Men’s Basketball Preview: Don’t Sleep on the Stingers
A Veteran Core Could Help Them Win the RSEQ
The Stingers had a disappointing end to their 2016-17 season. After finishing second in the Réseau du sport étudiant du Québec with an 11-5 record, they lost to the underdog Université du Québec à Montréal Citadins in the RSEQ semifinal.
Despite their early exit a year ago, the team has moved on and are looking forward to the fresh start.
“When you get into a playoff game, it’s one game and you have to win or go home,” said Concordia head coach Rastko Popovic. “It was a sour loss, but we tried to get ready throughout the summer and the pre-season to get better every single day.”
The Stingers are going to look different this year. Michael Fosu had been a steady presence at centre for the team for years but he’s moved on. Now, Popovic is looking to mix it up and reconfigure his lineup to account for the loss.
Schneiders Suffrard had spent his first two years at Concordia splitting time between the shooting guard and small forward positions. Now, he’s bulked up and Popovic is hoping to take advantage of his athleticism and improved shooting touch by playing him at power forward.
“[The transition to power forward] went very well,” said Suffrard. “It’s always about the team and it’s always about the next guy. I’m sure that the team is going to be able to go forward with me playing multiple positions.”
Suffrard is one of several Stingers coming into the season with a wealth of experience under their belts. Fifth-year winger Ken Beaulieu, fourth-year point guard and team captain Ricardo Monge, and fourth-year centre Malcolm Henderson figure to make up four fifths of the starting lineup.
“Fosu was a big loss, but we still come in with tons of experience and depth on the roster,” said Popovic.
That depth is spearheaded by a collection of young Stingers who are slated to see their roles increase this year. First on that list is second-year guard Nicholas Noble, who will be the team’s starter at shooting guard.
“[Noble] should be the starter at shooting guard,” said Popovic. “But we also have a lot of faith in Adrian Armstrong who started some games in the pre-season and Jonathan Koud, who adds an extra dimension to our offense.”
Rounding out that bench is third-year guard Cedric Corolian, second-year forward Olivier Simon, second-year guard Henderson Charles, and first-year forward Michel Hakizimana. While it may be tough to give everyone as many minutes as he’d like, Popovic identifies the sudden abundance of depth on his roster as good problem.
“It has been fun trying to mix lineups and find which ones work best in different situations,” said Popovic. “Everyone has bought in very well and has embraced the roles we’ve put them in.”
“They all know that you’ve got to wait your turn, and when that turn comes, you take that opportunity and run with it because there’s someone behind you waiting for your spot.”
With all the familiar faces coming back and new ones looking to make their mark, the Stingers might be much better equipped to handle the McGill Redmen, who bring back the core of starters that have helped them win the league four of the past five seasons.
The Stingers open up their regular season on Thursday at home against the Bishop’s Gaiters, who will come into the game 1-0 after edging UQAM 83-77 in their season opener on Nov. 4.
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