Rebuilt men's basketball team aiming to repeat success

Every athlete who has won back to back championships, admits the second title is harder than the first one. These athletes say it's because everyone is gunning for them. Well imagine how hard it will be, if you haven't lost a league game in over a year. It's a brand new year and the Fanshawe Falcons men's basketball team is the defending OCAA champions and will enter this season with a giant bull's eye on their back.

The men's basketball team is looking to head back to the National Championships after being knocked out in their second game of the tournament last year in Truro, Nova Scotia. If they do make it, it will be with a very young squad. Only five returning players (Rustom Anary, Andro Mckenzie, Bryan Kamerman, Jeff Stuyt and Omara Sybbliss) are back trying out for the team this year. Sybbliss is the lone starter back. The lack of returning players is shocking for die hard Falcon fans as everyone expected three other players back for another year. Last season's CCAA and OCAA player of the year, Pat Sewell, is not back for the fall semester. He did attend summer school however and he has chosen to take the fall off and is planning on coming back to school in the winter. It's been rumoured that Sewell wanted to take some time off school because he has been taking classes for three semesters straight. Last year's OCAA rookie of the year, Jabari Cooper, has not tried out for the team this season, however he is still in school, personal reasons have kept him from trying out. Both of these players were starters and played a huge role for the Falcons last year. The other player who is still at Fanshawe and hasn't tried out is Alex Brkljac. Brkljac was not allowed to try out for the team this year because of his grades, however if they reach the acceptable level for the OCAA he will be aloud to rejoin the team next semester.

The team captain for this year will be Sybbliss. He is in his third year at Fanshawe and has played point guard for the past two seasons. He can push the play up court faster then you can say Fanshawe College rules! He gained a lot of experience last year as a starter and it will be up to him to lead the Falcon's offense. Sybbliss knows this year's team will be very different from last year.

“We got a couple of promising rookies coming in. We gotta come in and gel together and work hard,” while also pointing out size will be a big difference this year. “I think we're a smaller team this year, so we will have to be a lot quicker, box out a lot harder and do a lot of the grinding stuff. The kind of stuff we didn't have to do last year because of the bigger guys we had.”

Just like Sybbliss, two other point guards will be returning this year. Anary and Mackenzie will be back for their second season. Both are fast and have hands that are capable of controlling the offense. Both will put up more points this year and are more then ready to log a lot of minutes. The point guard positions are set nicely for this year. The other two returning players are Stuyt and Kamerman. Neither saw significant amounts of playing time last year because of a log jam of big men on the team. They may have the experience on the rookies, Stuyt in his third year and Kamerman's second, however they are not bigger or taller. Both men will have to get into game shape to prove they deserve the minutes.

Fanshawe had six rookies on their team last year and could have as many as 10 this season. Head scout for Fanshawe College Ernie Durocher has gone out and recruited players who have had a history of success. Matt Fennell is a local boy who played for Oakridge. He's 6'5 and knows how to shoot the three as well as dunk. Another player Durocher has high hopes for is Manny Campbell. His high school in Burlington won OFFSA last year. He stands at 5'9 and plays the point guard. Both players received scholarships to play at Fanshawe. If neither makes the team the scholarships are invalid. Two players who look like they could play some serious minutes are Mike King and Brad Louwagie. Both are listed at 6'7. Nathaniel Spence made the team last year and looked like he would have been a starter however during his first practice he tore his ACL and was lost for the season. In Durocher's words, “Spence can shoot the lights out.”

The season is long and anything can happen. One thing likely not to happen is Fanshawe going undefeated. Provincial's though remain a possibility says Durocher.

“I think we will be very competitive in the OCAA. It will be tougher goal to win the OCAA then last year. However we will be very competitive and all the games will be close.”

Returning for his 32nd year as coach will be Glenn Johnson. Fanshawe's first game is Wednesday, October 10 versus the George Brown Huskies.