It’s easy to get caught up in the fact that Brock men’s basketball is undefeated and ranked second across the nation. What gets caught up in the undefeated season is the offensive power the Badgers have.
In past seasons, opposing teams had no trouble defending the Badgers. Teams needed to deny Dani Elgadi the ball in the post, watch his baseline jumper and make sure he didn’t get offensive rebounds with his lengthy arms. Teams also needed to avoid allowing Johneil Simpson to catch and shoot, and get into a scoring rhythm.
This season, it has been a much more balanced offense for the Badgers as they average 84.5 points per game (fourth best in the OUA) – almost 10 points better than last season. The improved offense is due in part to the starters having a third consistent option with Elgadi and Simpson. In fact, all five starters have become reliable scorers, and even the bench has some good scoring options.
“I can’t imagine having to scout us because we have so many guys that can put the ball in the hoop,” said head coach Charles Kissi. “We become a pick-your-poison team.”
The newest scoring option for the Badgers is second-year forward Cassidy Ryan. He leads the team in scoring with 18.5 points per game – an improvement from his nine points per game last year when he spent most of the season coming off the bench.
Kissi says the decision to have Ryan come off the bench in 2016-17 was meant to give a much more balanced offense. However, it went further than that. Ryan was adapting from the NCAA game to U Sports as he had transferred to Brock from Canisius College in Buffalo.
“Every four minutes you’re guaranteed a timeout in the NCAA, and you are also going to get coaches timeouts,” said Ryan. “Here you can go nine minutes without getting a call.”
Ryan went on to say that he’s in good shape after a summer of working with Brock’s Manager of Sport Performance Steve Lidstone. The forward also worked with Kissi to improve his outside jumper, which has also allowed him to have an all-around offensive game.
“They don’t know how to guard me,” said Ryan about his game versus opposing teams. “[Kissi] emphasized me shooting the ball because in D1 I shot a lot, but the three-point line is a bit further here.”
Ryan is averaging 4.5 threes per game and hitting 36.1 per cent of them. He’s still effective in the paint, as he adjusts his game depending on who is guarding him.
“If you put a guard on me, I’ll go inside. If you put a big on me, I’ll go outside.”
The Mississauga native shined during the four road games earlier this season. He scored a career-high 22-points versus Western to begin the season, but on the road against York, he topped that performance with 24 points.
Then, Ryan carried the Badgers to an overtime win against Ryerson, with another career-high 32-points. The forward had to takeover offensively versus the Rams as Elgadi, Simpson and Daniel Cayer all fouled out of the game.
“If we went to another overtime, I was worried I would foul out,” said Ryan when discussing what went through his head during the overtime frame. “[Kissi] called us all together and said, ‘just make it happen’. All the freshman played well.”
That’s been another huge aspect for the Badgers: bench play. With eight new faces coming off the bench, Kissi has had no problem trusting all his players to step up and do what is asked of them.
“Expectations don’t change because it’s your first-year,” said Kissi. “If you step on the floor there’s an expectation of what we expect you to do.”
Bench scoring for the Badgers has declined by almost 15 per cent, but that’s has to do more with Ryan and Simpson spending a majority of last season coming off the bench.
The biggest addition on the bench for the Badgers has been Kascius Small-Martin, whose scoring 6.4 points per game. His speed and ability to get to the rim has shown early in the season. Additionally, Small-Martin’s maturity is on a higher level than what you would expect from a first-year player.
Godsman Kwakwah has stepped in as well, as his shooting and length on defence has given opponents a lot of trouble. Kwakwah had three-points in the win over Ryerson, but all three came late in the overtime. Donald Mims, a 7’ foot center from Sacramento, California has been an energizer for Brock, stopping teams at the rim almost at will with his length. Mims had seven blocks this past weekend versus Laurentian.
“It only makes us that much tougher to guard,” said Simpson about the added depth. “The more threats you have offensively makes it tough on the defence.”
Brock has been without second-year guard Michael Asemota since the first game of the season. Kissi explained that Asemota’s absence is due to personal reasons. However, when Brock can get Asemota back, it’ll only be another offensive threat off the bench.
This past weekend Brock improved to 8-0 with wins over Nipissing and Laurentian. Cayer was the starter to step up for Brock against Nipissing, as he scored 18-points. Small-Martin came off the bench to add 16 and Kwakwah had 10. Other starters in double-digits included Elgadi and Ryan both with 12 and Simpson finished with 11. Versus Laurentian, Elgadi stepped up with 21-points, Tyler Brown added 15, Ryan had 12 and Simpson was effective with 11.
The Badgers will turn their attention to McMaster on November 24, before taking on Ottawa followed by the number one ranked Carleton Ravens.
“We definitely feel like we are the best team in the country, but we can’t talk about it,” said Simpson. “You have to show it on the court, so when we see them, it’ll be a good matchup.”