the defensive side of the ball,” Raimbault says. “Any time that you’re giving up easy baskets, you’re putting yourself in jeopardy.”
In the competitive Canada West conference, it puts the end goal in jeopardy as well—though you won’t catch the Wesmen head coach discuss team goals. “The amount of growth will determine what was a success and what was not,” he says. “You want to win every game that you play.”
We’ll take it.