Volume 92, Issue 57

Friday, January 8, 1999

the roof is on fire


Western jumps into new season

'Stangs need the Wright stuff

Western jumps into new season

Tom Baumgartner/Gazette

WANNA BE LIKE MICAH. Mustang Micah Bourdeau will play a key part in the men's basketball season that opens on Saturday in Guelph.

By Alan Russette

Gazette Staff

The wait is over.

The preseason exhibition schedule is finished and the Western men's basketball team is ready to hit the hardwood. The Mustangs are hoping a solid core of returning veterans and a mix of new talent will net them some hardware in the 1999 campaign.

Leading the charge for the Mustangs will be Ontario University Athletics West first team all-star Nat Graham, returning for his fifth and final year of eligibility.

The six-foot-six forward from Miami has averaged 16.6 points on 62 per cent shooting from the field and 7.2 rebounds per game in pre-conference play. He leads the team in each category.

Mustang head coach Craig Boydell said he believes that Graham's contributions will merit all-Canadian consideration this year.

"He's one of the guys who have really turned it up a notch," Boydell said. "He's worked exceedingly hard over the summer and he's a better basketball player for it."

Also returning is all-Canadian guard Micah Bourdeau who struggled through part of the exhibition season with back problems but put up solid numbers, averaging 13.8 points per game and leading the team in assists.

Boydell expects forward Matt Tweedie, a walk-on two years ago, to turn a number of heads in the OUA West conference.

"[Tweedie] has been one of our work horses. In the off-season he's been as dedicated as anyone we've had to improving himself physically and skill-wise," Boydell said.

Chris Brown, a six-foot-eight post player, will be the man in the middle this year. Shooting just over 50 per cent from the field, Brown is expected to provide an imposing physical presence for the Mustangs.

One of Western's off-season recruiting goals was to strengthen the depth of the point guard position with the hope of freeing up Bourdeau, who spent much of last season as the primary ball-handler. As a result, the Mustangs have several different looks they can field at the point guard position.

Rookies Shaun Lodge and Jim Grozelle will share most of the playing time. Transfer students Stephan Barrie and Peter Kratz will be looked on to play the point as well as off-guard positions. Chris Brown who has played with both Lodge and Grozelle on club teams is well aware of their capabilities.

"Having a true point guard is a big boost," Brown said. "Both Shaun and Jim have contributed a great deal and really have stepped in well from the high school level thanks to their poise and talent."

Western's depth was made evident in their just completed preseason schedule, finishing 15-2 and ending on an 11-game win streak. Scoring just under 90 points per game, Western has one of the country's most balanced and prolific offences.

"The most impressive stat to me from our pre-conference play is the fact that our top three scorers are also our top three assist men," Boydell said. "From a defensive point of view, it's hard for other teams to play us. They can invest a lot of time shutting down one guy, but that guy is almost always a good passer."

According to Grozelle, communication is the only thing the club has to work on.

"Sometimes we have to talk more when we're on the floor," the rookie guard said. "Communication is really the only thing that currently needs significant work."

The Mustangs' first game is on the road this Saturday in Guelph.

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Copyright The Gazette 1999