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Team’s resemblance to NBA’s Oklahoma City Thunder may point to outcome of season

Comparing an elite National Basketball Association (NBA) team to a Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) basketball team would be ludicrous. However, other than the levels of talent, there are more similarities between this year’s University of Ottawa men’s basketball team and the 2011–12 Oklahoma City Thunder than one might think.

One salient resemblance between the two teams is their style of play. They both play a fast-paced offence that relies on defensive pressure to cause turn-overs and look to score in transition. However, both teams are also capable of playing half-court and controlling the boards. Both team’s rosters are also similar. The Seattle SuperSonics — the Thunder franchise before it relocated to Oklahoma City — found themselves at the bottom of the standings, giving them high draft picks year after year. In 2011–12, their roster included key players like Serge Ibaka, Kendrick Perkins, and Thabo Sefolosha. Adding them to Kevin Durant, James Harden, and Russell Westbrook, all drafted in the top five, the Thunder managed to transform themselves from bottom dwellers to yearly contenders.

How does that relate to this year’s Gee-Gees? In 2011–12, Durant was playing at an MVP level. The sharpshooter showed why he was the best scorer in the league and would have been MVP if not for some guy named LeBron James. The Gees have Johnny Berhanemeskel, a sharpshooter that played his way into the discussions for MVP and CIS all-star. The fourth-year shooter has broken most Gees records and is bound to break a few more.

What about Russell Westbrook? Do the Gee-Gees have a fearless guard who can pull up and hit a jumper from anywhere on the court, take it down the lane, draw out fouls, lay it up, or explode for a dunk? Look no further than second-year guard Caleb Agada. He’s been nothing but sensational since last year’s CIS final eight. This season, head coach James Derouin rewarded Agada’s strong play with a spot on the starting roster. Like Westbrook, Agada tends to take ill-advised shots and finds himself in foul trouble but you can count on him to deliver.

Does Ottawa have a player who can score 20 or more points at will like James Harden or an athletic front-court? The Gee-Gees have multiple Hardens. On any given night, third-year point guard Mike L’Africain can go off, Terry Thomas has shown he can score 20 or more points when given the opportunity, and the same can be said for second-year guard Moe Ismail and third-year forward Vikas Gill. The front court is led by fourth-year forward Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue who has been reliable throughout his CIS career.

Like the Thunder’s coach Scott Brooks, Ottawa is led by a great young coach James Derouin, who is backed by a great staff. His assistant Justin Serresse even looks like the Bull’s Carlos Boozer, so there’s another NBA resemblance. Derouin also holds the record for the Gee-Gees coach to reach 50 wins in the shortest time.

In 2011–12, the Thunder team was primed to win the championship after exiting in the western conference finals the year before. During the entire season, many analysts picked them to win it all or lose to one team: the Miami Heat. And that’s exactly what happened in the NBA Finals. The Thunder lost their series to the Heat 4–1.

If the Gee-Gees are the Thunder, that means the Carleton Ravens are the Heat. The Ravens have dominated the CIS for almost a decade and have shown no signs of slowing down. Despite their two losses against the Ravens this season, the U of O has shown it is the only team in the country that has a chance against the mighty Ravens. Barring injuries, the two are bound to meet once again in the playoffs. Let’s hope the Gee-Gees will be able to handle the Heat.