After 600 days without competitive play, the men’s and women’s basketball teams are hitting the hardwood once again.
Ahead of their regular season debuts on Nov. 5, The Journal sat down with Men’s head coach, Stephan Barrie, and Women’s head coach, Claire Meadows, to discuss what changes the 2020-21 season off has brought for both squads. They also addressed what fans can hope to expect from them as they make their way towards the fast-approaching 2021-22 campaign.
Speaking to the fresh additions the Men’s roster has acquired in the last two years, Barrie expressed a beaming sense of optimism about the team’s caliber for this upcoming season, as well as their potential lethality in the long term.
“We’re excited because all our young guys are very, very talented with a lot of upsides,” he said. “It’s going to be a lot of fun having those guys for the next four or five years.”
Prior to the suspension of the 2020-21 season, the men’s team was on a steady upward trajectory. Since the 2015-2016 season, they’ve won more games in a five-year period than any other previous team in the program’s history—in addition to clinching playoff berths in every one of those seasons, too.
Despite this success, the men’s team has struggled to make it past the first and second rounds of the OUA playoffs.
Speaking to this, Barrie said the team’s pattern of early eliminations has been less a case of underperformance and more a case of unlucky circumstance stemming from the competitiveness of the OUA’s East Division.
“The reality of our world is […] we are in a division with three of the top five teams in the country: Carleton, Ottawa, and [X University],” he said. “And a good number of our playoff exits have come when we’ve hit one of those three teams.”
“We haven’t felt like when we’ve gotten to the playoffs that we have underperformed, [we just haven’t] been able to pull off the upset that we’ve needed to pull off.”
All the same, Barrie has the utmost confidence that this year’s team will continue that trend of quiet excellence they’d owned prior to the pandemic.
Having beaten McGill University 71-64 in their first exhibition fixture last Saturday, Barrie stated the team has already shown a characteristic toughness that will be a huge asset going forward.
“Our group is tough. The game against McGill was very physical […] pretty low scoring, a bit of a bloodbath, so to speak.”
“Our guys were just […] tough, and defensively relentless rebounding the ball.”
Although the team certainly showed rust in some areas, particularly their shooting, Barrie remains unphased. He believes their offensive play will slowly develop as they settle back in, and their on-ball tenacity is the true foundation of their character this season.
“Our effort and intensity defensively was really, really impressive for a first game back, and is going to be […] the core of our identity moving forward.”
Turning to Women’s Basketball, head coach Claire Meadows said her players were eager to return to the court for the first time in two years after playing their first exhibition game against Western last weekend when they took home a commanding 85-52 win.
“It was just an opportunity for us to work through a lot of different things, familiarize ourselves with each other, and familiarize ourselves within a game setting,” Meadows said in an interview with The Journal.
Meadows, who took over the head coach position last spring, emphasized her coaching philosophy is deeply rooted in building trust and strong relationships within the program.
“I think when you have trust, then you are able to operate at a high level in everything that you do.”
Touching on the team’s strengths heading into the regular season, Meadows iterated that their depth and versatility are undeniable.
“We can confidently play one through twelve […] we can rotate a lot of people into the game, which allows us to play at a high pace,” she said.
“We have a lot of players who can play different positions for us. Our forwards have a lot of perimeter skills, and then we have perimeter players that have a lot of length and can give us some size inside.”
Regarding this year’s roster, Meadows mentioned three new recruits—Lireesa Gokhool-Jefferson, Mikayla McFarlane, and Willo Thomas—and spoke highly of the aptitudes and talent they bring to the team.
“Both Willo and Mikayla bring us some size and length. Lireesa definitely brings us some athleticism, and we saw in the Western game this past weekend that she’s going to be a good defender for us.”
With Queen’s hosting the U Sports National Championship this year, Meadows emphasized the team isn’t getting ahead of themselves. Their current goals are oriented towards what they can do to improve each day and each practice, rather than surrendering to the destination.
“Our approach to this season from the get-go has just been to focus on the now,” she said. “I think if you look too far ahead and you get too concerned with outcomes based on something that’s not within your control right now, then you’re obviously not in the present and that alters your mindset.”
“It’s about how we can win today, and then be better for tomorrow.”
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