Men’s Basketball Preview: Changes All Around
Stingers Men’s Basketball Has New Coach and Boatload of Recruits
The Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team is entering an entirely new era of its history. With the additions of head coach Rastko Popovic, five new recruits, and a brand new uniform to boot, the team intends to give a new identity to a stagnant Stingers team.
“I believe we could win RSEQ and go to nationals,“ says Jaleel Webb, who transferred from Bishops to the Stingers last January. “[The team’s] looking good. Everybody gets along. That’s why I transferred here.”
The 2015-2016 season marks the end of John Dore’s 26 years as Stingers head coach, but also ushers in the beginning of his replacement, Popovic, who was an assistant under Dore last season.
It’s been over 10 years since the Stingers made the finals of a national championship, and over 25 since winning it all.
Popovic wasn’t making any bold promises, stating that he doesn’t want to give a clear goal for the season. He expects his players to compete hard every game, while getting settled with the team.
“We got a lot of new guys, and it’s going to take some time early,” Rastko added.
For the last two seasons, the Stingers finished with an 8-8 regular season record, losing both years in the opening round. First to Bishop’s in 2013-14, and then against their intercity rivals the McGill Redmen in 2014-15 by a score of 74-60.
Veteran Michael Fosu says the team has learned from last season’s loss. He said that a lack of mental strength during the game was a huge factor.
“We thought we were prepared, but they came out shooting lights out.”
Popovic intends to bring a different culture to the locker room though, stressing that Stingers basketball isn’t part time.
“[The team became] more organized throughout the summer. The workouts, the scrimmages, the weightlifting, everything is organized,” said Rastko Popovic on his newly implemented 12-month program, which intends to insure that the athletes train on a fixed schedule all year round.
“[We] need to be committed to getting as good as we can,” he added.
“With Rastko, we started practicing earlier than normal, and I hear this is the earliest we’ve ever started with Concordia. We’ve been practicing all summer, putting in work”, said Webb.
The team also lost two major players from last season in Mukiya Post and Gabe Riche, who both contributed in scoring and production.
The new recruits coming in will need to replace the loss in scoring and minutes, as well as adding depth. Jaleel Webb will start at shooting guard.
TJ Umar from Champlain St-Lambert, was one of the best rebounders in the CEGEP league last year, and will be expected to bring that to the team. Kiari Gerba, a transfer from Ottawa U, Jean Daniel Mathieu and Schneiders Suffard, both recruits from Vanier, will also be leaned on heavily in their first year with ConU.
“The new guys are ready to contribute, right away, in year one.” Popovic said. He also said he understands they are a younger team, but they are “much bigger and more athletic this year then [they] were last year.”
The Stingers will be tested early, with a rough preseason schedule that Popovic believes is important for the team.
“I wanted to measure against some of the top teams in the country, and we have the whole month of October pretty packed with games, and that’s going to help us get prepared for our league,” he said.