Rams players stand for the National anthem in Syracuse, NY. (Greg DeClara/ Ryersonian File Photo)

Rams players stand for the National anthem in Syracuse, NY. (Greg DeClara/ Ryersonian File Photo)

By Dom Luszczyszyn

The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team has one goal in mind next season: to prove they belong among the top eight teams in Canada.

“I think the whole country knew that Ryerson was among the top eight teams in the country last season,” says guard Jean-Victor Mukama, the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) East Rookie of the Year. “I personally think that next year we’ll prove that we’re not only top eight, but that we can potentially be number one.”

Ryerson will host the Canadian Interuniversity Sport (CIS) championship for the first time next year, where Mukama and the Rams can prove they belong with Canada’s best university teams.

“As Ryerson players, coaching staff, we know it’s an opportunity to show who we really are and how much we’ve grown as a program,” says Jahmal Jones, who led the Rams with 19.1 points per game this past season.

As tournament hosts, Ryerson will automatically be awarded entry into the Final 8, where a national champion is crowned. It’s a rule that Mukama doesn’t agree with, even though it will benefit Ryerson in 2015.

“The point of nationals is to have the best eight teams in the country, not seven plus the team that’s hosting it,” he says.

However, Mukama says the Rams belong there, and the team is looking forward to proving it in 2014-2015.

Ryerson is coming off an impressive season in which they posted a 16-6 record and finished third in the OUA East division. The two teams ahead of them, Carleton and Ottawa, combined to lose only two games all season.

The Rams faced Ottawa in the OUA East semi-final, and lost 79-78 in a heart-breaker. It was the second year in a row that the Rams had their championship dreams crushed by Ottawa.

Jones says the team has mixed feelings about how their season went. They know they performed well, but ultimately came up short of their goal.

“There’s always room for improvement. We’re trying to fine-tune that right now. We know we can make the bigger jump and bigger impact next year.”

Next season will be Jones’ last year of eligibility, and he says he’s excited to play in front of family and friends in what will likely be his last major tournament at Ryerson. But Jones is tempering expectations of the team winning their first national championship on home court.

“It would be a great accomplishment but there’s a lot of work that’s going into the process,” says Jones. “So I’m not thinking about winning, I’m thinking about the process of playing our best basketball at the most important time of the year.”

This story was first published in The Ryersonian, a weekly newspaper produced by the Ryerson School of Journalism, on April 9, 2014.

This is a joint byline. Ryersonian staff are responsible for the news website edited and produced by final-year undergraduate and graduate journalism students at Ryerson University. It features all the content from the weekly campus newspaper, The Ryersonian, and distributes news and online multimedia, including video newscasts from RyersonianTV. Ryersonian.ca also provides videos, images, and other interactive material in partnership with the School of Journalism.