High hopes for men’s basketball

Team has ‘chance to do something that’s never been done’

Last year Sammy Ayisi (right) averaged 4.4 points and 1.3 assists per game.
Last year Sammy Ayisi (right) averaged 4.4 points and 1.3 assists per game.
Credit: 
Journal File Photo

After years of being in the basement of the OUA standings, last season the men’s basketball team put themselves on the map. 

A second-round exit in the post-season, failed to highlight the leaps and bounds the team had made all year. Winning a playoff game for the first time in six years wasn’t just an accomplishment, it was indicative of the program turning over a new leaf. 

“Our team next year has a chance to do something really special,” veteran guard Sukhpreet Singh told The Journal last March after an agonizing playoff defeat to then number one ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees. 

With a healthy amount of experience under their belt and an offseason of practice, the Gaels look poised to make the jump; to finally be considered amongst the CIS’ best. 

Now, with the regular season tipping off in a matter of weeks, the team finds itself hoping to ride the wave of momentum that carried them through last season. 

This past weekend, as hosts of the Tindall Invitational Tournament, the Gaels put their plan to the test. 

In their only tournament of the preseason, the team got off on the right foot with a 87-63 win against Memorial University.

While head coach Stephan Barrie liked the way his team played, he knew there were things on both sides of the ball that needed polishing.

Their next two games, however, were less than promising. The Gaels were handed two losses to cap off the weekend, dropping their Saturday game 73-65 against Alberta and their Sunday re-match with Ottawa 64-60. Finishing with a 1-2 record, their inconsistent play — with 16 turnovers and out rebounded 40-32 against Ottawa — left more questions unanswered than not. 

Basketball isn’t a game of luck, rather success is predicated on preparation — and that’s something the Gaels are looking to hone in on before the season starts, according to coach Barrie. 

“We don’t have any issues with practice, intensity or effort. It’s just about having the players understand the system, and that’s not about effort. The team works their tail off and it’s easy to coach them that way,” he said. 

The challenge at hand for the Gaels is, as Barrie alluded to, having players understand the system the coaches are trying to implement. And with a lot of new players, it makes the continuity from last year that much more difficult. 

Of the 14 players listed on last year’s roster, six were lost due to either graduation or injuries, leaving new players with bigger, unexpected roles. Even with a handful of fresh faces, Barrie said time, patience and second-chances will be paramount in the team’s plans. 

“It’s going to take some time for the new guys to know exactly what’s going on, because putting anyone into a new system takes time. If they make mistakes, we’re not just going to take them out and bring another guy in — it’s about them getting through those mistakes." 

“Having seniors at this level makes all the difference in the world. But again, we expected having eight or nine guys coming back, now we’re left with five, so it’s definitely a hit,” he added.

The expectations for the team should still be fairly high, though. Their play last season warranted excitement. It was time for the school, and the CIS, to pay a closer look at Queen’s basketball. And that’s something the coaching staff preaches to its players — to recognize that the work they put on the court could have a meaningful impact on a campus itching for more athletic success. 

“We talked to them about the legacy they could leave here. We let the team know, ‘you guys have a chance to do something that’s never been done. You get to nationals, that’s never been done. You win an OUA championship, that’s never been done,” Barrie said.

“And if you get to nationals for the first time in the program’s history, that’s something you’ll remember for the rest of your life,’” “They have a chance to be special. It’s certainly going to be tough but they’re eager to face the challenge.”

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