The Brandon University Bobcats men’s basketball team came into this season with high hopes.
The Bobcats had four fifth-year players, a solid starting five and looked poised to turn the corner, but posted a 6-16 record for the second straight season and missed the Canada West conference playoffs for the fifth consecutive year. It’s with men’s basketball that we begin our four Bobcat team year-end reports:
The Bobcats believed they could be competitive this season with a solid group of veterans, especially with forward Jordan Reaves and guard Emerick Ravier in their final year of eligibility.
However, they got a major wakeup call right off the bat as five of Brandon’s first six games came against Alberta, Saskatchewan and Victoria, the three Canada West teams that are playing for a national championship this week. The Bobcats pulled out one win against the Golden Bears and missed a buzzer-beater against UBC during that stretch, but the 1-5 start seemed to shake the squad’s confidence.
The Bobcats seemed to be one of the most athletic groups in the conference and had some success when they pressured opponents, but never did it for more than a few minutes per game.
Brandon ended up being an inconsistent squad, losing games the team didn’t think it should have dropped and leaving some questioning why players’ athleticism wasn’t showcased more to pressure teams. But head coach Gil Cheung didn’t view his team as being overly blessed in that department.
“Jordan’s athletic and Ilarion (Bonhomme) is quick at the point, but Emerick is not the most athletic kid in the world, Ali-Mounir (Benabdelhak) is athletic for a four, but he had to play the three for us and Isaiah (James) has been in and out because he’s been hurt the last couple years,” Cheung said. “Athletically, we are pretty athletic, but I wouldn’t say we were off the charts.
“Defensively I thought we did some good things at times, but it came down to offensive execution this year and we still struggled to score. Most games it comes down to two or three possessions where we didn’t execute or we broke down a little bit and that’s what separates playoff teams from non-playoff teams.”
The Bobcats finished in the middle of the pack in most defensive categories, but it was their inability to finish that hurt them this season.
Brandon’s 71.6 points per game were third worst in the conference, while its 59.2 free-throw percentage was the worst and its 38.9 field-goal percentage was second worst. During the first half of the season, the Bobcats struggled to get good looks. They got better in the second half, but a lack of scoring depth came to the forefront.
The Bobcats were the only team in Canada West to have five players average more than 10 points per game — Ravier (13.1), Kenonte Ramsey (13.0), Reaves (11.6), Benabdelhak (10.8) and Bonhomme (10.3) — but there was a major drop off after that to Turell Scott (4.6 points per game).
The bigger issue, however, was Cheung never knew what he was going to get from each player on a regular basis.
“We didn’t know who was going to give us what each and every night,” he said. “The effort was there, but sometimes Emerick would be great for us and the second night he would struggle a little bit. Same with Kenonte and Jordan at times. It wasn’t a lack of effort. I thought we executed well at times, but we couldn’t get that consistency on the offensive end.”
The Bobcats have some huge holes to fill after losing four players to graduation this season, including the team’s heart and soul in Reaves, as well as leading scorer Ravier and a pair of post players in import James and James Elias.
Cheung expects to return starters Bonhomme and Benabdelhak as well as Ramsey, who had 26 minutes of court time per game despite starting only two contests. Cheung is also high on Scott, but BU’s bench boss knows he has a lot of work to do in the off-season to turn the Bobcats into a contender.
“We have an open import position we’re currently working on,” Cheung said. “We’re recruiting a post player and a couple kids out of Montreal and Toronto to fill in holes that are left behind.
“… Turell can come in and give us some solid minutes like he has and we’ll add a few more pieces here and there. We definitely need some inside post presence scoring-wise and we’re trying to fill that void right now.”