Badgers clawing back into the upper echelon of the OUA, one game at a time
Men's Basketball Profile
Published: Tuesday, February 1, 2011
Updated: Thursday, July 5, 2012 15:07
The OUA recently revealed its promotional poster for the Men's Basketball Final Four competition - the Wilson Cup - as ticket sales have become open to the public. One of the four athletes featured on the poster is Brock University's Mike Cruickshank, even though his squad's record is presently 8-8 and has them placed in a two-way tie for sixth best in the province. It appears that the Brad Rootes-led Badgers are not the only ones who believe that their record is no indication of their potential.
Windsor Lancers head coach, Chris Oliver, offered his perspective on Brock's Men's Basketball program in an E-mail to The Brock Press. His No. 7 nationally ranked club was upset 62-60 on Jan. 22, via pressing defence and a last second lay-up by the Badgers.
"As their young players mature in their new systems they will be a significant threat in the OUA," said the six-year Lancer bench boss. "I think their record reflects the depth of talent in our league and the mental consistency it takes to win day-in and day-out in our league."
The .500 Badgers, who are three years removed from national glory, consist of 10 returning players from 2009-10 and six newcomers. The off-season loss of 2010 CIS Rookie of the Year, Clinton Springer-Williams (21.8 PPG), to Gannon University (NCAA, Division 2) left a considerable hole in their starting line-up - one which has been filled sufficiently by fifth-year CIS stalwart, Andrew Kraus. A season-long knee injury to previous national rookie of the year, and one of Springer-Williams' former teammates, Didi Mukendi, has been another obstacle that Brock has been forced to overcome as his 10.4 PPG and 2.4 APG have been greatly missed.
Also absent from last year's edition is legendary OUA Head Coach Ken Murray. As both a player and coach, Murray certainly left his mark on the program with a Male Athlete of the Year Award, 521 wins and two national championship rings. His ex-assistant and on-court captain, Brad Rootes, has taken the head coaching reigns on an interim basis and performed well under the hurried circumstances.
Chris Critelli, Brock's interim Athletic Director, is pleased with Rootes' adaption to his new role thus far as his experience and continuity within the program quickly converted a difficult situation to a pretty positive one.
"[The team] would be a lot further ahead if they were healthy," said the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame member. "I really think that they are going to make playoffs and that's where anything can happen. They may even turn some heads."
With a middling record - albeit one that has already matched last year's win total - and team statistics that have them ranked first in the OUA in personal fouls per game as well as second in turnovers per game, the Badgers don't exactly exude consistency. In fact, Brock, who is tied for fourth place in the OUA West, have not won or lost more than two games in a row throughout the entire 2010-11 campaign.
It has been an up and down transition, to say the least, for a program that has had its flashes of brilliance over its existence.
Rootes was aware from day one that the Badgers would not be an overnight success.
"It's been a process, like with anything. It's hard to change the culture into my own when it's been the same for so long. It'll take time for that to take place," said the Badger playing legend who, like his predecessor, Murray, turned to coaching following graduation.
No matter what the situation, Rootes intends to work with what he's got in front of him, which, for the most part, is a stellar core. Cruickshank (15.3 PPG), Kraus (5.6 RPG) and Joel Whitty (2.47 A/TO) offer a tremendous leadership group, while power forward Mark Gibson (57.0 FG percentage) is having a phenomenal junior year in the red and white. Although sidelined by an ankle injury as of late, Gibson's consistency on the boards and in the post has made Rootes' life a lot easier.
"It's too bad [Gibson] got hurt. I think for sure he would have been an [OUA] All-Star. Depending on when he comes back, he still has a shot," said Rootes.
The coaching staff has confidence in the team's willingness to be the aggressor on both offence and defence. This style has Rootes and company feeling pretty good about themselves.
With six contests left in their regular season schedule - half of which are against the No. 9 and 10 nationally ranked squads - the Badgers have the potential to finish above .500 if they execute effectively and come out with another upset.
With a mere four points seperating them from the bottom-feeding Guelph Gryphons - and three squads crunched in between - a post-season spot is in no way guarenteed.
However, whether it occurs during the 2010-11 campaign or not, the Brock Men's Basketball program is not counting out performing on the national stage in the near future.
Their definitive leader is conscious of his team's true potential.
"I think we have potential to make it to the national championships. Definitely," said Rootes.