Gil Cheung isn’t wasting any time in finding out just how his Brandon University Bobcats stack up this season.
The head coach of the Bobcats men’s basketball team is bringing in one of the top teams in the country this weekend when BU officially opens its CIS pre-season schedule by battling the Lakehead Thunderwolves on Brandon University’s Homecoming Weekend. The Thunderwolves return seven fourth-year seniors on a team that won the Ontario final, went on to finish fifth at the 2010 national championships and looked the part when they whipped Mike Raimbault’s Winnipeg Wesmen 80-68 and 92-61 in an exhibition doubleheader last weekend.
With his off-season roster overhaul complete, Cheung is anxious to see how his team competes against one of the country’s best in this weekend’s doubleheader at BU, with games slated for Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
"It’s huge for us, just having 10 new guys putting on the Bobcat uniform against CIS competition," Cheung said. "I’m sure they are really excited, but at the same time it’s tough because Lakehead made the national tournament last year, they were OUA champions, they beat (2009 national champion) Carleton in the OUA final, so they are a very strong team and they gave it to Winnipeg pretty good last weekend, winning both games out there in Thunder Bay. They are one of the best teams in the country and I think our guys will understand what it feels like to play against high CIS competition … So it’s a great experience for our guys."
With only four returnees on the roster, battles for starting positions are wide open, according to Cheung. Of the newcomers who have stood out, Cheung points to the likes of rookie point guards Ilarion Bomhomme and Chris Oppong, fourth-year transfer shooting guard Emerick Ravier and 6-foot-8 fourth-year forward Eric Schippers as players he is anxious to see in action this weekend.
"Ilarion, from Washington, D.C., and Chris Oppong have definitely done a great job at the point guard position and they’ve done a great job of pushing each other and I think we’ve improved in regards to managing a game in that situation and the ability to push tempo in the full court as well and that’s exactly what we’re looking for," Cheung said. "And our other import, Eric Schippers, has also made an impact in the post as well. I expect him to really help us out down low and play big minutes for us and so is Emerick Ravier from Ottawa. When we recruited him we knew he was a tough, hard-nosed kid who can score and he has been that and more, so we’re looking for big things from him as well."
Head coach Lee Carter’s women’s volleyball team will also be in action on Homecoming Weekend, hosting the Regina Cougars on Saturday (5 p.m.) and Sunday (3 p.m.) at the BU gymnasium. Carter’s club currently sports a 4-6 match record and will be playing for the first time on home court, something his young players are anxiously awaiting.
"It’s an opportunity for them to see what it feels like to play in Brandon and to show everyone where we’re at, so we’re looking forward to it," Carter said.
Like Cheung’s squad, battles for starting positions are still up for grabs on Carter’s team. While setter Kellie Baker, middle Meaghan Robertson and left side Jaryn Reuther are the projected starters at their positions, the battle for the other middle, right side and libero spots is still wide open.
"There’s a main group that plays a lot more, but every week there’s a battle to see who’s going to play and as the season progresses, some people lose their jobs and some don’t … so it’s a chance to learn a little more about our team this weekend," Carter said, noting that they club will tinker with using fifth-year veteran middle Claire Willerton at right side this weekend.
Coach Ritchie Jacobson’s Bobcats women’s basketball team is also in action this weekend in Winnipeg at the Canadian Mennonite University tournament, while coach/athletic director Russ Paddock’s BU men’s volleyball team is idle this weekend after winning back-to-back tournaments.
With the Canada West regular season openers just three weeks away, all four head coaches could find themselves walking the picket lines as early as this morning at BU, which would leave assistant coaches like Tom Price (women’s basketball), Jeremy Wielenga (men’s basketball), Becky Young (women’s volleyball) and Grant Wilson (men’s volleyball) and their fellow assistants running all practices and games until the possible strike is over.