Varsity News – Growing pains aplenty for ‘Cats

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It's Week 2 of the end-of-year report cards for the Brandon University Bobcats. Today the Brandon Sun breaks down the men's basketball team in its annual season analysis. Next week, women's volleyball.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 20/04/2011 (4182 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

It’s Week 2 of the end-of-year report cards for the Brandon University Bobcats. Today the Brandon Sun breaks down the men’s basketball team in its annual season analysis. Next week, women’s volleyball.

Mathematically speaking, the BU Bobcats held on to playoff hopes until the final three weeks of the Canada West conference season. Realistically, however, they were toast long before that.

The men’s basketball team finished the season in an unprecedented tailspin, with a 14-game losing streak an unsightly ending to Gil Cheung‘s first season as a CIS head coach and a reality check that served like a punch in the face to a team that slowly disintegrated from hopeful to hopeless in the span of a few months.

File photo O’Brian Wallace is new to the Brandon University men’s team’s backcourt this season.

When the 2011-12 conference season finally rolls around, the Bobcats will be nearing a full calendar year since their last victory and a lot will need to change if they want to put a quick end to their woes for Year 2 under Cheung.

BACKCOURT — C-: Cheung refuses to use Andrew Kraus‘ late-summer departure as an excuse for the team’s woes at the point guard spot, but Kraus’ decision to head to Brock in August drastically altered the Bobcats. Without Kraus, the team was forced to rely on young Jimi Falana, a banged-up Nathan Grant and transfer William Caesar, who was coming off knee surgery and wasn’t available until November, to work the point.

Caesar deserves credit for heading to Brandon on a last-minute notice when Cheung was desperate to find a PG, and then working hard to rehab the knee to get himself in the lineup. Still, that injury most certainly affected his play — it often appeared as though his body wouldn’t allow him to do what his mind believed he could.

Falana, fresh out of high school, admirably stepped in to the starter’s role at the point, but the reality is he’s also a 19-year-old who still has massive strides to make to battle at the CIS level. Falana’s best attribute was his work ethic, willingness to buy in and do what was asked. When on the floor he didn’t put the team at a detriment, but the team also couldn’t rely on him for a ton of offensive punch. Falana will improve and will be a capable player at this level, he’s just not there yet and, really, that’s OK.

Cheung’s biggest task coming in was trying to find scoring to replace Dany Charlery and Tarik Tokar, and much of that he found in O’Brian Wallace, the college transfer who wound up averaging 15 points per game, while hitting 40 per cent of his three-pointers. Throw in 4.6 rebounds per game and you’d have to suggest that Wallace’s first season of CIS was a good one.

And that’s what makes him such a tough player to evaluate. Wallace’s decision making and shot selection was maddening at times and yet he still hit shots you thought he had no business taking. So that’s the conundrum. Wallace has proven he can score, he still needs to prove he can be a consistent team player in Cheung’s system.

FRONTCOURT — D: Fourth-year senior Kyle Vince had his most productive season in terms of scoring and hit on 38 per cent of his threes. Vince is a quiet leader to be sure, but he’s a steadying presence and knows the team’s systems better than anyone else. He improved in his ability to score off the dribble, but it’s still an area in which he has work to do.

Isaiah James was a nice addition, but is best suited for the power forward rather than a back-to-the-basket post. He too had injury problems and didn’t have the same lift in the second half of the season, unfortunate considering the explosive flashes he showed when he first arrived on campus. The 6-foot-7 James was brought in to be a game-changer on the defensive end and he was as advertised, averaging 1.8 steals per game and 1.7 blocks, which was second in the conference and fourth in the nation.

File photo Jimi Falana is new to the Brandon University men’s team’s backcourt this season.

Up front the Bobcats have significant issues, however. They were one of the worst rebounding teams in the conference and they don’t have a player who can consistently score and be relied on in the paint. Six-foot-11 sophomore James Elias improved but has to get stronger around the rim, while junior forward Jordan Reaves has to learn how to use his athleticism and physicality to his benefit, rather than settling for outside jumpers.

INTANGIBLES — D: Back to the post-season talk for a moment. While the Bobcats theoretically had hopes for the playoffs heading into the next-to-last weekend of the season, the decisive dropoff for the team occurred weeks prior and felt like it adversely affected them going forward.

On Jan. 7, the Bobcats lost a heartbreaking 76-75 decision to the Saskatchewan Huskies, the defending national champions who were a far superior team. One night later, U of S bombed Brandon by 39. The following weekend the Bobcats went on the road and lost two games to Lethbridge, a team they were chasing for the final playoff spot. Despite the fact that 10 games remained in the schedule, you could tell things weren’t the same from that point on.

Brandon did not deal well with adversity and any positives that might have come with a satisfactory 4-6 first semester were long forgotten amidst a downward spiral from which the Bobcats never extricated themselves.

FINAL GRADE — D: This is close to being an F, but it’s bumped up slightly in lieu of Cheung’s first season and the fairly extensive rebuilding he was forced to take on this season. Still, you’d be hard-pressed to find anything this BU team did particularly well and Cheung’s work is only just beginning — the Bobcats have a long, long way to go to get back to the top of the conference.

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