Competitive Clubs

Men’s basketball team welcomes new talent in off-season to replace key players

THE UNIVERSITY OF Ottawa men’s basketball team will host three exhibition games against high-profile National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) opponents to kick off its 2013–14 season.

The Gee-Gees will host the Texas Christian University Horned Frogs on Aug. 9, the University of Wisconsin Badgers on Aug. 22, and Syracuse University on Aug. 24. All three teams will make their first-ever trip to Canada, though it’s the 10th consecutive year the Gee-Gees have welcomed NCAA competition to the capital.

“It definitely gives our kids a chance to experience the top level of competition, and a chance to play teams that are probably better than every other team we’re going to play for the entire season,” said Gee-Gees head coach James Derouin. “It really gives us something to measure against, especially because most of our players have dreams of playing Division 1 basketball, so it’s a rare opportunity for them.”

The final exhibition game against the Syracuse Orange is expected to sell out the 888-seat Montpetit Hall. The Orange are coming off their 2013 run to the NCAA Final Four, the team’s fifth appearance in its history and fourth for ‘Cuse head coach Jim Boeheim. The matchup has generated quite a buzz for Gee-Gees fans and NCAA fans in Ottawa.

“Everybody that has been an NCAA basketball fan for the last 25 years in Ottawa is always connected to Syracuse,” said Derouin. “When I was growing up … the Syracuse games were the only games on TV, and because of the proximity there’s just a ton of Syracuse fans in Ottawa, which I think adds to the element of just how fun this is going to be.”

Derouin said the biggest distinction between NCAA teams and Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) teams is size and speed. NCAA teams are able to recruit the tallest and most athletic from a large pool of players, he explained, and their players will generally be two to three inches taller than CIS players at every position.

“That’s clearly the difference,” said Derouin. “The skill level and execution and things like that are pretty similar, but in the end their speed, athleticism, and size sort of take over.”

The Gee-Gees men’s basketball team is returning after an off-season that welcomed four new players to its roster to help fill the gaps following the graduation of Gee-Gees veterans Warren Ward, Jordan Vig, and Dimitrios Seymour.

This year’s biggest name recruit is forward Terry Thomas, a transfer student from St. Francis Xavier University who is known for being one of the top athletes in the country. As a transfer, Thomas will only become eligible to compete on Nov. 29, just in time for the Gee-Gees’ first game against the Carleton Ravens.

Derouin said the leadership roles of fourth-years Gabriel Gonthier-Dubue and Johnny Berhanemeskel will help push the team forward this year.

“They stepped right into that position,” he said. “Those are certainly the best two players on our team and they’ve been here the longest … and they’ve also been with me since I took over, so they’re very comfortable in the role.”

Admission to the first two NCAA games against Texas and Wisconsin is free for U of O students, but it’ll cost $15 to watch the Gees take on Syracuse. Tickets can be purchased through CapitalTickets.ca or at the Gee-Gees box office by calling 613-562-5800 extension 4337.