Third-years take charge

Early injury troubles mean third-years will carry playoff hopes

Forward Mackenzie Simpson was one of three players from the Gaels’ 2013-14 roster to depart due to graduation. Fellow forward Nikola Misljencevic also graduated.
Forward Mackenzie Simpson was one of three players from the Gaels’ 2013-14 roster to depart due to graduation. Fellow forward Nikola Misljencevic also graduated.
Guard Greg Faulkner led Queen’s with 16 points per game last season.
Guard Greg Faulkner led Queen’s with 16 points per game last season.

After being stuck behind the Carleton Ravens and Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA East, men’s basketball finally has a chance to break out.

In the past, the Gaels were firmly back of the Ravens and Gee-Gees, perennially two of Canada’s top teams.

The OUA went through divisional realignment prior to this season, splitting Queen’s from Carleton and Ottawa. Now, the Gaels will contend with the Ryerson Rams, York Lions and Toronto Varsity Blues for Eastern supremacy.

After facing the Lakehead Thunderwolves on the road tonight, the Gaels’ home opener is on Nov. 14 against the Waterloo Warriors.

To win the division, they’ll have to battle through a rash of injuries they’ve suffered in the pre-season.

“We’ve had some significant injuries across the board which has put people in positions and roles ahead of where maybe they were ready for,” said Gaels head coach Stephan Barrie.

Guards Greg Faulkner, Cy Samuels and Patrick Street and forward Ryall Stroud all missed time during exhibition play, but are ready to go for the regular season.

Not as lucky are third-year guards Andrew Mavety and Sukhpreet Singh. Mavety will miss the entire year, while Singh likely won’t make his return to the lineup until January.

With Singh injured, last year’s bench players will need to embrace bigger roles.

“Pretty much all the guys going into their third year, they all need to step up,” Barrie said. “We’re going to need a couple freshmen to have big years.”

In addition to the hurt players, Queen’s lost a pair of key veterans to graduation.

Forward Mackenzie Simpson put up 10.4 points and 6.5 rebounds per game last season, his final one as a Gael. Fellow forward Nikola Misljencevic averaged 11.8 points.

“Mackenzie was long and athletic and we have some new guys that can fit the bill,” Barrie said. “Nik was an inside out player and we have some guys who can do that … It’s more their senior experience. That’s harder to replicate.”

Guard Roshane Roberts is also no longer with the team. He scored 12.4 points per game for the Gaels and connected on 40.2 per cent of his three-point shots in 2013-14.

Barrie said Dan Thompson will help fill the leadership void created by the departures of Simpson and Misljencevic. The guard transferred from the Guelph Gryphons, where he averaged 4.9 points per game during the 2012-13 season.

Last year the squad went 10-12 before losing to the Ryerson Rams in the first round of the playoffs.

Faulkner was the principal scorer, averaging 16 points and 4.4 rebounds. The team will lean on him again this year for his consistent offensive touch.

Singh, meanwhile, averaged 12.1 points, 3.6 assists and 4.8 rebounds per game.

Going further, the men should set their sights on the Rams. In three meetings last year, the Gaels were outscored by 238-198 by the Rams.

The second half of the Gaels’ regular season schedule is stacked with strong opponents, including both meetings with Ryerson.

“I think we just have to get off to a good start,” Barrie said. “The month of November is going to be really key … to gain some momentum.”

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