What is the secret of McMaster’s basketball teams?
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!— McMaster Marauders (@McMasterSports) November 20, 2021
Check it out⬇️
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.
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.
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.