C/O Travis Nguyen

An in-depth look at the Marauders basketball teams after years of success

Anyone who has been following Ontario University Athletics basketball recently would be quick to note the Marauders as one of the powerhouse teams in the league. Not only have the men’s and women’s teams started their 2021-2022 seasons strong, with both holding a five and one record, but recent history also sits in their favour.  

Over the past decade, the men’s team holds a strong record of 122-73 in regular season play. The women’s team holds an even stronger 144-55 record with a championship victory from the 2018-2019 season to top it off, their first since the dominant 2000s run, which saw four championships in a 10-year stretch. 

Having attained sustainable success, a rare and difficult to achieve outcome in sports, a deeper analysis into McMaster’s basketball program was completed to understand how the school can continue pumping out strong results year after year.  

In reviewing the men’s team, it is an offense-heavy squad which has begun to improve its defense as well. They’re capable of scoring 90+ points on any given day, and find several scorers in double digits each game. On the defensive end, the team has begun to find great success in poking the ball away and racking up steals.  

MBB | After bouncing back in the second half, the Marauders brought home the win 96-78!

Check it out⬇️

: https://t.co/W2m4XKKUIe

— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) November 20, 2021

Despite a slow defensive start to the season, the Marauders quickly picked themselves up and have become much more alive on the defensive end. Last time out against the Algoma Thunderbirds they tallied together to set a single game season high of 22 steals, defying their typical reputation as an offense first team.  

The team is primarily based around offensive menace Jordan Henry, who holds a season statline of 22.7 points per game while shooting 54.1 per cent from the field and averaging 5.5 assists. The team is very top-heavy, but has a very strong group up top, including Sefa Otchere, Christian Bentley, Mychael Paulo and Mike Demagus, who commonly finish the game among the best performing leaders in several categories (minutes, points, assists, etc.).  

When asked about the early season success, Demagus commented on the brand of basketball the team has played and the culture found within the organization.  

“We all have one goal in common and that’s to win. Everyone on our team knows their role. Everyone on our team knows what they have to do for us to win and that’s where we come as a collective. No one outshines anyone else because everyone knows what they’ve got to do to win,” said Demagus.  

Demagus would later shift his focus to head coach Patrick Tatham, a highly respected coach in the league. Prior to coming to McMaster, Tatham was an assistant coach of the Maine Red Claws of the NBA’s G-League, where he coached future and former NBA players including (but not limited to) Malcolm Miller (NBA champion), Damion Lee, Abdel Nader and Ryan Kelly.  

“It’s great knowing we have someone with that type of experience that’s under our wing. He’s constantly trying to prepare us for the next level,” explained Demagus.  

“It’s great knowing we have someone with that type of experience that’s under our wing. He’s constantly trying to prepare us for the next level.”

Mike Demagus, point guard

Finally, Demagus explained the close culture within the team and how comfortable each player feels with one another. When asked to choose one word to describe the culture of the team, Demagus chose “brotherhood,” describing the closeness of the team and how the lack of anonymity provides an advantage to the Marauders.  

The rich culture was one of the most discussed reasons for success in the interview with Demagus, which soon became a common theme with the women crediting similar reasoning for their success.  

The highly successful McMaster women’s team is a highly balanced squad with significant depth up and down the roster. They revolve around star point guard Sarah Gates, who holds season averages of 25.5 points and 7.7 rebounds, while shooting 52.6 per cent from the field. She also holds a season high of 38 points, which was significant in her achieving the OUA player of the month.  

Beyond Gates, the team has a very deep rotation, where it’s common to see nearly every single player get minutes. Individual game point leaders regularly rotate through and many members of the team can step up when needed. Rebounds and assists are dispersed through the entire lineup and this has become one of the team's biggest strengths.  

Tori Rigas-Didomenico, a point guard for the Marauders, discussed the chemistry of the team and the drive that they show in always wanting to be the best that they can be.  

“From day one I could tell this was a cohesive group. It’s a “one team, one heartbeat” kind of thing. We’re working together on the court and off the court to have the most successful team possible . . . Our team is always ready to learn. We have that collective mindset and are pushing ourselves to the limit. I think that’s where our success comes from,” said Rigas-Didomenico.  

“From day one I could tell this was a cohesive group. It’s a “one team, one heartbeat” kind of thing. We’re working together on the court and off the court to have the most successful team possible."

Tori Rigas-Didomenico, point guard

When asked about the impact the coaching staff has had on the team's success and development, Rigas-Didomenico was very quick to praise the job of coach Theresa Burns and staff.  

“We have such amazing and committed coaches that care about us as players and people and that starts with coach Theresa Burns. She really knows how to connect with us on an individual level and make us the best players and people we can be. We all look up to her and see her as a role model, on and off the court,” explained Rigas-Didomenico.  

Just as Demagus was asked of the men's team, Rigas-Didomenico was asked to provide a one-word description of the culture within the organization and the answer she provided was very similar to that of Demagus. 

“It would have to be ‘home’ or ‘family’ — those two words really stand out to me,” said Rigas-Didomenico.  

Although there is no definitive answer, the culture of both teams seems to be a strong reason for their success. The men and women both feel extremely strong connections with their teammates and always try to work as a collective unit, pushing the boundaries both on and off the court.  

With a strong culture and coaching staff in place, it makes sense as to why the Marauders can recruit such high-level talent. It also makes sense that they can translate their relationships off the court into on-court chemistry and overall success.  

Sneakerhead culture first began in the United States in the 1980s thanks to basketball — specifically the emergence of hip-hop music and Michael Jordan’s shoe line. Today it is a worldwide movement where people who love sneakers will spend time, money and effort expressing themselves through the soles on their feet.

One student at McMaster who embraces this lifestyle to the fullest is sneakerhead and first-year player on the McMaster men’s basketball team Jacob Edwards. Edwards has been collecting shoes for several years, and now has about 60 pairs.

“Ever since I started playing basketball I fell in love with the look of Jordans,” said Edwards.

As he grew up, every birthday and Christmas he would request Jordans and slowly but surely his passion for sneakers really began to take off.

But it was the release of the Air Jordan 11 “Gamma Blue” when he was in the ninth grade that really got him involved in the world of sneakers.

“I wanted my first real pair of retro Jordans,” said Edwards. “I went to Toronto at five in the morning even though the store opened at nine, and there was a line up of 200 plus people.”

Edwards was lucky enough to get the shoe, getting a size bigger than what he was wearing at the time so that he could still wear them today.

For Edwards, getting these Jordans was more than being in style and staying up to date with the hottest trends. They were a way to express who he was.

Attending high school St. Andrew’s College, an all-boys private school that required students to wear uniforms, his shoes were one of the ways he showed his individuality.

“Even if the majority of people don’t like a certain shoe and I do, that does not stop me from wanting to wear them,” said Edwards.

Inspired by National Basketball Association players like Russell Westbrook and Kelly Oubre Jr., he allows his style to match his personality.

After high school, Edwards was recruited to McMaster due to his top scoring ability, but due to a foot injury during a charity game at the beginning of the year, Edwards has spent his rookie season watching from the sidelines.

“Honestly going through this whole injury has been mentally one of the hardest years of my life,” said Edwards.

“Not getting to experience any of the frosh week and first-year experience and play basketball has been really hard for me. But through it all, my mom has been by my side.”

After being in a cast for a month he was still not seeing any improvements, so he went to the hospital and it showed that the bone was still partially cracked. He was then advised to have surgery, which he underwent in December, and has been recovering well ever since.

“It’s definitely a beauty in the struggle because it’s totally changed my mentality towards basketball,” said Edwards. “I’m so hungry to get back on the court and it’s just motivated me that much more.”

Although Edwards was not able to excel on the court due to his injury, he did not let a walking boot stop him from rocking what he loves.

“My mindset was if I’m going to be on crutches and I’m going to be in a cast instead of letting the disappointment from not being able to play get to me I’m going to still do what I love by rocking sweet kicks, even if it just one shoe,” Edwards added.

Although many people do not understand the culture of the sneaker world, to Edwards it is just like any other hobby.

“Everyone has different passions, mine is collecting shoes,” said Edwards. “For me, wearing nice shoes completes the outfit.”

As Edwards gets older he is starting to see that there are more to the sneaker world than just Jordans. When he was younger he leaned towards basketball shoes, but now he appreciates the versatility of having all kinds of good shoes.

“I wanted to expand to dress shoes, Adidas and some Under Armour,” said Edwards. “True sneakerheads are versatile and can switch their game up from brand to brand.”

The sneaker culture may not be for everyone. The high costs and the crazy designs take a unique person to appreciate, but for Edwards and other sneakerheads, it is a way of life.

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In an interesting season that has seen its fair share of ups and downs, the men’s basketball team has not seen much consistency. However, there is one consistent player who has donned the maroon since pre-season tipped off. Third-year forward Matt Quiring is the only player on the Marauders to start every possible game this season, playing in one more game than guard Kareem Collins.

“Just trying to stay consistent and stay in the right mental space,” said Quiring on his ability to stay on the court. “The game is so mental. Trying to stay focused, and being diligent and disciplined on what I need to do with regards to the team — like being a leader with the younger guys and also supporting the other guys as well.”

In that time, Quiring has managed to average 10.7 points in 23.8 minutes per game. Quiring also puts a lot of work on the glass, leading the Marauders with 6.2 rebounds. Quiring kept that average in his most recent performance on Feb. 10, adding six rebounds to his team-leading 23 points against the second-place Western Mustangs.

“I’m kind of a leader on the team and also [play] a support role,” Quiring said. “Our main guys are [David McCulloch, Collins and Miles Seward] and I’m kind of that fourth guy to support them and just be that body on the floor that needs to hit screens, clean up the boards and do what I need to do and focus on those simple things so that they can do what they need to do as well.”

"Even when we are down, guys are still supporting each other. It's like that really tight-knit family," 

 

Matt Quiring
Men's Basketball Team 

In this role on the team, Quiring has had a front-row seat to the turbulent season the Marauders have had. While there were some bright spots throughout the year, the team could never quite finish off a game. There were flashes, but in a game of runs they could never convert on the last few minutes of a match and often fell short.

So while players like Quiring have been able to stay consistent and show up for every game, the same could not be said about the team as a whole early on in the season. Looking back, it is easy to split the season into two very different sections.

All but one of the team’s eight wins this year have come since play resumed after the winter break. And frankly, the Marauders look like a different team than the squad that hit the hardwood in the fall.

This newfound ability to finish games has not happened by accident. It is a direct result of implementing coaching changes during the team’s practices and then executing them on the court. The hard work the team has put into training is certainly paying off, helping the team finish games properly.

“We have been focusing a lot on finishing games because in the first half we had five games that we lost within five points,” Quiring said. “So that’s been a huge factor. We have been focusing a lot on situational kind of things, like last three minutes of the game and we are up a couple of points, we are down a couple of points and we have to finish, have to execute.”

Despite the bumpy road thus far, the team has still managed to stay together. Some teams are never quite able to get things back on track after a tough start to the season, but that is not the case at Mac thanks to the makeup of this team. This is where the intangible part of the game that does not directly show up on the box score makes the difference, and is what Quiring says is his favourite part of the game.

“Just the emotion and the camaraderie that goes with the guys, and when guys are happy — and even when we are down, guys are still supporting each other,” Quiring explained. “It’s like that really tight-knit family. Regardless of what happens we are still there for each other and while we are celebrating it is so much fun. It’s such a great time.”

Now that the team has rallied and played well enough to make the playoffs, winning six of their last seven contests, the boys in maroon are poised to make a strong playoff run.

“[We will] keep having that playoff mentality and finishing games,” said Quiring. “We have a couple of games left. We have to finish them hard, play them hard and continue to play our best. Just getting more wins.”

As playoffs start, the regular season tends to be forgotten. While teams carry the lessons they have learned and the plays that have worked with them, the tough wins fade away along with the heartbreaking losses and agonizing defeats. While the playoffs follow a year of hard work, they are almost certainly an opportunity for a fresh start where anything is possible.

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By: Ryan Tse

A glance at the score for McMaster’s Nov. 24 matchup against the Brock Badgers shows a 96-87 loss, a familiar result for a struggling team that owns a 1-7 record so far this season. It was yet another close loss, albeit to a strong undefeated Brock side.

A closer look at the box score reveals another familiar result: point guard David McCulloch again led the team with 35 minutes played out of a possible 40 minutes. The fourth-year veteran was effective too. He tallied 26 points, the most for any player on either team. Still, he was unsurprisingly disappointed in the final result.

“We played tough in a lot of games, but it hasn’t been enough,” McCulloch said. “We need to get to the next step. We need to get to that extra gear.”

McCulloch is one of the bright spots in a tough year for the men’s basketball team. He leads the team in minutes played and is second in points per game.

After attending high school in Hamilton, McCulloch was recruited to McMaster and has steadily improved each year. He has gone from averaging 13 minutes and three points a game in his freshman season to now averaging 31 minutes and 19 points in his fourth year.

As one of only two seniors on the team, McCulloch knows that he has a responsibility to take charge of the team and be a leader on and off the court. His dependable play has earned him the respect of his teammates in the past, but this year, he has been challenged by coach Patrick Tatham to be more vocal. He admits this has been a challenge in times, given his quiet, lead-by-example persona.

“I still have a long ways to go,” said McCulloch. “PT [coach Tatham] is always telling me I need to be more vocal. The way I’ve led in the past has always been by example, by trying to be the hardest worker and trying to do all that stuff. Now, it’s about taking the next step and being vocal as a leader.”

“I’m always on Dave to be more vocal,” added Tatham. “I don’t want to be the loudest individual in the room. I think if the loudest person is him, then the guys will buy in that much more because he’s an extension of me. If he’s in, then all the guys are in.”

The evolution of McCulloch’s play is apparent on the court as well. Under Tatham’s new “run and gun” system, the point guard, typically a pass-first player, has been asked to shoot more. So far, so good — McCulloch’s averaged almost 16 field goal attempts per game compared to just 11 last year. He’s also taken more three-point attempts per game, up from four attempts last year to seven this year, and has a higher three-point percentage as well.

McCulloch also attributes his new shoot-first mentality to the confidence that he has gained over his career.

 “I have been playing the university game for three or four years, so I can make better decisions,” said McCulloch. “But I am also more confident taking more risks and doing things more out of the box.”

In McCulloch, Tatham sees a talented player who can dominate if he is pushed to play more aggressively.

“He’s absolutely a borderline all-Canadian player,” said Tatham. “We are just going continue to push him and hopefully get him to play out of his comfort zone where he has been the past three years, which is more of a facilitator trying to control the game rather than take over the game.”

The higher-pace style that McCulloch has played has been representative of the whole team, something that is apparent to McCulloch when comparing the past couple of years to this season.

“The past couple of years, we have had really good big men that we can throw the ball in,” explained McCulloch. “It was a slow offence, and we could get some post touches or inside finishes more. This year, we are more of a guard-oriented team. We are pushing the tempo, running and shooting, which fits our team a lot more than in years past.”

Despite his own success, McCulloch is obviously frustrated by the team’s lack of success. He thinks the talent is there, but the team needs to be more consistent.

“Right now, it’s just consistency,” said McCulloch. “We will have good quarters, and we will have horrendous quarters. We have not been shooting the ball as well as we can. We have lost a couple games by six or eight, so if we hit a couple more threes, it’s a different game. It’s about getting through 40 minutes instead of three quarters or just a half.”

McCulloch still likes the potential of the team though. When asked about their new additions, he pointed out the stellar play of Miles Seward and Kareem Collins in particular.

“Miles is scoring the ball,” said McCulloch. “He can score the ball whenever he wants. He’s super confident and really exciting, and he gets our team amped up. Kareem Collins is another guy who has helped our team a lot. He is a super good defender and he can get to the rim whenever he wants. He’s another guy who fits the system perfectly. He’s athletic so he can run the floor.”

Heading into the second half of the season, McCulloch remains optimistic about the team and loves the camraderie.

“It’s good and we’re fun,” McCulloch said. “I love the guys on the team. We play really fast and everyone works really hard. Everyone’s really confident and it is just a fun team. PT’s trying to change the culture a lot: be as hardworking as possible, lift up your teammates and just have fun.”

“Obviously, we’re struggling, but things will change,” McCulloch added. “It’s a new team, a bunch of new players, so the cohesion is not quite there yet. If I had to guess, I think we’ll be really good.”

There still remains a lot of season to be played as the Marauders head into December. However, it is already clear that if the team can turn the season around, McCulloch will be a huge part of it.

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The men’s basketball team was down in Toronto last weekend for some regular season action, facing off against the Ryerson Rams and University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues. The season started off with a strong win over Guelph, but the Marauders arrived at their weekend in Toronto with a different mindset after back-to-back games to the York Lions and Queen’s Gaels.

“The guys came in with a lot of confidence today,” said head coach Patrick Tatham following the Ryerson game. “We had our ego’s bruised last week with Queen’s and York, and I challenged the guys to play better defence, both team defence and one-on-one.”

For Tatham, the former head coach of the Rams and 2016 Ontario University Athletics Coach of the Year, a win against his former team after two crushing losses was all he wanted.

“It’s always weird coming back to where you actually started everything and sitting on the opposite side,” said Tatham. “Coaching against coach Rana, who coached me when I was 14 and 15 years old, and playing against some of the kids that I recruited four or five years ago was just an amazing feeling. But the best feeling would be getting that W.”

The Marauders went into the game knowing what it would mean to win for their head coach, but are also aware that they always need to play with a winning mentality no matter who they face.

“We understand that [Ryerson] loves him as a coach and will be glad to see him back even if he’s on the other side, but it doesn’t change how we prepare for the game,” said first-year starter Kareem Collins. “We are going into this game hoping we can win just like any other game.”

Collins is one of the 2016 recruits that both Tatham and former head coach Amos Connolly brought in to revamp the Marauders. Miles Seward, a former National Collegiate Athletics Association Division I player at the University of Northern Colorado, Kitchener natives Sasha Simic and Tyrick Thompson and former Carleton Raven Sheldon McIntosh are among the team’s new faces in this transitional year.

“They really took [playing with more of a defensive mindset] to heart this week in practice and it really showed today,” said Tatham. “We were not only physical and aggressive on the glass, but also defensively and offensively.”

Mac was able to lead by a marginal difference early on in the first half for the first time this season. This was largely due to newcomer Seward, who is already one of the OUA’s leading scorers, averaging 25 points per game. The Marauders were able to end the first quarter 25-20, surprising both the Rams and the several Rams fans attending the school’s Blue & Gold Night game at Coca-Cola Court.

The Marauders were not able to maintain the lead for long after the second half, when Ryerson was able to outscore Mac, and pull ahead to a 44-41 lead in the third quarter. For the rest of the game, the two teams went back and forth matching each other shot for shot.

For veteran player David McCulloch, playing with more discipline was a huge part of the team’s mindset coming into the game against Ryerson.

“We’ve been pretty undisciplined for the last few games,” said McCulloch. “So we really needed to control their tempo and play the game we wanted to play.”

The Marauders executed their game plan extremely well throughout the whole game, but were not able to make the most out of their opportunities when it really mattered. The win started to look in Mac’s favour as Matt Quiring was able to tie the game 69-69 at the 30-second mark. But the Marauders were unable to get the lead because of missed free throws and a stolen inbounds pass.

It was the worst time possible for the Marauders to make such fundamental mistakes after playing extremely disciplined the entire game.

“We really felt like we had the game,” said Seward, who ended the game with a career-high 29 points. “So losing because of our lack of discipline and inability to execute when it mattered the most is unacceptable and what we will be focusing on tomorrow.”

Unfortunately for Mac, the same problems followed them into their next game. They were able to start the game off strong against the Varsity Blues, but lost the lead by the the end of the first quarter. The Mac men were unable to catch up for the remainder of the game.

Reminiscent of their previous match, the Marauders still continued to make mistakes playing catch up. To make matters worse for Mac, Tatham was ejected from the game after receiving two technical fouls for disagreeing with a referee’s call.

Although McCulloch was able to finish the game with a team and career-high of 32 points, the game ultimately just slipped out of the team’s grasp in a close 92-88 loss. Simple mistakes make the biggest differences in tight games like this.

This was the fourth straight loss on the road for the Marauders, but a valuable learning experience for both the team and the coaching staff. With the next two games back at Burridge Gym, the Marauders hope to maintain their 1-0 home win record.

One of the most valuable takeaways from their weekend in Toronto is that the Marauders have what it takes to hang with the best of the best. As they look to face the Laurentian Voyageurs and the Nipissing Lakers this upcoming weekend, they need to not only use their upsets to ignite a fire in them, but get back to basics so they can defend their home court.

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Basketball started early this year for the men’s team as they saw some preseason non-conference action during the Marauders’ homecoming festivities.

These games offered an opportunity for the Marauders to debut several new players along with the Marauders’ brand new head coach Patrick Tatham. Coach Tatham arrived in Hamilton early this May and has been working hard behind the scenes ever since.

“I always said if I was going to leave Ryerson it would be for Mac. So I’m kind of living the dream right now,” said Tatham.

Tatham’s impressive basketball history includes playing for National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I Cleveland State University and as a member of the Canadian Junior Men’s National Team. He also played three professional seasons in Switzerland, Syria, Qatar and Germany and added a U Sports 2016 Coach of the Year award following his career as a player.

Tatham came prepared to bring the Marauders to a new level. “I’ve always been a defensively-minded player and carried that with me into coaching,” he said. “Right off the bat, I think we’re going to be very tough and gritty and very quick on defence.”

Coach Tatham started off the team’s training with a week-long boot camp during the last week of August, and although their first games proved they have a lot of work to do, he believes the team has been adjusting quite well.

"Right now we're just going to put our hard hats on and get after it game after game."

Patrick Tatham
Head coach 

“That week showed me that they really want to work hard,” Tatham said. “The next week was a mini-training camp and it was literally four days of all defence. They have been responding very well to the defence-minded thoughts that I have”.

Although it is still too early to tell, Tatham is hoping that with hard work the Marauders can shock teams across Ontario University Athletics.

“We didn’t really finish in a great position last year,” said Tatham. “But I do want to surprise a lot of people in the OUA West and the OUA East. Right now we’re just going to put our hard hats on and get after it game after game.”

To do this, Tatham has recruited several players, including shooting guard-forward combo Sasha Simic from Kitchener, ON and former NCAA D-I player Miles Seward.

“Everyone could really expect to see Sasha as a hybrid four,” said Tatham. “And Miles is just a flat-out scorer. He’s going to be so exciting to watch.”

So far this has proven to be true. In their first two preseason wins, Simic has shown great versatility while Seward has lit up the court with his shooting ability.

But the team still has a lot to work on, as was shown during a brutal 103-63 loss to Laval University, these challenges were no surprise to coach Tatham.

"All the guys love him. He's very energetic and he's one of those guys that likes to get us hyped up."

David McCulloch
Men's Basketball team

“They’re still trying to get used to me and how I coach,” Tatham said. “Whether it’s yelling or getting into their ear or getting into their face, I’m going to be faced with challenges where sometimes they may not respond or maybe they won’t be used to the coaching that I’m going to instill on them”.

Another challenge coach Tatham hopes to turn around is the lack of hype and disinterest towards the program and the basketball culture at Mac.

“I think that’s one area where we struggle with a little bit,” said Tatham. “One of our managers, Robert Rawson, is really kind of owning our social media presence so I’m excited for that too.”

Above all, coach Tatham hopes to leave a long-lasting impact on his players.

“I’ll never forget it,” remembered Tatham. “My coach when I was in school at Cleveland State University used to say: ‘we’re the last line of defence for all these young men before they leave to go off into the real world’.”

He believes that if he can train them on how to work hard on the basketball court or in the weight room, he can also guide them to have good characteristics that help them to be young men when they finish university.

“Those little things are the things that I take pride in so that hopefully when they’re done here in two, three or four years, they can use those skills when they’re young men,” said Tatham.

Coach Tatham brings a new excitement to Marauders basketball this season. His passion for the sport cannot be hidden which is exciting to watch for both fans and players alike.

“All the guys love him. He’s very energetic and he’s one of those guys that likes to get us hyped up,” said fourth-year player David McCulloch. “That’s why I really like him as a coach because he makes me want to play for him. But at the same time, he’s also very tough and he’s straight up with you”.

With so many changes going into the new season the Marauders are still adapting, but they plan to use the four preseason games left to shake off the jitters before the regular season starts.

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By: Justin Parker

It is amazing how much one year of hard work can pay off.

Third-year forward Connor Gilmore was named as an Ontario University Athletics First-Team All-Star this year, his first major individual award since joining the Marauders. Gilmore has solidified himself as a strong leader on and off the court.

“It’s a big honour for me. I couldn’t have done it without my teammates,” Gilmore said. “I’ve been put in a good position at this school to be successful. A lot of it had to do with the type of guys we had on the team, the way our team played… Just wanting to play hard for my teammates made it easy to be in a position to earn the award… My parents… I couldn’t do anything without them.”

After major roster changes, including the departure of seniors Leon Alexander and Aaron Redpath, Gilmore was thrust into a larger role. An off-season of hard work and another year of maturity allowed Gilmore to step into this vacancy and capitalize on his increased minutes, where he saw his points and rebounds averages double to 19.5 and 9 per game respectively.

“I think I was ready to step in and be a bigger contributor this year,” Gilmore said. “We had a lot of good players in the years past, so it was harder to be that guy. I just took advantage of an opportunity… I just wanted to do everything I could to play.”

Next year, Gilmore will look to build on his leadership abilities from this season along with starting guard Dave McCulloch. The two third-year players made a good mix in leading the team to the OUA quarterfinals despite the team’s struggles during the regular season.

“I’m more of the aggressive, get on guys in practice [person], Dave’s really good at calming guys down, teaching them what needs to be taught,” Gilmore said. “I think they look at me like the meaner guy, but you need a guy like that on the team. I want everyone to succeed so sometimes you need to push them… just wanting to make them better as players, and as people sometimes too. Me and Dave are a good mix like that – kind of a good cop, bad cop kind of deal.”

Coming off his first year as the team’s top player, Gilmore knows he needs to hold himself up to the same standards he holds his teammates to. Even in having a career year, there’s always more work to do in preparation for next season.

“Now that I can drive, I can shoot… I need to work on dribble counter moves, different ways to score around the basket,” Gilmore said. “I’m also working on my defence for the summer, as that’s kind of been… one of the weaker parts of my game. I’m sticking around here all summer… so I’ll have lots of individual time to spend with the coaches, the strength and conditioning staff, to achieve those goals.”

The Marauders once again have high hopes for next year and are acting now to achieve their goals. The team will have a busy off-season recruiting and practicing for next year, and will follow Gilmore’s lead, as they will need to rely on him if they are going to make it far into the post-season.

 

As Canadian university sports undergo a continued facelift, there is one area that fans who follow the league have questions about: the basketball Final 8 tournament.

The format of the men’s basketball tournament has largely stayed the same since 1987. The men’s Final 8 was hosted in Halifax, N.S. for 24 years while the women’s has moved around. The tournament field is made up of two teams from Ontario University Athletics, two from Canada West, one from the Quebec conference, one from Atlantic University Sport, the host and a wildcard team. There was a three-year period where the men’s tournament expanded to 10 teams, but the league balked on that in 2008.

National interest in the tournaments has waned in recent years. The 2016 men’s national championship drew 9,000 viewers on Sportsnet 360.

McMaster’s men’s basketball coach Amos Connolly has an idea for driving up interest: expanding the field to a 16-team tournament.

“I don’t think the Final 8 has the same bounce it used to have. When I look at this year, I think ‘what generated interest, what generated talk?’ It was the selection of the wildcard,” said Connolly. “If you broaden to 16 teams, now you have a conversation that is bigger than just one wildcard.”

This year’s controversy was about Brock’s exclusion from the Final 8 tournament despite finishing third in the OUA playoffs and finishing fourth in the final U Sports top ten of the year.

It’s a bold idea for a league that tends to play it close to the vest. The expansion could engage more fans, create narratives around programs and athletes, and eventually bring in more revenue for a league that desperately needs it, though it comes with a cost.

The tournament’s current format gifts berths to teams that rarely compete for the championship at the expense of true contenders. Carleton University has won 13 of the past 15 national championships and Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec won their first quarterfinal since 2005 this past season. The end result is a tournament lacking in intrigue because the league has valued countrywide representation over putting the best teams in the tournament.

There are a number of immediate questions that skeptics would have, including who is in the tournament, how much school would student-athletes miss and if it makes any sense to expand a tournament that is struggling to get traction.

For starters, Connolly envisions the tournament being made up of the two Canada West finalists, two OUA finalists, the RSEQ champion, AUS champion and the host. The remaining eight positions would be filled by wildcards.

Increasing the number of wildcards would create more drama for every game, both in conference and the preseason and holiday tournaments. All games would count towards the overall team score at the end of the season used to qualify for the national tournament.

Doubling the overall number of teams in the tournament is an extreme step because it means 16 of 47 teams would qualify. Some could argue it dilutes the accomplishment of making it to nationals. Considering the minimal visibility and flawed tournament set up, the real accomplishment of making the Final 8 is hard to define.

Part of the reason for 16 teams is simplicity. Connolly argues that the U Sports tournament should follow the National Collegiate Athletic Association bracket format because that is what basketball fans are used to. Any kind of play-in games would go unnoticed, and until the tournament gets to eight teams, people would not pay attention.

A move to 16 teams would mean the tournament would have to run longer than the current set up. To accommodate the increased number of games, teams could play four games in six days and students would miss a week of school. Conference tournaments would have to adjust their schedules. The national tournament could start on a Monday and run through to Sunday. One bracket would play Monday and Wednesday, and the other would play Tuesday and Thursday. All teams would have Friday off. Put the semi-finals on Saturday and final on Sunday, you’ve got yourself a tournament.

Connolly pictures the national tournament taking place in one city.

“I don’t think we’re at the regional tournament stage yet, where you have four teams [in one location], four teams in another. I don’t think an [eventual] Final Four would generate enough interest. And I think you run it in Halifax or you run it at Ryerson,” said Connolly.

Halifax has hosted the tournament for the majority of its existence, while Ryerson has a new venue in a city obsessed with the game.

Missing a week of school is significant but there are more points to consider. Teams that have to fly across the country leave on a Tuesday for national tournaments anyways. Professors are increasingly making lectures via podcast and the rise of Facebook groups and chats for classes has made it easier to get notes. Another lofty goal would be putting the tournament over reading week. This would allow students to travel to the tournament and eliminate any academic concerns.

One of the biggest obstacles would be the increased financial investment it would require. More games means more flights and hotels for already-strained athletic departments with only the promise of one meaningful game. Plus, there would be the additional costs of referees, floor time, live streams and a variety of other costs. Some would argue that the decrease in interest would justify a decrease in tournament size. In U Sports, every cent matters.

Right now, there aren’t any cents coming in. For Connolly, the goal is not to create some multimillion-dollar property like the NCAA has, but to create a national tournament that actually means something to Canadians and those paying for teams to compete in it. Sure, it is a lofty goal, but ambition is U Sports desperately needs.

By: Justin Parker

IMG_7066In a year that began with a promising 10-0 pre-season record and a championship at the Buddha Light International Association Cup in Taiwan, the Marauders’ men’s basketball team fell short of cracking the Ontario University Athletics Final Four.

After a strong win over Windsor in the preliminary round, McMaster lost a tough match to the Carleton Ravens, who would go on to finish second in the tournament. While their record and playoff play does not reflect a bad season, the team did not meet expectations they set up at the beginning of the year.

“There were really positive experiences that came from the year, but we’re competitive by nature,” head coach Amos Connolly said. “Some programs would consider our record a step forward, but for us it’s not. After a pretty strong start, we didn’t have any thought that we would have a losing record in the conference.”

McMaster finished the 2016/2017 campaign with an 8-11 conference record, including a crushing 2-8 record on the road. The Marauders struggled with their consistency to close out games. Basketball is a game of runs, and the Marauders often found themselves on the wrong side of them.

While it manifested itself in different ways, from poor shooting to unforced turnovers, the Marauders would sometimes succumb to fatigue that would ultimately cost them the game. When top players were forced out of action due to injury, the Marauders could not replace those minutes as well as they were able to in past seasons.

Despite falling short of expectations, the Marauders have players moving forward who will be the foundation for next year’s team.

Third-year forward Connor Gilmore finished the season in the OUA’s top five in points (19.5) and rebounds (nine) per game, using his size to be a dominating force on the court, good enough to earn him a spot on the OUA First-Team All-Star list.

Third-year player David McCulloch finished the season with 12.9 points, 3.9 rebounds, 2.9 assists, and 1.4 steals per game. A model of consistency, he lead the team in 36.6 minutes per game while starting every single game the team played this season.

“We did manage to get some really strong leadership from Dave [McCulloch] and Connor [Gilmore],” Connolly said. “There is absolutely no question it is their basketball team now.”

This season may have ended on a sour note, but the Marauders are primed to have a strong 2017/2018 season and are already looking forward to what is next. Between a strong coaching staff that will help to maintain consistency and with returning leaders in Gilmore and McCulloch, the Marauders look to hit the hardwood running next season.

“Although there were some tough spots and some challenges I think that the guys did a really good job of staying the course, and remaining committed and true to the team in the midst of that,” Connolly said. “That lays the groundwork for success moving forward.”

By: Justin Parker

The up and down season for the McMaster men’s basketball team continues, as they dropped a rough 83-62 decision to the Waterloo Warriors on Feb. 4. Despite David McCulloch’s 13 points, the Marauders struggled to contain the Warrirors on defence, allowing Waterloo to outscore them in every quarter.

Poor shooting efforts kept the Marauders off the scoreboard multiple times throughout the game, shooting 32.9 per cent from the field and 20.8 per cent from three. The team was also out-rebounded 43-32, with Connor Gilmore leading the Marauders with eight rebounds.

“We haven’t been shooting the ball particularly well, and that’s been a problem for us,” Gilmore said. “I think we’re executing and moving the ball well, but I think once we start knocking down shots and getting into a groove we’ll be fine.”

IMG_9930Gilmore has been a consistent bright spot on the team throughout the season. He leads the Marauders in points and rebounds, nearly averaging a double-double (19.8 points, 9.3 rebounds). Gilmore’s stats are good enough to rank him third in points and fourth in rebounds in the province.

Gilmore has emerged as a leader amongst a relatively young team. After losing four starters from last year, the Marauders needed more players to step up and take some ownership of the team.

“Dave [McCulloch] stepped up - he’s gone from playing 20 minutes a game last year to now playing close to 40…he’s a great defender and a great leader on the court,” Gilmore said. “Elliot Ormond stepped up a lot…he’s provided tons of energy on defence. He’s a great rebounder, finishes well around the basket, so he’s been great too.”

As of publication, McCulloch is leading the Marauders and Ontario University Athletics in minutes this year, averaging 36.2 per game. In that time he has been showing off his all-around game, averaging 12.9 points, 4 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game. McCulloch has put in a lot of work in the offseason to fit into a larger role this year.

"I think we surprised a lot of people with how great we were playing in September through November; now it's a different story."
David McCulloch
Third-year guard, McMaster men's basketball 

“It’s been tough, but in a good way,” McCulloch said. “I’ve been fortunate enough to have some very talented players that I’ve learned from in my first two years, so I felt fully prepared when the season came around to fill that larger role.”

Despite the recent struggles, the team is looking ahead.

“This season has taught me a lot about how much you need to grow as a team and gel in order to be successful,” Gilmore said, “I think this is a great group of guys, it’s been really fun playing with them. We’ve gone through ups and downs, but it’s taught me to persevere and stick with everyone and come together as a team.”

McMaster hosts the Algoma Thunderbirds this Saturday, who currently sit at 4-12 on the season. The Thunderbirds average the second-lowest points per game in the OUA and are tied for the second most points per game allowed. In order to obtain a good spot in the playoff picture, the Marauders must stabilize their play and win out their last three games.

“This season has been a roller coaster so far,” McCulloch said. “I think we surprised a lot of people with how great we were playing in September through November; now it’s a different story. We’ve lost a few games and now we’re in a spot where we may not even host a playoff game. But I think with this adversity will come some very good things.”

There is no time like the present to iron out the kinks and figure out their gameplan. A streak of competitive efforts could be the momentum the Marauders need in order to make a strong impression come postseason play.

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