Volume 93, Issue 31
Tuesday, October 26, 1999
Men ready to slam dunk da funk
©Graphic by Terry Warne
By Michael Murphy
The men's basketball team is setting its feet, squaring up and preparing for a shot at the national championships. And though the season is still over two months away, some early indications suggest their title hopes may just find the bottom of the net.
The Mustangs are coming off an oustanding season, having posted the best record in the country (31-6) and taken home a provincial crown last year. Unfortunately, the squad's title quest was cut short by a disappointing, four point loss to St. Mary's University in the first round of the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union national championships.
"The fact we got to the nationals but lost in the first round makes us hungrier to get back this season," said fourth-year co-captain and forward Matt Tweedie. "Everyone is really committed to getting back and winning this time." And the Mustangs seem to have the horses to do just that.
"We feel most of the incoming players have come back with something added from last year," said Mustang head coach Craig Boydell. "Plus, we got a lot of experience by going to the nationals last year, so I think we'll be improved. We're optimistic."
Tom Kieswetter, head coach at the University of Waterloo said he is expecting a strong season from Western and predicted McMaster University will be their chief rival. "No question that Western and McMaster will be the top contenders. Those teams are perennial powerhouses and they should be looked on as the favourites. I think, though, that Western, having lost only one starter from last year's team, should have the inside track."
Basketball coaches around the country seem to share Kieswetter's esteem for the Mustangs. In a recent coaches' poll, Boydell said his team was ranked number one in Ontario and third best in Canada.
Boydell was quick to point out that, defending champs or not, Western has always been the team to beat. "We've always been a team that other teams have gotten up for," he said.
He also stressed every team in the league should be considered a contender and the underestimation of any opponent is pure foolishness. "You better look out for everybody. There's been a real sense of parity in the league in the last few years. Often, when teams get overconfident, they get upset. If you take anyone lightly, you're likely to suffer the consequences," he observed.
Fans can expect a balanced and varied floor game from the Mustangs this season. "We're pretty versatile. We're most noted for running highly disciplined offence and defence in the quarter court, but I think we're a team that can fast break too."
Tweedie echoed his coach's thoughts. "Our biggest strength is our ability to play different styles of game. This should let us dictate the play to our opponents."
As for particular players to watch, Boydell said he expects guard Micah Bourdeau, co-captain and former All-Canadian, to impress, as well as a strong season from soft-handed forward Chris Brown. He emphasized depth will be a major strength and seemed confident many players were capable of making key contributions.
With the preseason underway, Western can begin eyeing the rim and taking dead aim at the national championships.
"We're not here to just have a good season. We're here to take it all the way," Boydell said.
Copyright © The Gazette 1999