SPOILER ALERT: If you want to watch the BLG Awards presentation Sunday, May 18 on TSN without first finding out who won, stop reading now...

On Monday night in Calgary, UNB hockey forward Rob Hennigar and University of Montreal volleyball star Laetitia Tchoualack claimed the 2008 BLG Awards as Canadian Interuniversity Sport's top athletes. Both had excellent seasons for their respective teams. Hennigar put up 15 goals and 43 assists in 27 games to claim the CIS regular-season scoring title and added four more points in three playoff games while leading the Varsity Reds to the silver medals at the national championships, while Tchoualack led the country with 4.13 kills per set in the regular season and carried the Carabins to their best finish ever at the nationals, where they lost a five-set championship game thriller to the UBC Thunderbirds. Both athletes were the first BLG winners from their respective universities, and Hennigar was also the first male AUS athlete and the first male hockey player to win a BLG award.

Interestingly, this year's crop of nominees featured many outstanding players, but no national champions. On the men's side, Hennigar, Winnipeg volleyball standout Ben Schellenberg, Carleton basketball forward Aaron Doornekamp and Bishop's football running back Jamall Lee were each named the player of the year in their respective sports, but couldn't lead their teams to the ultimate prize. Hennigar and Schellenberg took their teams to the championship game, while Doornekamp's Ravens were upset by the Acadia Axemen in the national semifinals and Lee's Gaiters lost in the Quebec semifinals to the Concordia Stingers.

On the women's side, Tchoualack faced stiff competition from a trio of basketball stars: Memorial's Katherine Quackenbush, McMaster's Lindsay DeGroot and Simon Fraser's Lani Gibbons, who was named the player of the year. At the nationals, Simon Fraser and Memorial both made first-round exits at the hands of Laval and Regina respectively, while McMaster won their first game but lost to the eventual champion UBC Thunderbirds in the second round.

From this admittedly limited viewpoint, it looks like they picked the right athletes. Hennigar dominated his sport statistically in a way only Lee could come close to, and he also acheived the playoff success that Schellenberg pulled off. He and Schellenberg were also among their team's best players in their national championship losses: Schellenberg led the Wesmen with 24 kills in an losing cause, while Hennigar scored a goal and almost set up another in UNB's 3-2 defeat. By contrast, Doornekamp went 4 for 23 from the field in Carleton's semifinal loss and missed several key shots down the stretch, including an off-balance one at the final buzzer. Lee was also shut down in the playoffs, putting up just 28 yards on 11 carries.

On the women's side, Tchoualack also performed under pressure, taking her team to their first-ever national final and putting up a very impressive tournament-high 29 kills in the final match. That's not to say that one bad game should be the be-all and end-all, but I'd find it easier to make a case for someone who came through in the clutch as well as during the regular season, especially when conducting a tricky cross-sport comparison like this. Both athletes also have the allure that goes with the professional sports factor: Hennigar recently signed a two-way contract with the New York Islanders, while Tchoualack was a professional star in France.

As a side note, the one somewhat surprising choice among the female nominees is Quackenbush. Ontario female athletes didn't claim a player of the year award in the other major women's sports (ice hockey and soccer), so DeGroot seems to be a logical selection, but Brayden Ferguson of St. Francis Xavier claimed the Brodrick Trophy as the top women's ice hockey player this year. Granted, her team also underperformed at nationals, losing all three of their games, but she did snag a player of the year award, which might have made her a stronger AUS candidate than Quackenbush.

Quackenbush is certainly a good player, but she was only the fifth-highest scorer in AUS competition, so it's tough to make a case for her overall statistical dominance: she seems to be more of a player like Schellenberg who excels at a number of categories but doesn't dominate them all. In the past, these awards have often featured nominees from several different sports, so I found it somewhat surprising to see three women's basketball players nominated this year.

(Interesting facts on Quackenbush from the CIS press release profiling the AUS nominees: her great-uncle Bill played in the NHL, her second cousin Ross is the men's basketball head coach at St. Mary's, and her father Doug played football and hockey at Dalhousie and was drafted by the CFL. Now that's an athletic family!)
Tonight is the 16th annual BLG Awards Gala at the Jack Singer Concert Hall in Calgary, where the top male and female CIS athletes of the year will be announced. Unfortunately, the awards show won't be televised on TSN until Sunday, May 18 at 11:00 AM Eastern, but the show's still usually interesting and worth watching even without the suspense. These are pretty significant awards: in addition to the recognition that goes with being the country's top university athlete, the winners also get a $10,000 post-graduate scholarship. Winners are chosen by the 23 trustees of the Canadian Athletic Foundation. On the male side, here's the breakdown of who's nominated, why they could win, and what might count against them. I would have liked to preview the female awards as well, but ran out of time before I had to head off to work. All nominated athletes have been previously selected as the all-sport athlete of the year by their school and their conference, as well as the CIS player of the year in their sport.

Canada West: Ben Schellenberg, right side hitter, Winnipeg Wesmen volleyball

Why he could win:
Schellenberg had a great year, leading the seventh-seeded Wesmen to a first-round upset of the undefeated McMaster Marauders and a perhaps surprising place in the final at this year's national championships. They eventually came up short against the top-seeded Alberta Golden Bears, but Schellenberg put up a team-high 24 kills and was named Winnipeg's player of the match. His strength is his versatility: he finished in the top ten in Canada West in kills per game, points per game, hitting percentage, blocks per game and digs. He was recently invited to the 2008 national team selection camp.

What might count against him: Last year's male BLG winner was also a Canada West volleyball player (Josh Howatson, the star setter from Trinity Western). Also, Schellenberg put up strong stats in a number of categories, but didn't dominate any single category, and only finished sixth in his own conference in the crucial stats of kills and points per game. He also had the advantage of playing with Dustin Addison-Schneider, the Winnipeg setter who was a fellow first-team All-Canadian.

OUA: Aaron Doornekamp, forward, Carleton Ravens basketball

Why he could win: Doornekamp had a fantastic season and led the Ravens to a 22-0 record, averaging 15.6 points and 8.3 rebounds per game in an average of just 27 minutes of playing time. He came through in some big games, and was named the game MVP of both the OUA East Finals and OUA Finals. He alsohelped the Ravens look even better after the graduation of star Osvaldo Jeanty. Moreover, he's received plenty of high praise from the likes of Mark Wacyk, Leo Rautins, Michael Grange and this blog's own Neate Sager.
Doornekamp's certainly had more ink (and type) devoted to his exploits than any of the other nominees, and is a much higher-profile star. He's also played with the national team.

What might count against him: The defining memory for many from this year's national championships is likely the outstanding defensive job Ach Luau did on Doornekamp in the semifinals, which proved crucial to Acadia's double-overtime Cinderella victory. In that game, Doornekamp also went 1-for-2 from the line with ten seconds left when he could have tied the score, missed an off-balance 3-point attempt at the end and sank only 4 of his 23 shots from the field. He had a great year, but was stopped when it mattered most. Also, like Schellenberg, he wasn't overly statistically dominant. Stats aren't everything, as their Player of the Year awards show, but when comparing across sports (which is a dicey business at best), it might be easiest to pick someone who the numbers show as head and shoulders above everyone else playing their game. Doornekamp's prominence in print also doesn't make him a lock, as a large part of that is likely due to the higher-profile nature of his sport. Also, Jeanty won the 2006 award: it might be tough to hand top-athlete honours to two guys from the same school in three years, much less the same program (even given the dominance of Carleton basketball).

QSSF: Jamall Lee, running back, Bishop Gaiters football

Why he could win: Lee almost single-handedly led the Gaiters to a winning record (5-3) for the first time since 1995. He led the country with 1,464 rushing yards, the fifth-best total in CIS history. After only three seasons, he's already set Bishop's career rushing mark with 3,094 yards, and only needs 263 yards to break the QSSF record. He's got the family pedigree: his father, Orville, was the last Canadian back to lead the CFL in rushing, which he did in only his first year in the league. He's also received strong praise from the likes of TSN's Alex J. Walling.

What might count against him: Lee's three years in the league means he's had less career success than the other nominees. His stats are very impressive, but he also had 181 rushing attempts, the most in conference history. That still leads to a fantastic average of over eight yards per carry, though. Like the other nominees, Lee's team came up short in the end: however, they didn't even make it to the nationals, falling to Concordia in the Quebec semifinals. Also like Doornekamp, Lee had a tough time in the crucial game, putting up only 28 yards on 11 attempts. Moreover, it wasn't all that long since a running back won the trophy: McMaster's Jesse Lumsden took it home in 2005.

AUS: Rob Hennigar, forward, Varsity Reds hockey

Why he could win: Hennigar led the Varsity Reds with a nation-high 43 assists (a UNB record) and 58 points in just 27 regular-season games. He helped Team Canada take home gold at the 2007 Winter Universiade in Italy with nine points in six games. He also put up four points in three games at this year's nationals, and led UNB to the silver medal. Recently, he signed a free-agent contract with the New York Islanders. No men's hockey player has ever claimed a BLG Award, which might count in Hennigar's favour.

What might count against him: Hennigar's 58 points included only 15 goals. Assists are valuable as well, but they aren't always as attractive to voters. His team also came up short in the final, even though he scored a goal and almost set up another.
Sherbrooke speedmeister Sam Giguère has a lucky horseshoe in his bid to stick with the Indianapolis Colts in the form of Cal Murphy, the long-time CFL coach.

Giguère is going to have some long odds considering Indy's depth chart at wide receiver, although he offers some possibilities as a punt returner and a special teams player. Murphy, a Colts scout, seems to be an advocate for players with a Canadian tie. Former Calgary Dinos lineman Dan Federkeil earned a Super Bowl ring in the 2006 season, while ex-Saskatchewan Roughrider Kenton Keith was in their tailback platoon last season. 

If Indy doesn't work out, the Hamilton Tiger-Cats are pretty sweet on Giguere and Keith Shologan, the Canadian D-lineman from Central Florida who signed with the San Diego Chargers. 
Howard Tsumura has an in-depth look on how Simon Fraser SID Scott McLean and videographer Gareth Madoc-Jones are using online video to do a better job of storytelling.

McLean's efforts, starting a YouTube channel for Clan athletics, were mentioned in passing here late last summer in one of the first posts after Mr. Mirtle founded this blog. Tsumura actually does it justice.

In the OUA, McMaster took a step forward during this past school year, while the broadcasters at the Queen's campus stadium, CFRC 101.9 FM, took it upon themselves to post audio and video. There are, and there will be others next season -- there needs to be.

(That's some big talk coming from a guy who can't even figure out which end of the camera to look into. Snake Wilson also has some thoughts about marketing with respect to football.)

Simon Fraser's pioneering ways bring athletes up close and personal (Howard Tsumura, Vancouver Province)

No fear, broadband is here (Sept. 14, 2007)
Former Victoria coach Gary Taylor, who's due to be inducted into the Basketball BC Hall of Fame, is the answer to a great trivia question.

Name a coach who was succeeded immediately by Ken Shields and Don Horwood -- two of the best ever in Canadian university hoops -- at two different schools.

Taylor was replaced by a young Horwood at Oak Bay High School in Victoria in 1971, when Taylor took over the Vikes program. Five seasons later, Taylor was replaced at UVic by Shields, who as you know, built a program that won a record seven straight national championships.

Mark Wacyk posted an interview with Don Horwood last summer for cishoops.ca, where he related how, at 22, he became Taylor's successor at Oak Bay: "The program was a powerhouse and I later found out that no one else had even applied given the pressure and profile of the job."

It sounds like Gary Taylor was one hell of a coach, so accolades are due to him to and Victoria's hoops community.
It's reasonable to wonder if the stadium Moncton is building for the 2010 world junior track and field championships might spark some talk of a second CIS football program in New Brunswick.

The 28,000-seat stadium is being built with an eye toward bringing a CFL team to the Maritimes -- wouldn't that put the boots to Halifax, which is always talking about about getting one -- but it's going to be on the Université de Moncton campus. Establishing football is not easy, but it removes a major barrier if the provincial government is building a stadium.

Moncton also seems to be a growing city and considering the number of francophones who've taken to football, there is potential for an Aigles Bleus football team. (UNB might also be interested, but since it doesn't value women's hockey, there's not much support for it from this corner.)

New stadium puts hopes for a CFL franchise on high (Dave Crase, Can West News Service)
Carleton and the NCAA champion Kansas Jayhawks will apparently play their Aug. 30 exhibition game at Scotiabank Place, site of the recent CIS Final 8.

The birdbath (sorry) between the Ravens and Hawks will be the second end of a Saturday doubleheader. The Ottawa Gee-Gees host South Alabama in the first game; Kansas will also play a morning game against McGill at uOttawa's gym that same day.

(Thanks to Dan Carle at uOttawa for the tip. Technically, this is not an OUA post, since some of Carleton and Ottawa's varsities play in the Quebec conference.)
I have to send a heads-up to the progress of a familiar name from the old Simcoe Reformer beat, Scott Puillandre, who's hoping to be a starting linebacker for the Guelph Gryphons after missing more than a year with a serious knee injury.
Horsing around on ice with roommate and fellow linebacker Adam Dunk, Puillandre slipped, fell and tore the anterior cruciate ligament, medial collateral ligament and meniscus in his left knee.

Puillandre thought his once-promising OUA career was over before it even began. But the 6-foot, 220-pounder had surgery to repair the damage May 3. He spent the next 11 months rehabilitating his injury with Guelph's strength and conditioning coach Chris Mumford and was finally cleared to play this weekend. -- Greg Layson

It's self-indulgent and it piggybacks on Layson's reportage, but let it be said Puillandre was great to deal with back in the day at the Reformer, 2004 and 2005. He was the leader of the best football team Waterford, Ontario, ever had and it was almost comical how far past most of his high school opponents he was, not just physically but in terms of football IQ. Jeff Dertinger, the Reformer's sports reporter and now editor, would come back from covering a Waterford game just chortling at how many kids had been laid out by Puillandre (who was one of those "last name only guys").

Some of Scott's greatest hits actually came on kickoff coverage, not when he was playing defence. Waterford, like a lot of rural high schools, didn't have a serious soccer program, which lent to having a spotty kicking game. The way it's remembered is that when Waterford kicked off, the opposing returner would often move up to take the ball or pick it up on the bounce, which would take his eye off the players bearing down on him. No one really wanted to block Puillandre when he was at full gallop, so it was like he would get a 40-yard free run at some poor kid.

Not having a kicking game cost Waterford's 2005 team the Haldimand-Norfolk title. In what became known, to the guy who wrote the headline, as the Snow Bowl Shocker -- five people had their blowers out for five hours to get the field clear enough to play after more than a foot of wet snow fell overnight -- Waterford lost 21-20 to McKinnon Park from Caledonia. The Wolves missed two extra points, settled for a punt single from the 14-yard line and had a last-minute field goal blocked.

Granted, if Waterford had won that day, there might not be the same interest in what Scott Puillandre is doing at the CIS level. Also, by getting just a couple sentences about that game instead of a book; you're getting away Scott-free. OUA running backs and receivers might not be so lucky next season.

(Linking to the story also gives some pub to the hardest-working university sports reporter in Ontario, Greg Layson. Cross-posted to Out of Left Field.)
A long overdue look at the women's basketball standings. Same idea as with the men. Championship seeding in brackets (keep in mind that the Huskies made it as the host team) and the final matchup in bold.

Rk Team GP W L Pct PF/G PA/G Diff/G
1 McMaster (3)
22 21 1 .955 76.1 52.5 23.6
2 Simon Fraser (1)
23 22 1 .957 82.0 58.8 23.2
3 UBC (2)
23 21 2 .913 71.7 52.9 18.8
4 Toronto (7)
22 18 4 .818 74.2 61.2 13.0
5 Regina (4)
22 16 6 .727 74.6 62.4 12.2
6 Memorial (5)
20 17 3 .850 71.0 59.1 11.9
7 York 22 18 4 .818 70.3 59.2 11.0
8 Laval (8)
16 12 4 .750 66.3 55.9 10.4
9 Calgary 22 16 6 .727 83.2 73.1 10.1
10 Alberta 22 17 5 .773 75.1 65.3 9.8
11 Windsor 22 14 8 .636 71.7 62.0 9.7
12 Cape Breton 20 15 5 .750 71.6 61.9 9.7
13 Laurentian 22 15 7 .682 76.5 66.8 9.7
14 Western 22 17 5 .773 71.6 66.2 5.4
15 UQAM 16 12 4 .750 62.4 57.4 4.9
16 Dalhousie 20 12 8 .600 65.3 61.8 3.5
17 Victoria 23 13 10 .565 65.7 63.0 2.8
18 UNB 20 11 9 .550 69.2 67.7 1.5
19 Waterloo 22 12 10 .545 64.5 63.1 1.4
20 Queen's 22 9 13 .409 64.0 63.4 0.6
21 Concordia 16 8 8 .500 67.4 67.6 −0.2
22 Carleton 22 8 14 .364 58.2 59.4 −1.2
23 UPEI 20 8 12 .400 64.0 65.5 −1.4
24 Brock 22 11 11 .500 63.8 65.8 −2.0
25 Manitoba 22 8 14 .364 67.9 69.9 −2.0
26 Bishop's 16 6 10 .375 57.2 59.4 −2.2
27 Laurier 22 9 13 .409 64.1 66.4 −2.3
28 UCFV 23 11 12 .478 67.6 70.1 −2.5
29 Saskatchewan (6)
22 9 13 .409 66.7 70.1 −3.5
30 Winnipeg 22 8 14 .364 63.4 67.0 −3.6
31 StFX 20 6 14 .300 60.9 64.9 −4.1
32 Lakehead 22 9 13 .409 61.9 66.8 −5.0
33 Guelph 22 7 15 .318 62.2 67.8 −5.6
34 Acadia 20 7 13 .350 59.8 66.2 −6.5
35 Trinity Western 23 8 15 .348 60.4 69.6 −9.2
36 Lethbridge 22 5 17 .227 65.4 75.3 −10.0
37 Ottawa 22 3 19 .136 57.2 68.2 −11.0
38 McGill 16 2 14 .125 51.9 64.9 −13.0
39 Ryerson 22 5 17 .227 55.9 69.0 −13.1
40 Saint Mary's 20 4 16 .200 56.1 71.0 −14.9
41 Thompson Rivers 23 1 22 .043 56.7 78.0 −21.3
42 Brandon 22 2 20 .091 58.1 83.5 −25.4
43 RMC 22 0 22 .000 51.6 85.8 −34.2

Average points per game, by conference

West, 68.5
Ontario, 65.2
Atlantic, 64.7
Quebec, 61.0

Overall we had 65.7 points per game, meaning Canada West was by far the toughest league. Or at least the one with the most points.

Most points per game compared to conference average
Calgary, 83.2 (+21.6%)
Simon Fraser, 82.0 (+19.8%)
Laurentian, 76.5 (+17.3%)
McMaster, 76.1 (+16.7%)
Toronto, 74.2 (+13.7%)
Cape Breton, 71.6 (+10.6%)
Concordia, 67.4 (+10.5%)

Fewest points per game against, compared to conference average
UBC, 52.9 (-22.8%)
McMaster, 52.5 (-19.5%)
Simon Fraser, 58.8 (-14.1%)
York, 59.2 (-9.2%)
Carleton, 59.4 (-8.9%)
Regina, 62.4 (-8.9%)

Saskatchewan were basically a league average team, certainly in tough for their quarterfinal matchup against the Marauders, one of two teams to beat the league average by more than 10% on both sides of the ball. Calgary and York probably had a better claim on that playoff berth than did the Huskies, but that's the risk you take with this host team format. (With the men, it's not as glaring.)

Neither Simon Fraser nor McMaster made the final, though. That's not to say this analysis is useless--certainly beats studying for exams, am I right?--because, after all, that great Carleton-Acadia game from the men's bracket involved the only two teams on both regular-season lists.

Finally, a look at the conference averages for both the women and the men, presented without comment:

Average points per game, by conference (women/men)
West, 68.5 / 78.6
Ontario, 65.2 / 74.0
Atlantic, 64.7 / 76.6
Quebec, 61.0 / 75.7


Source: CIS standings.
On Deck Circle has an interview posted with Calgary Stampeders rookie Cody Kennedy, a recent Queen's Golden Gaels grad who's vying for a spot on the CFL team's offensive line.

Making the cut is not a fait accompli for Kennedy, since as Alex Jackson's article notes, the Stamps already have nine non-import O-linemen on the roster. Wish him well.

(Cross-posted to Out of Left Field).
Windsor has apparently gone for the same kind of coach that Carleton and Manitoba have turned to get their hockey programs going.

Kevin Hamlin, hired yesterday, is a first-timer at the CIS level, but he's won in Junior B and C and at the OCAA level with the St. Clair Saints. Some would say his St. Clair teams' dominance -- you might remember the stories about a year ago about the school trying to see if it could join NCAA Division 3 for hockey -- were a big factor in many Ontario colleges dropping hockey as a varsity sport.

That gives the impression that Hamlin has some recruiting mojo, somewhat like former provincial Junior A coaches Fred Parker and Don MacGillivray do at the above-mentioned schools.

The Lancers are coming off a dreadful season, 13 points from 28 games, which was dead last in the OUA. A playoff spot isn't easy to come by in the competitive western half of the league, but if the Lancers are pushing for top spot in 2009-10, you'll know why.

Thanks to Greg Layson, the Big Man on Campus, for the link.

Hamlin heads to Lancers (Jim Parker, Windsor Star)
According to TSN's Darren Dreger, UNB forward Rob Hennigar has signed a two-year, two-way contract with the New York Islanders. Hennigar claimed this year's Senator Joseph A. Sullivan Trophy as the CIS Player of the Year after putting up an impressive 58 points in only 27 regular-season games. He's more of a playmaker than a scorer (those points break down into 15 goals and 43 assists), but he certainly has plenty of offensive talent. Hennigar also produced in the clutch: even though UNB lost in the final, he put up three assists and one goal in their three tournament games and was named to the tournament all-star team.

It's been quite a week for Hennigar: he was also named the AUS male nominee for the BLG Award today, given annually to the top male and female athletes in CIS competition. He'll be up against Bishop's running back Jamall Lee, Winnipeg volleyball player Ben Schellenberg and Carleton basketball star Aaron Doornekamp. Interestingly, the CIS press release is dated April 10, 2008, so it must be a message from the future: perhaps they released it earlier than planned due to the Calgary Herald reporting the nominees today?

One final note on this: Dreger calls the Hennigar signing "an indication the National Hockey League is showing growing interest in CIS players," and titles his column "CIS could be an untapped market for NHL". He also quotes Kevin Dickie, the Varsity Reds' athletic director who's also a former L.A. Kings scout, who describes the CIS as an "untapped market". Add Dreger and Dickie to the list of those who are talking about the quality of CIS hockey, which also includes Bob McCown, Ron MacLean and Don Cherry and Gare Joyce. Neate also wrote about a couple of CIS goalies getting shots at the pros, including McGill's Mathieu Poitras, who the Anaheim Ducks called up as a third goalie for their playoff run. If this trend keeps up, the league won't stay an "untapped resource" for long.
Nice timing on Carleton's part — confirmation has been sent out that the Kansas Jayhawks' next game, after the little matter of that NCAA title game vs. Memphis tonight — will be on Aug. 30 vs. the Ravens in pre-season action.

From the perspective of a hoops junkie, of course, tonight Kansas is playing a U.S. version of Carleton. Memphis' system of dribble-drive motion bears more than a passing resemblance to Carleton's drive-and-kick game.

(Thanks to David Kent at Carleton.)

Kansas making pre-season tour to Canada (Dec. 20, 2007)
A pair of now-former Varsity Reds are not happy about another decision related to UNB's cutting of women's hockey.

In a letter published in The Gleaner (out of Frederiction), Sylvia Bryson and Elizabeth Arbeau give a wag of the finger to the university for un-inviting two players to the UNB Athletic Banquet because they are graduating later this year and not this semester.

Bryson, in her fourth year, and Arbeau, an alumna, point out that similar situations in previous years have resulted in invitations and full participation in ceremonies. The two players they write about, who still have eligibility left, miss out on this year's ceremony and will not be attending next year's because "both players have opted to complete their degrees as soon as possible" and have no reason "to stay at UNB an extra year."

The upshot is, as they write:
We have been stripped of our varsity status and now are denied recognition as a graduate of the athletic and academic programs that we have poured our hearts into.
What is there to add? Let's just call it another thumbs-down to UNB.

What else is left to take away? (Letter to The Gleaner)
Interestingly enough, in the midst of the NCAA's annual massive media exposure around its basketball tournament, a talented player is leaving the States to come play in CIS competition. Israel Jones, a midfielder with the Division I Southern Methodist University men's soccer team, has decided to join the Trinity Western Spartans on a transfer from SMU. Jones was an All-American in high school and made the all-freshman team and the Conference USA tournament all-star team with SMU back in 2004. According to Trinity's press release, he's also played professionally in the Major Indoor Soccer League, which actually has a pretty good quality of play from the games I've watched (though those non-soccer obsessives who don't subscribe to Fox Sports World Canada probably haven't heard of the league). The Spartans, last year's Canada West champions, also picked up local product Liam McAllister, who's played with the Vancouver Whitecaps' U-18 team.

The particularly remarkable aspect of this transfer is how it comes at a time when two other nearby B.C. schools are considering packing up and moving to the NCAA. Way back in January, UBC Associate Director of Athletics Theresa Hampson told me that part of UBC"s rationale for considering the jump to NCAA Division II was a desire to attract a higher calibre of athletes, particularly Canadian ones. "We want to keep the best student-athletes in Canada, and one way to do that is full-ride scholarships," she said. Well, Trinity appears to have found an athlete who at one time was a Division I star without being able to offer full-ride scholarships.

It might be dangerous to draw too broad a conclusion from this case, though, given that I'm not all that familiar with Jones and most of the information on him seems to be largely about his first year or two. He also seems to have popped up with the Des Moines Menace of the Premier Development League (the bottom rung of United Soccer League competition: think single-A baseball or so) and the University of Louisville Cardinals at some point, but didn't seem to appear too prominent with either team. It's quite possible that he's cooled off considerably since his freshman campaign and has bounced around as a result. Still, it's interesting that an American guy from Cleveland who was a NCAA star at one point would be interested in joining a West Coast CIS team, particularly at a smaller university like TWU.

CIS men's soccer has seen some pretty talented players overall, though. Consider last year's national championships, which featured Toronto FC goalkeeper Srdjan Djekanovic returning to the UBC Thunderbirds to help them to the Sam Davidson Memorial Trophy. Interestingly enough, Djekanovic wasn't even selected as the tournament's best goalkeeper despite his professional experience: that honour went to Western's Haidar Al-Shaibani. He's now signed with the Vancouver Whitecaps. Djekanovic wasn't the only pro in last year's championships, either: others included York's Nana Attakora-Gyan and Jamaal Smith, who were both also with TFC last year. It seems men's soccer's in pretty good shape at the CIS level.
Good luck and godspeed to former Brock Badgers guard Jodie Ebeling, who's off this weekend to a WNBA free-agent tryout camp.

Ebeling averaged 26 points this season in Germany. No doubt the odds are long for a CIS player to stick in the WNBA, but a team always needs a third point guard who'll work her/his rear off in practice and be the best player on the floor when he/she gets in game.

Another note is that Brock is retiring Brad Rootes' No. 4 jersey. They don't waste any time down there in the Niagara Region.
McGill Athletics has passed along word that goalie Mathieu Poitras will be carried on the Anaheim Ducks roster as the emergency goalie during the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Poitras, 25 still has his fifth year of eligibility, so I guees if he doesn't appear in a game, he can conceivably return to the Redmen. Of course, we were remiss in not acknowledging former St. FX goalie Mike Mole's call-up to the Islanders. It's been rough lately (OK, actually it hasn't been).

(Thanks to Earl Zukerman.)
The Scrum Brandon is always the must-read when it comes to the Bobcats. They didn't disappoint when it comes to the "gong show" (their phrase) that the coaching search became. (As you know, they've gone with former star Keith Vassell, who'd been coaching overseas.)

"... you got the sense that the presentations were merely formality. You simply can't have someone on a hiring committee outwardly and overtly talking up one of the candidates. It's wholly unprofessional and a mind-boggling move from people supposedly in positions of prominence and esteem.

"... I would love to say that the presentation process was a success, but I can't say that whole-heartedly. And I’d love so say we can all feel better about Brandon University's open and honest approach to hiring, but I can’t say that either."
-- David Larkins

Vassell, who was Final 8 MVP on Jerry Hemmings' last national championship team in 1996, is the fifth coach in six seasons for the Bobcats. The rumblings is that he was tapped based on his ability to recruit. That will raise questions about how well the Bobcats come together under their latest coach, especially when you consider that Brock and Carleton, the past two national champions, had players whose relationship with their coaches predates their university careers.
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