Men’s basketball makes early exit

Gaels lose to York in first round; hope to sustain momentum next season

The men’s basketball team closed out the 2006-07 season with a disappointing and lopsided playoff
loss to the York Lions last week, going down 95-73, and dashing any hopes for a long playoff run.

“I want to say the game was closer than the score showed,” fourth-year forward Cameron Eby said. “It wasn’t a blowout. We were competitive.”

Though obviously disappointed with their playoff exit, the Gaels took many positives from their season.
“I don’t think you can take a group of kids that for the most part, no one else recruited, and take them to this level,” head coach Rob Smart said. “That’s a statement about their character.” Smart added that despite the great regular season, he had hoped for better in the post-season. “I’m not a very good loser,” he said. “Everyone thought we had a great season but I’m still a bit pissed off. I guess I’m disappointed because we could have gone somewhere. Will I ever not be disappointed? No. But I guess that’s just me.” Rookie forward Mitch Leger was the only Gael to earn an all-star nod, being voted onto the Ontario East All-Rookie team. “I’m a little pissed off that we only had one player named to the all-star team],” Smart said. “If [OUA coaches] want to vote like an old boy’s club, they can do that. I guess it speaks volumes about how much of a team we are.” Though the season has only been
over for one week, the coaching staff has already started thinking about the next.

“What happened this year is as positive of a start as you could ask for,” Smart added. “But could it go
backwards? Of course; we’re losing five guys to graduation.” In addition to Eby and Balaban, the Gaels will lose Kyle McCleery, Glen Smith and Simon Mitchell to graduation. Eby, Balaban and McCleery have played on the team for the past four years. “It’s too bad that once we got it going, five kids are leaving. No matter what happens, next year is a big question mark,” Smart said. The Gaels were 5-3 going into the winter break but they lost momentum in the second half of the season. Queen’s finished fifth in their division with a 12-10 record.

“It was a bit upsetting that we didn’t play very well in the second half of the season,” Balaban said. “To tell you the truth, I don’t really know what happened.” But despite the way the season ended, Balaban is optimistic about the future of the program. “This season was definitely a lot better than previous ones,” he said. “Last season, we won games only because teams were worse than us. This season, we beat Ottawa and York and we blasted Cape Breton in pre-season.”

He also said he hoped the team’s changing image will contribute to a consistently strong program. “This year, people started respecting our program a little bit more,” he said. “There’s some
buzz about Queen’s basketball, and some kids in high school now have Queen’s as a school on their maps.” The coaching staff is now looking to recruit new players to the team who complement their
existing players and can fit into the system.

“In all honesty, in a lot of ways, we feel like we’re starting over next year,” assistant coach Duncan Cowan said. “We’re graduating five guys and we may have more gone. But with a decent recruiting class, we’ll definitely be competitive next year.”

Smart said Queen’s should start to focus on their season performance as a whole, rather than in comparison to previous ones. “Everyone knows that we lost for 10 years and now that we’re
winning, they’re shocked,” he said. “There’s been an attitude that you gauge your performance relative to Queen’s, but from my perspective, you don’t. … We’re playing in a league and we should be trying to be the best. “When you win, people care.” No matter what the critics say,
Smart said the year is one to be proud of. “I think it’s pretty incredible what they accomplished. When we were out West, people couldn’t believe that we could play with UVic and UBC. People came up to
me and said, ‘I don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re doing something right.’ ”

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