Walk on, give it your best effort and walk out.
This seems to be the new norm for hoopers hoping to crack the Gaels men’s basketball team.
Assistant coach Chris Aim led mandatory open tryouts last Friday, putting a group mixed of roster locks and hopefuls together for shooting drills and an hour and a half of full court scrimmages. Head coach Steph Barrie looked on from the sidelines, offering help and constructive criticism to the players.
Although plenty of talent was on display among the 12 or so players trying out, a walk-on has little to no chance of cracking the rotation for most CIS basketball squads.
Most of the talent in university basketball is players who are heavily recruited by several schools. It’s rare for an unrecruited player to make even a significant impact in a sport with such a small rotation of players.
“Walk-ons have become less and less important because recruiting and scholarships are now at play, so we are much more like the US,” Barrie said. “For us, recruiting is 99 per cent of what we are doing. If [a walk-on] has a unique talent that can help us, if we take them, it will 99 per cent of the time just be for help in practice.”
In tryouts, many coaches will look for a player who was overlooked in recruiting, but Barrie’s criteria for a roster hopeful is simple — come in shape and showcase your skill.
“Whatever it is you think you do well, you should try and show that,” Barrie said. “If you’re a shooter, you’re going to have to shoot, or if you think you’re a good defender, we tell them the same thing.
“Highlight whatever it is you think you are good at, and we will decide if we feel that’s something we need.”
While most walk-on talents will not likely end up playing or practicing with the Gaels, Barrie appreciates the effort that hopefuls put in during tryouts.
“We can judge a guy on how bad they want to play by telling them they are not going to play for a year,” he said. “Knowing they are not going to play for a year shows me how many guys are willing to be a practice player.”
With a Gaels team that is returning 12 players and added two recruits over the summer, Clifford Lerebours knew that if he were to make the squad, he would likely be a practice player.
The second-year engineering student was the last cut for the Gaels last season and passed up an opportunity to play at McGill prior to enrolling at Queen’s.
Lerebours showed he was the best athlete on the floor, using his speed to get to the hoop and his strength to defend quick Gaels guards Roshane Roberts and Mark Paclibar.
Even with his solid performance, the Ottawa native is realistic about his shot of making the team.
“Last year, I more so wanted to get a feel for school,” Lerebours said, “and this year coach Barrie encouraged me to come back. You put in work — that’s all it is. That’s the most important thing.”
The other standout was sweet-shooting lefty Joe Cattana, a Toronto native who won a provincial championship with powerhouse St. Michael’s College. The first-year was the high scorer among those trying out, but like Lerebours, he stayed realistic with his roster hopes.
“I was hoping to fight for one of the last spots on the team and compete,” he said.
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