NPH CIS Team Previews: Brandon Bobcats
Is there the outline of a more than decent basketball team despite last season’s 2-18 record?
Head coach: Gil Cheung
Record in 2014: 2-18 (Tenth in Pioneer division of Canada West Conference)
Playoffs: No playoffs
Points scored per game: 74.2
Points allowed per game: 88.3
Key players: Earl Thompson Jr., D.J. Jordan
Key losses: Ali Mounir Benabdelhak, Kenonte Ramsey, Mikee Dosado
If there’s any kind of break to find in a Canada West schedule, the Brandon Bobcats may have found theirs this season: the team, coming off a 2-18 record in 2014-15, has started conference play at home in their Healthy Living Centre. The Bobcats lost both games, sure, but they were competitive in the second one. Judging at first glance at least, the schedule seems well balanced between 1) home and away games, and 2) between playoff and non-playoff teams from a season ago. That’s a good thing, though maybe it doesn’t mean so much. “The effort has to be there from our guys every night,” Brandon head coach Gil Cheung says on the team’s website. “There are no off nights in our conference, so we need to be ready to work.”
Key games: at Lethbridge Pronghorns, Nov. 13 and 14
at Trinity Western Spartans, Jan. 29 and 30
You know the old saying that things can only get better from here because here is rock bottom? Well, the counter-argument is that it can remain just as bad, and that’s even worse than rock bottom.
The Brandon Bobcats finished the 2014-15 season with a 2-18 record, and the optimist will posit that things are bound to change in Brandon, but I’ll go one step further and mention that the Bobcats have the outline of a decent team. The Bobcats did hand the Victoria Vikes their fifth loss in the regular season finale in 2014-15 after all.
If head coach Gil Cheung hopes to change his team’s fortunes in 2015-16, he’ll do so by relying extensively on Earl Thompson Jr., who showed moments of brilliance in his first season in Canada last season, and American D.J. Jordan. The latter is fast, a great shooter and has already punished the Regina Cougars with 25 points on opening weekend, albeit in an 87-73 loss.
Another positive sign is the large recruiting class of 10 new faces, a group that includes two JUCO transfers from the United States who stand, respectively, six-foot-11 and six-foot-eight in John Paul and Esmat Atem. “We’ve added some size, and I think we need to work harder on the defensive end, especially on the glass,” Cheung says on the team’s website. “On the offensive end, it’s going to take some time for our new guys to gel.”
True progress doesn’t come easy or quickly when your team has finished the previous season in last place—in a very difficult division but still. Cheung seems fine with it. “It’s going to take some time,” he says, “but I like the strides that we’ve taken so far.”