Leading scorers have graduated and rookies are playing for roles
Despite losing five players and welcoming seven recruits, the Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team is aiming high for a national title this upcoming season.
“I just want to win, that’s my main goal, I just want to be a national champion,” said Rams guard Jayden Frederick. “[The team’s] going to look a little different, but I think we’re going to be fine, if not better.”
Last season, the Rams enjoyed a successful campaign claiming the second seed in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and marching through the playoffs to finish as runners-up in Ontario. In the U Sports national championships they finished third in the country.
This season, the Rams are looking to exceed their accomplishments from last season and finally complete the goal of winning a national championship.
But the Rams had a long summer full of many changes. The team lost five key players last season to graduation, including fifth-year player Filip Vujadinovic and leading scorers Jean-Victor Mukama and Myles Charvis, who averaged 18.4 and 16 points per game respectively.
To make up for their absences, Ryerson is welcoming seven recruits to the team. With so many fresh faces, head coach Borko Popic says he looks forward to them making a big impact on the team.
“[We want] them to come in and buy into our culture and our process and compete on a daily basis,” Popic said. “They’ll carve out their roles in minutes as we go and be competitive on a consistent daily basis.”
New recruit Jalen Butler, a transfer from Southern New Hampshire University, is excited to join Ryerson for this season.
“[I want] to do whatever the coaches ask of me, whatever is needed on the team, whether it’s energy, defence, offence,” Butler said. “[We want to] just make sure that we’re contributing in all aspects of the game.”
The Rams are also welcoming a change behind the bench. The team will be led by a new head coach this season, since Popic, the associate head coach from last season, got promoted after former head coach Roy Rana left to join the Sacramento Kings’ coaching staff.
“There’s a long tradition of success in this program and a lot of [my job] is continuing to uphold those standards while also putting my own spin on it,” Popic said. “There’s change but it’s growth and it’s positive and we’re trying to put it all together and continue rolling.”
“He’s a great coach,” Frederick said. “He did a lot of the talking last year anyways and he built a relationship with the guys over the last couple of years. He really understands the game.”
For now, the Rams will take the season day-by-day. Popic says he’s very confident in the squad he has in front of him.
“We’re not really worried about overall record standings,” said Popic. “If we improve on a daily basis with our new squad, we’re going to be in a place where we’re going to be successful.”
And for Frederick, the ultimate goal of a national championship is still in reach.
“I think we just got to play together,” Frederick said. “We have so much talent on this team. Individual guys can take over the game, but if we play together it just makes us stronger than anything.”
The Rams will look towards their season opener on Oct. 24 against the York Lions. Other dates to circle include their matchup against the University of Toronto’s Varsity Blues on Nov. 27 and their rematch against Ontario’s top team, the Carleton Ravens, on Jan. 25.