Brandon’s Kenonte Ramsey (right) battles Victoria’s Mack Roth for a loose ball back on Nov. 1. (File) (FILE PHOTO)
The Brandon University Bobcats men’s basketball team came into this season with high hopes.
The squad has a lot of experience, with four players in their fifth year of eligibility, and there was hope that Brandon could snap its four-year Canada West conference playoff drought. However, the Bobcats finished the first semester with a 2-8 record and are four wins back of the Winnipeg Wesmen, who hold the fourth and final playoff spot in the Prairie Division. It’s with the Bobcats men’s basketball team that we continue the BU athletics mid-term reports.
The Bobcats have a lot of guys who can put the ball in the hoop on any given day and they have nice balance with Kenonte Ramsey, Emerick Ravier, Jordan Reaves and Ali-Mounir Benabdelhak all averaging more than 10 points per game. Ramsey, who tops the conference with 35 three-pointers made, leads the way, averaging 14.5 points per game, followed closely by Ravier at 13.1. As a team, they’re averaging 70.4 points per game, which has them in the bottom half of the conference.
That number should rise a bit after the Christmas break as five of Brandon’s 12 games in the first semester were against the five stingiest teams in the conference, but BU needs to find a way to get some better looks. The Bobcats made a conference-low 37.8 per cent of their shots from the field in their first 10 games, which head coach Gil Cheung believes is partially because players sometimes aren’t on the same page and sometimes the shots just aren’t falling.
"The guys are just trying to find their niche," he said. "We’ve focused on trying to get the ball moving a little bit more. We’ve become stagnant at times on the offensive end and, like I said, the ball needs to move a little bit more and I’m sure the shooting percentage will increase in the second half."
Brandon can be a very versatile team as it has a lot of fast guards in Bonhomme, Ramsey, Ravier, Turell Scott and rookie Mikee Dosado who can pressure other teams. The Bobcats can also go a little bigger with Reaves, Benabdelhak, James Elias and Isaiah James in the paint.
Defence was the main thing Cheung knew needed more work at the start of the season and it’s still an area of concern. The Bobcats have given up at least 80 points in six of their last eight conference games. Part of the issue is getting beaten on the glass, which is expected when they go small, but Cheung feels that his players get anxious at times and try to do too much.
"When we get down, the guys want to help and they all mean well and they all want to make a play," Cheung said. "Sometimes, it’s just be disciplined enough and execute a game plan that we’ve had for the whole 40 minutes and not 36 minutes. I think we can tighten up a couple areas and next semester will be pretty good."
The Bobcats had a very difficult first half schedule as they faced all five Canada West teams that appeared in the national rankings during the course of the semester — including Alberta, Victoria and Saskatchewan, who are currently ranked third, fifth and seventh, respectively. The Bobcats pulled out victories in two tight games and were very close in two others, with Ravier missing a buzzer-beater for the win against UBC, while late turnovers cost Brandon in a four-point loss to UNBC.
Despite their record, Cheung feels his team played at a very high level and will need to continue to do so after the Christmas break.
The second half should be easier for the Bobcats as only five of their 12 remaining contests are against teams with winning records. Lethbridge is the best of the bunch at 7-3. Brandon also has seven more games at home, including the next five. The Bobcats need to take advantage of the schedule and string some wins together to get in the playoff hunt.
Cheung, however, doesn’t want to look at the big picture yet.
"It’s not about wins and losses," he said. "At the end of the day it is, but there’s so many little things throughout the week that you try to work on. Little things on Friday and Saturday night, and that’s what we’re focused on now.
"If people want to put pressure on us and call us a playoff team, that’s great. The guys in the locker-room are focusing on the process and if we can take care of the little things, then the wins will come."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition December 19, 2013