|The Thomas Report - 01.05.11|
Written by Jim Thomas on Wednesday, 05 January 2011
The entire basketball community in Ontario was saddened to hear of the untimely passing of Bill Rootes at the age of sixty-one, two days before Christmas. Bill was prominent in the Niagara Falls basketball community and founder of the Niagara Falls Red Raider club program which won a number of age group titles at the OBA under his tutelage. His son Brad is very well known through his national career with Brock University and he is now Brock's head coach. Bill's passing will leave a huge void in the basketball community in the Niagara Region. Our condolences go out to the Rootes family.
The Windsor Lancers sit atop the OUA West over the break with a 7-1 record and are in the drivers seat in the OUA West race as we enter January. They also have three prominent transfers in 6'10 Ryan Woods, 6'2" shooting guard Troy Barnes and 6'5" forward Jordan Henry, sitting out the first semester while they improve their academics . All three are experienced college level players who will give the Lancers outstanding depth and size to compete against the rest of the conference. The only fly in the ointment for the Lancers may be that they have to go to the hostile confines of Lakehead University's "Thunderdome" to play back to back games where Lakehead rarely loses.
The Laurentian Voyageurs have improved this year under fourth year coach Shawn Swords and look like they will be in the thick of the playoff hunt this year in the OUA East. They have gradually brought better talent into the program through their pipeline into the Vancouver Island area while securing the best talent in Northern Ontario. They have the size and depth to compete on even terms with everyone in the OUA East except of course the Carleton Ravens.
THE HIGH SCHOOL SCENE
Ottawa's Sacred Heart H.S. surprised a lot of people in December with their prominent run through the Nike Holiday Festival which attracted the best teams in the province the second week in the month. They ambushed prominent GTA programs Father Henry Carr, Pickering and came within a whisker of beating the number one team in the province at the time, the Vaughn Voyageurs. Toronto fans never give out of town high schools their proper due because they believe Toronto is the centre of the basketball universe for high schools in Canada. The outstanding weekend that Sacred Heart put together just reminds us that there are excellent teams in other parts of Ontario that can compete with the power teams in the City of Toronto.
Despite the parity in Ontario high school ball due to the defection of so much talent south of the border to prep schools, our best high school teams can compete at a very high level. The aforementioned Vaughn Voyageurs recently entered the Sun Youth Tournament in Montreal and defeated Lee Academy from Maine, a prominent New England prep program and Dawson College which is a very good CGEP program from the Montreal area. In the final, they only lost by twelve points to Algonquin College from Ottawa which happens to be the number one ranked team in the CCAA. Against all of these teams, the Vaughn H.S. squad was playing against teams that were on average, several years older. Just prior to Christmas, Ontario's current #1 team JC Richardson almost beat Christian Faith Center Academy at the REDA Christmas tournament in Scarborough before falling 87-84. C.F.C.A. is an all-star team from the GTA who almost all players on their roster will play Division I ball or go the junior college route. JC Richardson has three D1 calibre players but make up for their lack of talent with great team chemistry, toughness and excellent coaching. Despite the disparity in talent and size, the JC Richardson Storm gave C.F.C.A all they could handle. Last year at the Guy Vetrie tournament in Sault Ste. Marie, JC Richardson beat two good prep schools in New Creations from Indiana and South West prep from Detroit, Michigan as well as Hamilton's REDA program on their way to capturing the title. Despite claims by the prep school supporters in the GTA that they run superior programs, you have to wonder why teams that only draw from their immediate catchement area can compete with these all-star teams.
By the end of December, Oakville's Loyola H.S. Hawks will have competed in eight tournaments and by the exam break will have ten tournament under their belt. I am all for teams competing at tournaments around Ontario if they don't get enough competition in their own league, but when do fatigue, injuries and academics become more important than competing in tournaments every weekend? With their current schedule, Loyola will play over fifty high school games this year if they qualify for OFSAA. In my opinion, this is a crazy schedule and OFSAA needs to step in here and limit the number of games high school teams can play in a year. I think Loyola coaches Gary Laurin and Reno Malisa run a great program but one has to question their judgment when they play a grueling schedule like this. I hope the wear and tear of their team doesn't come back to bite them come playoff time at the end of the season.
THE RECRUITING TRAIL
New McGill University coach Dave D'Aviero has been burning up the 401 highway from Montreal to the Toronto area in search of Ontario high school talent for next year's Redmen team. McGill has targeted 6'4" off-guard Aaron Redpath, 6'2" shooting guard Adam Pressuti, 6'10" power forward Nick Yantzi, 6'0" PG Scott Morrison and 6'3" swingman Tejour Riley in the GTA. All are "A" students which fit the profile at McGill which is one of the elite academic schools in the country. The athletic pool McGill draws from is much smaller than what coach D'Aviero is used to picking from while he was at Ottawa University.
Ottawa John McRue H.S. power forward Justin Shaver 6'6" has reconfirmed last year's commitment to the Carleton Ravens. Shaver is one of the best big men in the country and don't be surprised if 6'11" centre Ryan Evans joins him on the Carleton roster next spring. Nova Scotia St. Francis Xavier University is in the mix and coach Steve Konchalski has had some luck in the past luring high school talent out of Ottawa to the East Coast before.
Acadia University has commitments from Midland St. Theresa's H.S. point guard Thomas Johnston 6'2" and Ottawa Sacred Heart H.S. Point guard Sean Stoqua 5'10", who was a first team all star at the recent Nike Holiday tournament in Toronto.
The Windsor Lancers have targeted prominent Ontario off guards Justin Edwards 6'2" from Whitby Anderson H.S., Joe Rocca 6'3" from Sarnia St. Christopher's and Tejour Riley 6'3" from Metro Prep in Toronto to succeed graduating senior Issac Kuan.
Hamilton REDA lead guard Grant Mullins has interest from Columbia and Northeastern University in the U.S. and McMaster, U of T and Western U of the CIS.
The Western Ontario Mustangs are prominently involved with Hamilton area big men Brett Sanders 6'5" and Nathan McCarthy 6'7", guards Joe Rocca 6'3" from Sarnia, Gary Morrow 6'3" from London, Ryan Higgins 6'4" from Guelph Jack Daneyko 6'5" from Niagara A.N. Myer, Matt Plunkett 6'5" from Barrie St. Joe's and 6'0" point guard Will Coulthard from Oakville.
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