Few Canada West men’s basketball coaches would let a first-year player start at point guard, but Brandon University Bobcats bench boss Gil Cheung did just that with Ilarion Bonhomme this season.
It didn’t take long for the 5-foot-11 native of Washington D.C., to prove that Cheung made the right decision. Bonhomme started all 20 Canada West games, averaging 32.2 minutes, 12.2 points and six assists per game. The move gained even more support on Thursday when the 20-year-old, who was easily recognized on the court for wearing neon shoes, was named Canada West’s rookie of the year in men’s basketball.
"It’s cool and it was nice (to win the award), but it was a little bit bittersweet because we still want to be playing now," Bonhomme said. "We wanted to be in the playoffs, but yeah. … It’s definitely a nice feeling. I guess I was doing something right."
Bonhomme finished the year second in the conference in assists per game, fourth in assist-turnover ratio (1.5), 10th in minutes played per game and 12th in three-point shooting percentage (38.1 per cent). Brandon finished the season with a 7-13 record and out of the playoffs.
Cheung thinks Bonhomme, who redshirted with the Bobcats in 2010-11, is very deserving of the recognition.
"Definitely no other freshman was more valuable to his team, I would say, in the whole country," Cheung said. "He was a leader for us. The ball was in his hands a ton and I’m just so excited for him. I know he’s even more excited.
"Just like most rookies and freshmen, they have their ups and downs and will make young mistakes, but he definitely learned from them. He’s a student of the game, loves watching tape and he’s a tireless worker. He’s always at the gym, always lifting weights to get a step quicker or work on his shot a little bit or help to get his teammates have a better shot. That’s all you can ask for, especially from a point guard."
Despite having a solid season, Bonhomme refuses to take full credit for the award.
"Coach Cheung really helped me along, well not just Coach Cheung but the whole coaching staff, and my teammates gave me lots of support," he said. "I can’t take all the credit. If Coach Cheung didn’t give me the opportunity to run the floor, this never would have happened."
Bonhomme has a chance for more recognition as he is now up for Canadian Interuniversity Sports men’s basketball rookie of the year award. The winner will be announced at the national championship in Halifax on March 8.