For the first time in school history, the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team will be looking to win a national championship on home soil. Ryerson University is hosting the Canadian Interuniversity Sports Final 8, a prestigious event that sees eight elite teams compete for a national title.
As hosts, the Rams are guaranteed a spot in the tournament, and with pressure mounting, the team will need a handful of veterans to step up and lead the way in 2014-15.
The Rams are an experienced squad, with more than half the team being upperclassmen, including three fifth-year players and two fourth-years with experience playing in the national tournament.
The team had only one scholarship player, Yannick Walcott, move on from last year’s squad, meaning the group is essentially unchanged coming into this pivotal season.
Assistant coach Patrick Tatham says the veteran core is one of the strengths of the team. “We’ve got a great group of older guys. As coaches, we don’t have to do too much in terms of getting on the guys because those older players are taking over and setting the example for younger players to play hard.”
Tatham points to Jahmal Jones, Jordon Gauthier, Bjorn Michaelsen and Aaron Best as the team’s leadership core as the three fifth-year players and one fourth-year all have experience at nationals and all four lead by example through their effort.
Jones, last year’s team-leading scorer and fifth-year player, embraces his role as one of the Rams’ leaders.
“There’s a lot of responsibility on me to set an example and play the right way, not only offensively but also on the defensive end and do the little things it takes to win.”
Jones also spoke about his fellow fifth-year players and how they want to end their careers. “It’s been a goal of mine and Bjorn’s (Michaelsen) and Jordan’s (Gauthier) to win it all. We want to end our careers with a bang.”
In order for the veteran Rams to bring a championship to Ryerson, they’ll likely have to defeat rivals Ottawa and Carleton, which are also strong teams.
The Ryersonian’s Ryan McKenna, who has covered the men’s team, believes the Rams can finally get past the Gee-Gees and Ravens if they put it all together at the right time. “Both Jones and Best are elite scorers so the Rams have a great chance.”
McKenna also says Michaelsen will need to be at his best versus Carleton, as brothers Thomas and Philip Scrubb give the Ravens a great deal of size and scoring ability in the post.
Ryerson went 0-5 vs. Carleton and Ottawa last season, but four of those five games were decided by seven points or less.
The Rams begin their OUA regular season on Nov. 5 versus Waterloo.
They’ll meet Ottawa and Carleton for the first time this season when they travel to the nation’s capital on Nov. 28 and Nov. 29, respectively.