Opinion: My first year at Ryerson, I was on the team

(Christian Thomson/Mikaila Kukurudza)

(Christian Thomson/Mikaila Kukurudza)

Three years ago, I was in the locker-room of the Ryerson men’s basketball team after they had lost to the Ottawa Gee-Gees in the OUA quarter-finals. It was one of the quietest places I’ve ever been.

Two Saturdays ago, I was at the Mattamy Athletic Centre as the Rams defeated the No. 1 nationally ranked Ottawa Gee-Gees. It was one of the loudest places I’ve ever been.

Allow me to explain. My first year at Ryerson, I was on the team.

To be fair, I was a reserve, but I was on the team. There was no denying that. I was treated nearly the same as our best players. By nearly, I mean I and the other rookies were often in charge of tasks like grabbing the laundry or making sure the ball bags were on the bus. Because, you know, we were rookies.

The team dynamic was superb and I could tell it was a major part of why we were as good as we were. You click off the court, you click on the court. You communicate better. You play harder for each other.

And if we ever weren’t playing hard, the coaches made sure we heard it loud and clear. I mean LOUD and clear. Yes, they enjoyed the occasional yell every now and then, but they made sure to balance it out with both tactical and emotional advice.

Of course, there were some issues here and there, like there are with even the best marriages … er, I mean basketball teams. But we got through them together. That’s what made us successful.

But we weren’t as successful as we wanted to be. The powerhouse Carleton team clobbered us and Ottawa beat us in every game that mattered. We were good, but they were better.

I left the team with that belief in my mind. For the next two years, I had no reason to doubt it. As I observed them from a fan’s perspective, as I reported on them for journalism school assignments, as I saw them continue to lose to only Ottawa and Carleton, that’s what I concluded.

What I couldn’t comprehend at the time was the winning culture Ryerson men’s basketball was developing.

This has become especially evident to me this season, when our expectations were incredibly low. We lost a dynamic core of fifth-year players, and head coach Roy Rana is off a year on sabbatical.

Next man up.

Players have stepped up into the roles left by the core and are excelling. They’re playing for their teammates, as you can see by the bench’s energy and excitement at any Ryerson game.

Assistant coach Patrick Tatham stepped into the head coach spot and didn’t miss a beat, continuing to instil the winning atmosphere as well as adding his own touch.

They’re continuing to be successful, and should remain so for some time to come.

Now, I don’t want to get ahead of myself here. Yes, we beat Carleton and Ottawa back to back to get the No. 1 ranking (#humblebrag), but we still have to beat them when it counts — in the playoffs.

What I can conclude is that this is the culture now. Winning is what Ryerson basketball does, after having not done so for so long. I saw that culture develop during my year on the team, but only now do I understand it, as the Rams are the No. 1 team in the country.

This article was published in the print edition of the Ryersonian on Feb. 3, 2016.

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