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Photo: Rémi Yuan

Gee-Gees show two sides of dealing with a missing star in Toronto road trip

In the fleeting seconds of the Gee-Gees men’s basketball team’s statement win over the Carleton Ravens, the Gees suffered their biggest blow of the season so far.

Canadian basketball website North Pole Hoops recently ranked Gee-Gees forward Caleb Agada as the best player in the nation. While driving to the hoop, Agada suffered a severely sprained ankle.

For James Derouin and the Gee-Gees coaching staff, the loss of Agada for a big road trip at a key time in the season could be difficult to deal with.

Agada has not dealt with any serious injuries in his time at the U of O, particularly not since his team’s ascent into the nation’s elite.

On the floor, Agada is an absolute monstrous all-around player, he averages 16 points, nearly 10 rebounds, and three assists per game, all while being perhaps the best on-ball defender in the country.

Snatching him from the lineup is killer, even on a team as deep as the Gee-Gees. In the team’s game against the Toronto Varsity Blues on Jan. 22, the team powered to a 87-61 win over a mediocre opponent.

The Gees simply outsmarted and outscored the Blues, and point guard Mike L’Africain took over the game in the second half propelling the Ottawa squad to a hefty victory.

With even scoring and solid use of bigs, the Gees were able to flex their muscles on the smaller Toronto team. What Agada could have brought to the game was not missed as much, his duties taken over by committee and spread throughout the team.

The Gee-Gees implemented sophomore Mackenzie Morrison into the starting lineup in Agada’s place. In the early stages of the season, Morrison has seen limited minutes as he rebuilds strength and confidence after beginning the year battling injuries.

Morrison gave an adequate performance with five points and six rebounds in the game, clearly not statistically replacing Agada.

The following evening, the Gee-Gees faced perhaps their toughest competition of the year against an inspired Ryerson Rams team.

Let’s not mince words, the Ottawa Gee-Gees and Ryerson Rams do not like one another—and they never really have.

Ryerson have been the victim of the Gee-Gees multiple times over the past four years and they haven’t forgotten getting their dreams stampeded time-and-time again.

For the Rams, they had one shot to beat their arguably most hated rival. Before Agada’s injury their outlook seemed grim, but after they romped the Carleton Ravens the night before, it seemed destiny was on Ryerson’s side this weekend.

For once in their history, the overshadowed stepchild of Ontario collegiate basketball defeated the Ravens and Gee-Gees in succession. The 87-80 victory took until the final minutes of the fourth quarter to secure, and as they celebrated there was a sense of informed ignorance that this win didn’t mean quite as much with Agada’s absence.

There is something to be said when a team can beat another at their best, but with the best player in the nation on the bench in street clothes, the victory is somewhat hollow.

Without Agada, the Rams were able to exploit the defensive holes in guard/forward spots and rack up points on shots that would normally be contested. This is all to say that the Gee-Gees should have beaten the Rams regardless of Agada’s absence, but instead of an excuse it’s perhaps an explanation.

Leading scorer Ammanuel Diressa and physical force Adika Peter-McNeilly likely could have been slowed if the Gee-Gees were employing their regular lineup, but in this case hindsight is 20/20.

Agada doesn’t have a scheduled return date but it would be optimistic to assume he will be ready to take on Queen’s and York as they pay visit to Montpetit Hall on Jan. 29 and 30. It would be more likely that he is given time to mend while the Gee-Gees do battle with middle of the pack teams, allowing him to make his return on Feb. 5 at Capital Hoops against Carleton.