High hopes on the hardwood

Stars and second-year classes prepare to battle stiff OUA East competition

Greg Faulkner led last year’s Gaels in scoring as a third-year transfer.
Greg Faulkner led last year’s Gaels in scoring as a third-year transfer.
Liz Boag scored 13.9 points and doled out 3.9 assists per game in 2012-13.
Liz Boag scored 13.9 points and doled out 3.9 assists per game in 2012-13.

Men

With 11 returnees to the men’s basketball squad, things can go nowhere but up.

With added experience and the continued scoring touch of veteran players Greg Faulkner and Nikola Misljencevic, there’s little doubt this season will be an improvement from last year.

The Gaels are looking to boost last season’s 10-10 record, which ended with a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Laurentian Voyageurs.

Nine players on the roster are in their first or second year. The recent development of this young core may make or break the Gaels’ success this season.

Gaels head coach Stephan Barrie believes his squad, particularly the substantial second-year core, worked hard over the summer to improve on last season’s record.

“Patrick Street, Ryall Stroud and Andrew Mavety are guys who have really changed in terms of what they were last year,” Barrie said. “Sukhpreet Singh and Roshane Roberts, who were really important players for us last year, will continue to be so.

“It’s important to remember they are young — they aren’t fourth-year guys and they are still learning,” he said.

The two fresh faces in the mix for the upcoming season are 6’10” centre Mike Shoveller and Mike Mullins, a defensive-minded guard.

Shoveller will see playing time right away, as the Gaels hope his tenacious rebounding skills and much-needed shot-blocking prowess will bolster a small line-up.

Barrie was pleased with the centre’s play in the pre-season.

“Shoveller has already had an impact in pre-season, and we are just looking for him to get better,” Barrie said. “He’s a presence just by simply being as big as he is, and for us, it is just a matter of being patient with him.”

With a roster virtually the same as the previous season, the Gaels will likely fall behind the powerhouse Carleton Ravens, Ottawa Gee-Gees and Ryerson Rams in the OUA East.

All three teams currently rank in the top four nationally.

Even though the Gaels will be in tough within their division, Barrie embraces it.

“We are in hands down the toughest division, let alone conference, in the country,” he said. “As of right now, we are in the second group of teams and we will try and find our way into that top group.”

If Faulkner continues scoring around his usual 20-points-per-game clip — he finished third in the OUA with 19.9 last season — and the Gaels’ defence remains stingy, Queen’s could upset a top OUA team and snag fourth place in the East.

Barrie’s goal this season remains simple: to keep improving and to continue building towards the team’s success.

“We’ve got to take what we did last year and get better,” said Barrie, noting that rebounding well and limiting turnovers will be significant areas of focus.

“We need to continue to work on these two things, because they will be critical factors for our success come playoff time.”

Jordan Cathcart

Women

Despite losing four veteran players, women’s basketball head coach Dave Wilson is confident this season’s squad is the best he’s assembled in years.

The Gaels finished an injury-plagued 2012-13 season with a 7-13 record, before embarking on a playoff run that saw them eliminate the Ryerson Rams and fall to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the second round.

This year, the Gaels hope to make a deeper push in the playoffs with their improved roster.

Last year’s leading rebounder Sydney Kernahan is one of four members of last year’s team no longer with the Gaels. Also gone are centre Hanna Koposhynska, guard Rachel Urosevic and forward Emma Stallwood.

A quartet of rookies will replace the four departed players. Forwards Nicole Barnard and Amy Cotton, post Andrea Priamo and guard Abby Dixon will add depth to the Gaels heading into the season.

Wilson said a pair of the new faces should quickly enter the Gaels’ rotation once the season starts.

“There’s no question that two of them have stood out right off the bat: Abby Dixon and Andrea Priamo,” Wilson said.

The rookie class could be tested early, since the injury bug appears to have again struck the Gaels before the season has begun.

Guard Emily Hazlett suffered a shoulder injury during their pre-season game against the Ryerson Rams, while Liz Boag, last year’s leading scorer, only played half of one pre-season game due to a sprained ankle.

Also injured is Barnard, who had an unresolved foot issue before she joined the Gaels, while forward Gemma Bullard, guard Meaghan MacDougall and post Nicole Morse all have knee issues ailing them.

Many of them will be game-time decisions for tonight’s season opener.

Despite the injuries, Wilson believes his team will play better this year due in part to their improved offseason training, which has become more rigorous.

“They’re in better shape and much stronger,” Wilson said. “Almost every game we’ve played, the coaches come back and say, ‘wow, your kids are really physical.’”

Boag said the players were asked to shoot 1,000 shots per week over the summer.

“We’re a deeper [team] than we were in the past, so that gives me a lot of optimism because we can throw so many threats and bodies at different teams who maybe don’t have as many weapons,” Boag said.

This season’s second-year players, including standout post Robyn Pearson, played more minutes than usual in their rookie years due to the slew of injuries that kept their teammates from playing.

They come into this season with much more OUA experience than typical rookies, giving the Gaels more all-around depth.

Jerry Zheng

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