Men’s basketball coach talks success this season, players to watch at Cap Hoops
Winners of three of their last four games, the men’s basketball team currently sits in third place in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) eastern division as they prepare for the big game.
Circled on the calendar for months, the Capital Hoops Classic is finally here—where the Gee-Gees will take on the Carleton Ravens on Feb. 1 at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Practicing late Thursday night before the game, the Fulcrum met up with head coach James Derouin to preview the matchup and discuss his team’s season.
The Fulcrum (F): Your team has about the same record as it did last year leading up to the Capital Hoops Classic, although we’ve seen a totally different team to last year’s on the court. Can you talk about the big differences in your team’s play this year as compared to last year’s team?
James Derouin (JD): I think it’s changed from the last couple of years. I mean certainly what stands out is that our style of play has gone back to what people have been accustomed to with my coaching here. We had a lot more size over the last few years—some of the best bigs in the country, so we played a little slower style, shot less threes, kept the ball inside a little bit more. But this team is back to a lot of penetrating, running, jumping, and hitting threes, and that’s what I’m most comfortable coaching as well, and that’s a change from the last couple of years.
F: You’ve got two rookie players eating up lots of minutes on the court this year, can you talk a bit about the progress Kevin Civil and Guillaume Pépin have made since joining the team?
JD: Well Guillaume has been solid this year all the way through. He’s really been playing like a veteran. Usually you wait for rookies to develop and learn, but he’s been good at home, on the road, and in big games. He’s kind of skipped a bunch of steps—he’s been solid like a veteran from our first tournament of the year. Kevin on the other hand started kind of slow—a new role for him, he was a big-time prospect in Quebec for a long time. Coming off the bench—coming in as a backup point guard as a rookie, he’s had a lot of adjustments to make. If we look at the last two weekends he’s come a huge way and we’re excited for him. With the home stretch of the season and the playoffs coming, we’re definitely going to need him to be as good as he’s been lately.
F: You guys lost to Ryerson last weekend. It’s no secret Carleton is as big a powerhouse as Ryerson. What are the keys for your team heading into Capital Hoops to have some success against Carleton?
JD: Well we certainly had our chances to make it a really interesting game on Friday against Ryerson. We flirted with six and four and we almost got over the hump. The problem with those three games (Carleton and Ryerson twice) is slow starts. We’ve been down 15 and 20 in the first quarter and then played even with them the rest of the way, beating them in the last three quarters. Those are moral victories—they don’t count for much, but we can’t dig ourselves a hole, and we’ve done that all three games against those teams. We can’t do that especially in front of the crowd on Friday, you know Carleton’s got a veteran team. They played in the nationals last year. We’ve got a young team, so we’ve really got to hold it down in the first quarter, and if we can come out of that alive we have a shot.
F: Who’s a player who’s been performing all year you expect to have a big game on Friday?
JD: Gage Sabean after his performance on Saturday went eight for 10 on threes and had 31 points. I think he made eight points in a row at one point, and that had the crowd going. He’s a third-year kid who’s continued to grow, second in threes in the OUA, fifth in point percentage. He’s going to be key for us against Carleton with his size, his shooting, and spacing he gives us, and we need him to have a big game. If he can do that, we tend to live and die by the three this year and he’s a big part of that. So if he’s hitting, we may very well see a classic Capital Hoops game.
F: Who would you say is your team’s unsung hero?
JD: Andrew Degroot is our fourth-year backup centre now. He’s started a lot at the beginning of the year—had a big game against Carleton. He brings lots to our defence with his size and some rebounding, and you know Carleton comes with so much physicality and size, and Andrew could be a real key to the game and help us. At times we’ll need to play with a bigger lineup to compete, and if he’s able to control the paint with his size, he could be really key for our team tomorrow.
The men’s game starts at 8 p.m. at the Canadian Tire Centre in Kanata, right after the women’s at 6 p.m.