Keeping up with the U Sports Classes: Why the 2020 Class could change Algoma’s fortunes in the OUA
Algoma men’s basketball coach Etienne Jacquet believes his 2020 recruiting class can be the foundation for the future improvement of his program. Finding sustained success at any level takes time and he knows that but, with the traits of this incoming group, there’s reason for excitement in Sault Ste. Marie.
After getting the job last summer, Jacquet had little time to build a recruiting class. This season was a different story though, and the former Thetford Academy coach is pleased with the talent he was able to sign.
“I mean basically I had what 10 days to recruit when I got the job so it’s a process,” said Jacquet about last summer. “It’s the first step, getting some bigger guys in, getting some guys that can start getting ready to play at the U SPORTS level.”
The Algoma University Thunderbirds Varsity Athletics Program is excited to announce the hiring of Etienne Jacquet as the new Head Coach of the Men’s Basketball Team. @algomautbirds @AlgomaUHoops_ @OUAsport @USPORTSca https://t.co/YUpb3SMF7c pic.twitter.com/WHUE6zHFYu
— Saultsports.com (@Saultsportscom) July 26, 2019
Algoma has struggled to find its footing in the OUA since stepping up a level from the college ranks for the 2013-14 season. Following last season, Thomas Cory, who led the school through its transition, was ready for a new challenge and headed to Nipissing to lead the Lakers men’s basketball program after a 12 year run with Algoma.
With Cory moving on, that left a job that Jacquet stepped into. The new coach knew that he needed to build a class that could better compete with the U SPORTS powerhouses in their conference.
Since entering the OUA, the Thunderbirds had run into a common issue for many teams that move up a level: size. Jacquet made it clear with this class though, size won’t be an issue any longer.
“They’ll add some size, add some versatility,” said Jacquet. “If we want to play big, if we want to play small, we have the ability to do that now so that’s good.”
With five of the new recruits standing 6’5 or taller, the added size will be much needed for a team that finished last in the conference in rebounding last season.
If there’s something unique about Algoma, it has to be the school’s population. Being the smallest institution in your league by a significant margin can create some challenges but Jacquet doesn’t look at the school’s size as a negative. For him and his staff, they believe it gives them an opportunity the larger schools don’t have.
“It’s almost a family thing so we’re going to help you anyway we can in order for you to get your diploma or degree,” said Jacquet. “I tell the kids, listen you can go to a big school and be a number or you can come to a school that’s a little bit smaller and everybody knows your name, knows your goals and they want to help you achieve those goals.”
Considering over half of the class are literally family, it’s hard to not take Jacquet for his word. Brothers Satchel and Sterling Benjamin and Omer and Jabril Jama give this class a feeling of family unlike any other in the country.
Photo Courtesy: Algoma Thunderbirds Athletics
“We’re trying to have a family atmosphere so if I don’t have any brothers then I’m lying,” Jacquet joked.
For a small school without much of a reputation in U Sports basketball, the diverse regions the incoming class is from has to catch your eye. Players from Texas, Alberta and Saskatchewan are all heading to Sault Ste. Marie, and it’s something Jacquet says those with a vested interest in Canadian recruiting should expect going forward.
“It’s the ability to find players that fit what we want to do,” said Jacquet. “Guys that want to work, guys that want to get their diplomas. Wherever we can find them we will find them. I’m going to be a guy that’s looking at national and international for guys so you should expect that from Algoma now on.”
There’s no denying last season was a difficult one for the Thunderbirds. With multiple players coming with college and prep level experience as well as a breadth of size and versatility, it appears Algoma may have the building blocks to turn the corner in the OUA.
|Sterling Benjamin||Wake Technical (CCAA)||6’5 Forward||Carrollton, Texas|
The coach’s scouting report: “What he’s going to add is really in terms of rebounding, the ability to play inside and out, he’s going to be able to shoot the ball a little bit. We’re going to get that better but really, he’s going to be adding to our size, our rebounding especially with his footwork is going to be good. When we’re talking rebounding, we’re also talking offensive rebounding so he’s going to help in that department.”
|Satchel Benjamin||Red Deer College (CCAA)||6’7 Forward||Mansfield, Texas|
The coach’s scouting report: “He’s a little bit more versatile, he can extend all the way out to the three. He’s going to be able to help us shoot, he’s dynamic, he’s a bigger body, he’s going to be able to take away some of the stuff at the rim. With some (post-secondary) experience as well, he’s going to be good for us. Eight feet and in he’s going to be dangerous on defence. On the offensive end, we’re going to be able to run a lot of different sets with his shooting and his ability to play in all three areas of the court.”
|Jaylen White||Pierre Savard||6’7 Forward||Ottawa, Ontario|
The coach’s scouting report: “A big guy, he’s really going to take care of the inside for us. Very athletic, I think he has (we measured it) a seven-foot wingspan, so he’s definitely going to be blocking shots. Being in there, being in the trenches. He’s going to be a big boy down there for us that’s going to help us out there.”
|Campbell Collegiate/Notre Dame Prep||6’6 Guard||Regina, Saskatchewan|
The coach’s scouting report: “He’s one of the younger guys, big body. He’s going to be able to shoot a little bit. He’s more of a guy that we’re going to need to work on, he’s going to be able to extend, 6’6, he’s going to be able to shoot some of those corner shots. He’s really going to be on the outside and have a bigger guy shooting the ball, so I expect him to become very good in terms of shooting. He’s going to help us as well on defensive rebounding and having a bigger body outside at the guard area.”
|Jabril Jama||Medicine Hat College (CCAA)||6’5 Guard||Regina, Saskatchewan|
The coach’s scouting report: “A point guard, a bigger guard. 6’5 point guard, that gives us the opportunity to go big if we want to. Definitely a scorer, athletic, he has very good court vision. He’s going to be able to help us in transition when we’re running up and down the court. He has really quick feet so he’s going to be able to defend if we want to go big, he’s going to be able to defend some of the quicker guys in the league.”
|Roman Niro||All Saints||6’3 Point Guard||Calgary, Alberta|
The coach’s scouting report: “Roman I feel like with some good development is going to be adding some scoring. Definitely the man can shoot the ball, I believe he can definitely shoot the three, looking to extend it to the NBA range as well. Also good at marking so that he can start leading us in terms of running our sets and getting our stuff going so playing the point guard and shooting guard position. So, he’s going to be one of those guys that he’s going to be learning the point guard position but while he’s doing that, he’s definitely going to be able to help us with his shooting and his scoring. I feel like it’s natural for him to put the ball in the basket.”
|Benjamin Cooper||McKinnon Park||5’11 Point Guard||Caledonia, Ontario|
The coach’s scouting report: “Listen, Ben is something. His character, he’s the kind of guy I feel like where I’m not sure what he’s going to bring (specifically) but it’s going to be excellent. He’s always asking questions, he’s always there with the IQ so he’s definitely going to be playing the point guard position as well. At first, it’s going to be learning and understanding and getting all those things going but he’s really feisty man. He’s going to be one of those guys that is going to help at that point guard position with his IQ and his intellect, also his ability to become a leader.”
|Bigus Bangoura||La Cite Collegiale||6′ 4 ” Guard/ Forward||Ottawa, Ontario|
The coach’s scouting report: “Bigus is going to bring a passion for the game, intensity on the defensive end and contribute on offense. Bigus believes in getting better on and off the court and is excited for the opportunity to play with the Thunderbirds. With his level of athleticism and basketball IQ, he will be able to contribute right away. Bigus will add to the depth of our team and will help us achieve versatility on the court.”