The Wesmen Classic men’s basketball tournament won’t just be a good chance for the Brandon University Bobcats to come together before the second half of their Canada West season. It will also serve as a huge test for Emerick Ravier and Isaiah James.
Ravier hasn’t played for Brandon since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee during a game on Jan. 6. He had reconstructive surgery and has been rehabilitating but has not yet been cleared to play.
BU head coach Gil Cheung isn’t sure whether Ravier, a 6-foot-3 guard who led the team in scoring by averaging 16.3 points in his nine game last season, will play this weekend. However, he believes what happens at this tournament will play a big role in determining whether to bring the fifth-year player back for the second semester or keep that last year of eligibility for the 2013-14 campaign.
"I think he’s chomping at the bit here to try and get going," said Cheung, whose team opens the eight-team event today against the Dickinson State Blue Hawks. "We’re going to decide if it’s worth it really to bring him back when he’s not fully 100 per cent. I think mentally and physically, would it be worth it to wait? In the grand scheme of things, he gets another 10 months, which is huge. Not 10 months of nothing, but 10 months until live game action next October. It’s something we have to be careful with."
James, meanwhile, will be adjusting from the removal of screws that were put in his right ankle after an off-season injury.
The screws caused a pinching feeling while the 6-foot-7 forward was running up and down the court, which caused him to look like a shadow of the player who averaged 8.4 points, 6.2 rebounds and 1.7 blocked shots per game in the 2010-11 campaign. Cheung hopes that James — who has averaged 11 minutes during his five appearances this season — can get closer to 100 per cent now that the screws are gone.
"Hopefully when the screws are out, (his ankle is) a little more stable," Cheung said. "It’s learning to run all over again. You watched him in the first semester and he wasn’t anywhere close to what he was before. With the screws out and a little more rehab, hopefully he’s good to go and will have a good second half."
While there will be a lot of attention on those two players, Cheung knows these games will be key to get the players back together and focused on their goal of climbing out of the Prairie Division basement and into a playoff position.
"It wasn’t an ideal first semester for us with injuries and a couple games that got away, but the guys needed a break. I needed a break," said Cheung, who’s team is 2-8 in conference play. "The guys will come back motivated and recharged to make a run in the second semester."
The BU women’s basketball team will visit the Minot State University Beavers in an exhibition contest on Sunday.
Both volleyball teams are idle, but the men’s team will travel to Calgary for Mount Royal’s tournament next week.