Brock Men’s Basketball: season review

It has almost been three years since Charles Kissi was hired on as Brock Men’s Basketball Head Coach. When Kissi took over the coaching job, the Badgers had just come off a first-round OUA playoff appearance, but nine players on that 2013 playoff team had departed and eight new faces were added for Kissi’s inaugural season.

Kissi’s vision and goals for the program go beyond the product on the court. The former Detective Constable for the Toronto Police Service was to come in and build a consistent winning program, but Kissi also wanted to see a university and community come together to create a bond between athletics and academics. In his first year the Badgers went 4-18 and improved to 7-12 in his second season as head coach.

Into his third season, Kissi knew it was time for his team to make leaps forward as it was clear the Brock community was ready for a winner after selling-out three of nine home games in 2014-15. The Badgers would finish the 2015-16 season with a 13-6 record, which was fifth best in the OUA. They also would get as far as the second round in the OUA playoffs and the team was nationally ranked for the entire season.

When hired on in late July of 2013, Kissi created a four-year plan in which he wrote down some goals he wanted the basketball program to complete. Some of what was on that list was to be a top 10 team in the country, be top four in the OUA (you could argue they were just that this season) and make the OUA Final Four (they were one win away). Therefore, in just his third season as Head Coach, Kissi and his team has come close to accomplishing a lot of what is on that four-year plan. However, a National title is still Kissi’s number one goal.

Simpson powers through Carleton defence / GoBadgers.ca

Simpson powers through Carleton defence / GoBadgers.ca

“I didn’t come here just to have a job. I came here to win,” said Kissi. “Brock was at a pretty low point, with all due respect. When you take the job, you know you have to make a difference.”

This year the Badgers saw a huge difference in their defensive game, which ultimately led them to being a top 10 team. During the 2014-15 season, the Badgers defence ranked third to the bottom in the OUA as they allowed 84.4 points per game. This season they have improved to fifth in the league as teams score 73.1 points per game against the Badgers. Offensively, they have seen an even one point boost, which puts them seventh in the league.

The Badgers biggest improvement came against the top teams in the league. Last year after losing to Carleton by 48 points, the Badgers were held to a 25 point loss this season; they also lost to Ottawa last season by 35 points but inched closer this year as they lost by seven; and playing against divisional rival McMaster, the Badgers lost by 25 and 14 last season, but came back this year to split the two games.

“People keep saying [we] struggled against the tough teams,” said Kissi. “We struggled against the number one, two and three teams in the country – they just happened to be playing in our league. You have to remember number one lost to number two and number two lost to number three. That’s what you expect when you have the top four teams in the country in the same league.”

It’s also often forgotten that the Badgers picked up a preseason win over OUA Champions, the Ryerson Rams. People tend to discredit the win for the Badgers as it was early in the season and only exhibition play.

Elgadi eyes Mac defence / GoBadger.ca

Elgadi eyes Mac defence / GoBadger.ca

“People forget we played Ryerson and won, preseason or not,” recalled Kissi. “[The Rams] lost to Guelph, at the end of the year, so it validates our win at the beginning.”

The Badgers did lose this season to unranked Queen’s and Western, however, the Queen’s game was at the beginning of the year and Western was at the beginning of the second half.

Dani Elgadi was the Badgers leading scorer and rebounder all season as he led the team with 19.9 points per game (sixth in the OUA) and 11.7 rebounds per game (first in the OUA). Johneil Simpson was also a top scorer for the Badgers as he averaged 16.6 points per game (11th in the OUA).

Elgadi was Kissi’s first recruit and the biggest of any of the players to come to Brock since 2013, but Simpson has been equally important. Elgadi won OUA Rookie of the Year in 2014 and Simpson would win OUA and CIS Rookie of the Year in 2015. Elgadi was named to the OUA all-first team this season and Simpson was named to the OUA all-second team. The Badgers didn’t have a Rookie of the Year for a third straight year, but Tyler Brown was named to the OUA all-rookie team.

The Badgers will see three graduating players from the 2015-16 roster, as Matt Marshall, Zach Angelini and Nate Gardner are departing. Marshall played two seasons for the Badgers, starting in 35 of 38 games played. The big man averaged 11.4 points per game and 8.9 rebounds per game for his career. Angelini also played in 38 games, averaging 7.7 points per game as he hit 43 three’s for his career.

Gardner was the only player leftover from the roster that was with the Badgers before Kissi came on as Head Coach. The guard played five seasons for Brock and was the lone player with playoff experience. Gardner played in 60 career games scoring 97 points, and he was a strong defensive guard for the Badgers.

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According to sources close to The Brock Press, Kissi and the Men’s Basketball team are not far off from introducing new players to their roster from the 2016 recruiting class. According to the sources, the players coming in will be huge improvements to the Badgers roster and will bring them even closer to the likes of Ryerson, Ottawa and Carleton – if not as good as the top three teams.

“One more year with one more recruiting class and we are there,” said Kissi. “That seven point loss [to Ottawa] becomes a one point or ten point win.”

“We have first and second year guys. They (Ryerson, Carleton and Ottawa) have fourth and fifth year seniors. We are coming up to where they are, as we are getting our young guys experience.”

Kissi hopes to have all his recruits by sometime in April. Then he and his coaching staff will move forward to preparing the team for next season, as the off-season begins.

This past summer the Badgers went to Sweden for four preseason games, and Kissi said the team will do something similar coming this summer, as the team will be heading to Costa Rica for eight exhibition games.

The buzz on campus is exciting as the basketball program’s rise to the top is widely known, and the team sold-out every home game this year, except for the two reading week games.

“Nobody wants to play in front of 100 people,” said Kissi. “This is the best, most consistent crowd in the country.”

The Badgers made history this year with the Meridian Centre game, which saw the biggest crowds in Brock Athletics history. They played the first playoff game at Brock since 2008, and won their first playoff game since 2013. Next year the Badgers will be looking to make the OUA Final Four, followed by a CIS Final 8 appearance, which they aren’t far off from.

This past season has put the Brock Men’s Basketball program back on the map in the OUA. With Elgadi heading into his fourth year, Simpson going into his third and the added depth coming through this years recruiting class, the Badgers could be dangerous.

Kissi mentioned that he plans to hopefully announce new recruits by April, as he denied to comment if any player had officially committed to the Brock program. One player announced his commitment to Brock over Twitter. Daniel Cayer, a 6’6 guard will be joining the Badgers in the 2016-17 season.

The pressure and spotlight is officially on Kissi and the Brock Basketball team, as the coach’s fourth season will be filled with high-expectations.

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