For the first time in over half a decade, the Badgers men’s basketball program saw a significant amount of change take place this summer. Just a little over a year ago, Madhav Trivedi was named interim head coach of the program after Charles Kissi left to join the coaching staff of the Raptors G-League team, Raptors 905.
Kissi took over the program in the summer of 2013 and led the Badgers to their first U Sports Tournament appearance since 2008. The Badgers almost upset the Calgary Dinos in the first round of the tournament, ultimately losing by two to a Dinos team that would go on to win the national championship. From 2016-2018, Kissi’s Badgers compiled an 83-29 record, which ultimately led him to a coaching job in the Raptors organization.
The Kissi era saw a number of players go on to etch their names in the Badgers record books; most notably Johneil Simpson (2015-2019) and Dani Elgadi (2014-2018), who became the respective second and third highest scorers in Badgers history. Both players were named OUA Rookie of the Year in 2014 and 2015 and combined for seven OUA All-Star appearances.
While last season saw a new coach at the helm, the Badgers were able to put up another winning season, even with the loss of Elgadi. Led by the likes of Simpson and Cassidy Ryan (another two-time OUA All-Star), the Badgers finished with an 18-9 record, but fell to Carleton (who would go on to win the OUA and U Sports championship) in the OUA Final Four. Trivedi ultimately left Brock to take an assistant coaching position at the University of Toronto, leaving Brock to find their third head coach in as many years.
This past June, it was announced that Willy Manigat would be named the ninth head coach in Badgers history. Manigat grew up in Ottawa, and would eventually go on to win three national championships while playing for the Carleton Ravens, before winning two more as an assistant coach. Coming from the most prestigious school in Canadian basketball history, Manigat was able to learn from one of the greatest coaches of all time, Dave Smart. While Manigat is grateful for his time with the Ravens, he is solely focused on the task at hand.
“Obviously I come from Carleton but the main focus now is just being at Brock. I’ve been fortunate to get mentored by one of the best coaches in North America, in my opinion, and now it’s just about developing our program here and focusing on what we have going on. Of course I learned a lot [at Carleton], there’s no questioning it, but now I’m at Brock and I’m just trying to focus on Brock basketball.”
In addition to the Badgers new coaching staff, the roster saw a lot of turnover as well. As previously mentioned, the Badgers two highest scorers from a season ago, Johneil Simpson and Cassidy Ryan, graduated this past spring, leaving the Badgers with significant holes to fill on the offensive end.
Both Tyler Brown and Daniel Cayer will most likely play larger roles this year, as both players are coming off their best seasons at Brock just a year ago.
“Daniel is going to be a workhorse for us, and we just want him to help set the culture and bring some leadership, which he does all the time so it’s not something we’re too worried about,” said Manigat. “Daniel is who he is, he’s a high character guy and with his help hopefully we can develop some high character guys who can tag along and help fill that leadership role.”
The Badgers will also look to fifth-year guard Emmanuel Owootoah, who came over from Carleton along with coach Manigat. With Brown and Owootoah starting together in the backcourt, the two seniors will look to provide experience and leadership this season.
“Down the line as we get more in tune with each other and as we start putting it together — again we’re a new team, everything is new for everybody here — we’ll be able to actually trust those fifth year guys to make decisions and to be playmakers,” said Manigat. “They’ll get better, they’ll build chemistry and we’ll get on page with what we want to do in different scenarios. I really feel that down the line, having those guys together will give us some good leadership on the floor.”
Another key player will be 6’6 forward Godsman Kwakwah, who redshirted last year, but was a part of the 2018 team that made it to nationals. The Pierrefonds, QC native will look to fill some of the offensive holes left by Simpson and Ryan, although Manigat does expect it to take some time before Kwakwah and Owootoah — who also didn’t play last season — find a groove.
“We have two guys who we’re relying on a lot who didn’t play any basketball last year, so it’s going to be a process to get those guys firstly in a rhythm, but also just to get the rust out.”
The OUA regular season begins in just under three weeks, but the Badgers are going to begin the year without the likes of two key players. Kascius Small-Martin, a third-year wing from Markham, is out with a concussion after taking an elbow in practice. Small-Martin was an important player for Brock last year and was going to start this year until his injury.
“He’ll be back eventually,” said Manigat. “Hopefully we’ll get him back soon, obviously he’ll be a big part of what we do but at the same time it gave a lot of guys that usually haven’t gotten opportunities to play — like Daniel Caldwell, like Noah [LaPierre], like [Aaron Golbourne] — some minutes to just get their feet wet. Now we know they’ll be ready and will give us some extra depth.”
Additionally, fifth-year centre Ryan Cooper recently underwent right foot surgery, and his timetable looks a lot more bleak than Small-Martin’s.
“I don’t think he’ll be back this season, he just had surgery so we’ll go from there. I won’t say he’s a redshirt for the year but as of now we just want to get him better,” said Manigat.
The Badgers first two preseason games were played this past weekend as a part of the RBC Classic, a preseason tournament featuring Brock, Windsor, Dalhousie, UQAM, Ryerson and Toronto. The Badgers pulled out a slight victory over Windsor, beating the Lancers 69-67, but fell to Dalhousie by a score of 65-50.
The Badgers regular season opens up at home on Oct. 26 against the Ryerson Rams. Tickets can be found at gobadgers.ca, or brocku.universitytickets.com.