It didn’t take long for Brandon University Bobcats third-year forward Jordan Reaves to notice how different this year’s men’s basketball team is from last year.
The 21-year-old found last year’s team, which struggled to a 4-20 record overall, to be selfish.
But with 10 new players on this year’s Bobcats, all his fears were put to rest on the first day of practice back in September.
"This year we have 10 new guys and I was a little iffy, but I told them in the locker room after our first practice that out of my three years here I’ve never seen a harder practice in my life and this is the first time we’ve played together," said Reaves, the son of former Winnipeg Blue Bombers star Willard Reaves and brother of St. Louis Blues forward and former Brandon Wheat King Ryan Reaves.
"These guys leave it all on the floor and work as hard as they can and that’s all we can ask for right now."
Reaves, a 6-foot-4 forward from Winnipeg who averaged 7.3 points, 4.5 rebounds and 20 minutes per game in 20 games last season, believes teamwork is the key to success for this year’s Bobcats, who only have four returning players in Reaves, Kyle Vince, Donovan Gayle and James Elias.
The Bobcats tip off the Canada West season on Saturday against the Calgary Dinos at the BU gym at 8 p.m.
For BU head coach Gil Cheung, defence will be the key this season.
"The big thing is can we defend," said Cheung, who has not been coaching his team for the last three weeks because of the Brandon University Faculty Association strike. "Can we be one of the better teams on the defensive end? Can we protect our paint and protect the basketball? I think we definitely upgraded our overall skill level, especially on the offensive end and at key positions we wanted to improve on from last year. The chemistry is good right now and if we can take some pride on the defensive end … there’s a chance for some pretty good success."
The Bobcats believe they will be put to the test right off the bat by playing Calgary. They know they will have their hands full with Canadian junior team member and Canada West rookie of the year Matt Letkeman and Tyler Fidler, a second-team Canada West all-star last season.
Reaves said the Bobcats feel confident heading into the weekend as they have been focused on preparing for Calgary for two weeks now. He said they’re also a little miffed at being ranked the second worst team in Canada West according to the pre-season coaches’ poll.
"That’s motivation," Reaves said. "The coaches poll doesn’t matter. We’re going to come out strong and come out on top this year. It’s a whole new year in 2011. It’s our year."