Volume 91, Issue 57

Friday, January 9, 1998

on the rocks


The boys are back in town

©Photos by Tom Baumgartner/Gazette
1997-98 MUSTANG MEN'S BASKETBALL STARTING LINE-UP. From left Jonathan Dingle, Micah Bourdeau, Nat Graham, Bradley Campbell and Richard Tamminga.

By Alex Chiang

Gazette Staff

If it's not easy being green, the Western men's basketball team certainly hasn't lived up to that adage. With a 14-man roster comprised of six rookies and four second-year players, the relatively inexperienced Mustang contingent has come together remarkably fast – posting an impressive 10-2 preseason record.

After an extremely high turnover of players, the Mustangs are a very different team from 1997. Gone from last year's club are leading scorer and provincial all-star Chris Webber, forwards Jason Meskis and Blake Gage, centre Nigel Rawlins as well as guard Hugh Bell and Brendan Noonan. Noonan, however, will still be on the team's sideline as an assistant coach. Co-captain Jonathan Dingle is the only returnee to the purple and white's starting line-up.

"Early in the preseason [inexperience] played a factor," starting point guard Micah Bourdeau said. "A couple of games were won with determination and heart, but we have a long way to go."

Bourdeau is returning to London, his hometown, after spending two seasons with Saint Mary's in Halifax, N.S. where he was named the Atlantic University Athletics Association conference rookie of the year.

The starting line-up boasts a second transfer student, Nat Graham, who spent three years in the NCAA with the University of Pennsylvania. Graham, who is the team's other co-captain, led the Mustangs in preseason scoring (averaging 15 points per game) and rebounds (8.1 per game). He, along with second-year big man Richard Tamminga, will give the Mustangs a solid inside presence at both ends of the court.

Perhaps the brightest note is the return of forward Bradley Campbell who is as healthy as he has been since his freshman year. Campbell, considered to be a second-year Mustang, suffered a knee injury in 1992 and has been in and out of the line-up ever since.

Western head coach Craig Boydell cited Campbell as a good example of one of the team's greatest assets – versatility.

"Campbell can handle pressure well and can do stuff like a guard," Boydell said. "One of our greatest advantages is most of our players can play more than one position.

"We have a lot of depth in the middle spots and how our rookies develop will determine the depth of the bench."

Of the freshman class, guard Chedo Ndur and forward Chris Brown have garnered the most attention and will likely receive the most playing time.

"The coach said when we were being recruited that we'd have to step up and be ready to play," Ndur said. "The offence isn't really difficult, [but] defensively I'm not used to playing against this calibre of players day in, day out."

Boydell said he has been pleasantly surprised by the intensity and dedication of the first-year players.

"A lot of rookies carry in their work ethic from high school, but this year they've been really good," Boydell said. "Even though our guys are talented, they haven't played together that much. That was a concern last year as well and it's the effort and attitude that make me optimistic about this group."

Although Western struggled to a 4-3 start, the team has been on a role as of late – riding a seven game win streak, including wins over nationally-ranked Guelph and Laurentian.

"At this point all the players know what's been laid out for us and what's going to work," Campbell said. "We need to get sharper and to refine our offence and defence, but there's nothing we need to do in particular."

The Mustangs will tip-off regular season play tomorrow afternoon at 2 p.m. versus the Laurier Golden Hawks.

To Contact The Sports Department: gazsport@julian.uwo.ca

Copyright © The Gazette 1998