It was a given that this season was going to be viewed as a setback year for the Brock’s men’s basketball program. At the forefront of the offseason were questions about how the team would deal with the loss of forward Dani Elgadi and the departure of head coach Charles Kissi.
The Badgers 2018/2019 season concluded with a 16-8 record and one win shy of their second consecutive Final 8 berth, proving to only be a slight move backwards.
The 16 wins mark the Badgers’ second best season in the last 11 years and ties the third most victories in program history. They had eight returning players, seven of which played significant minutes throughout the season. The only major difference was the new coaching staff with rookie head coach Madhav Trivedi. However, if you review Trivedi’s resume, he has enough experience to lead a university program.
Another difference from a season ago was the competition within the OUA West. Six of the other programs improved their win totals this year, so the road to the OUA Final Four, let alone the U Sports Final 8, was never going to be easy for the Badgers.
“The expectations were to be back in a situation where you can be in the game where you can compete to go back to an OUA Final and the Nationals,” Trivedi said. “We got to the game that gave us the chance to go back to the dance. We fell short.”
An 86-44 loss in the OUA semifinals to the Carleton Ravens was the end of the Badgers season. It also concluded the careers for seniors Johneil Simpson and Cassidy Ryan, the remaining two-thirds of the Badgers big three from a season ago.
Simpson concludes his five years with Brock averaging 16.9 points per game and sits second on the all-time scoring list. Ryan played three seasons for Brock as a transfer posting 15.1 points per game.
After last season the leadership torch was passed from Elgadi to Simpson and Ryan. It now continues to move down the ladder as others will have increased roles on and off the court moving forward.
“I told the guys after the season, I thought every guy improved and every guy stepped up,” Trivedi said. “They played it to the best of their ability, which allowed us to get to the [OUA] final four.”
The coach credited point guard Tyler Brown and forward Daniel Cayer, two players that had significant roles this season. Previously Brown was known to just be a floor general for the team, but this season had to focus a bit more on scoring and at times carried the team to victories. Brown averaged a career-high 31.3 minutes, 11.3 points, 5.2 assists and shot 37.5 per cent from three. On the other hand, Cayer’s main attention was on defence and rebounding, but this season he needed to be more of a two-way player.
In the end, the Badgers lost games that were the reason behind their setbacks. Slow starts or poor finishes on the defensive end and rebounding were the most obvious struggles. A 98-93 overtime loss on January 19 to the seven-win Windsor Lancers was most likely the difference between Brock playing their OUA quarterfinal and semifinal games on the road versus at home.
“We had a hard time defending and rebounding the ball for a full 40 minutes,” Trivedi said. “We definitely need to improve that and that’ll be done through recruiting, but also guys getting better in the summer.”
Trivedi also wants the team to focus on being more dynamic offensively, as their offense was zoned in at times by opponents and easily shut down.
The biggest question heading into the offseason for Brock will be the coaching position. Trivedi took over for Kissi back in August on an interim basis. Currently, Kissi is an assistant coach with the Raptors 905 of the G League as he took a leave of absence with a year left on his Brock contract. The season for the 905 does not end for another few weeks with playoffs on the horizon.
“Right now, I’m still working as if I’m coming back, that’s how I always operate and how I’ve operated my whole career,” said Trivedi. “Until I hear otherwise I’m going to be coaching this team.”
It won’t just be the men’s coaching job up in the air at Brock. Mike Rao coached the women’s basketball team this past season with interim attached to his title. The coaching questions will probably linger into the summer before any decisions are made by the department.
With Trivedi operating as if he’s coming back, the Badgers have begun their recruiting process. According to Trivedi, the Badgers have received commitments from three transfers but the official pen to paper hasn’t happened. The team is also expecting Godsman Kwakwah back in the lineup after sitting out this past season.
The men’s basketball program has seen tremendous growth over its last six seasons, with playoff appearances in the last four. Like any other program the roster turnover continues, but who steps up and steps in next season are remaining question marks.