Mature team moves up the OUA ladder

Campbell says depth of squad is key for victories

Tuesday, April 7th, 2009

Western men's basketball

Jon Purdy

SETTING THEIR SIGHTS ON THE NEXT LEVEL. Team captain Matt Curtis hopes to lead Western's men's basketball team back to the dominance it showed years ago.

“We are pretty good on paper and definitely heading in the right direction. The team is maturing and growing with the new players we are adding. We just have to go out and earn our respect.”

Equipped with five new recruits and a healthy number of veterans, men’s basketball head coach Brad Campbell knows his team has what it takes to get to the top echelons of Ontario University Athletics’ West division.

The team finished 11-11 last season, losing a 69-61 heartbreaker to the Guelph Gryphons in last year’s OUA West quarter-final matchup.

“We had a successful pre-season,” he said. “We played seven games in our pre-season and went 5-2. The one thing we’ve addressed and will need to work on is closing out games and playing with a lead, and not just protecting it but extending it.

“I think that will come with experience and through some of the things we are working on both offensively and defensively.”

Both of the teams Western lost to in the pre-season, St. Mary’s University and Queen’s University, are ranked in the top 10 nationally.

Offensively, the ’Stangs have a host of weapons, including forwards Andrew Wedemire and Brad Smith, who are capable of putting up big numbers any given night. During the pre-season, the team averaged slightly over 95 points per game.

“We are deep, and we plan to use our depth,” Campbell said. “We’ve been scoring a lot of points in the pre-season, so we want to keep that pace offensively. We are going to use our depth, and use a lot of guys. We have a lot of people who are talented and can play at the same time.

“Basically, what we’ve done so far in the pre-season " and we have had some little injuries here and there with some players " we have basically been playing 10 people, and that’s not even with the two transfers who will come in the middle of the month.”

Three of the team’s new recruits " guard Ryan Barbeau, forward Garrett Olexiuk and guard Alex Brzozowicz " have been playing with the team during the pre-season and will begin the regular season on the active roster.

The team’s other two recruits, forward Keenan Jeppesen and Colin Laforme, will only be eligible to play starting later this month.

Team captain and point guard Matt Curtis said the attitude around the team has changed over the past years, contributing to its success.

“We are looking to win now, instead of just trying to keep games close,” he said.

As captain, Curtis said keeping an upbeat attitude is crucial for the team to take the next step and beat elite teams like Carleton University.

“We have to keep everyone positive and in the mindset that we deserve to be up in the upper echelons of the OUA or [Canadian Interuniversity Sport]. We have to have the attitude that we deserve to be there.”

The men play their first regular-season game this Friday against the York Lions at Alumni Hall. Tip-off is at 8 p.m. They also play at home the next day against Laurentian University.

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