RMC's looked down east for a saviour for its men's basketball team, with Scott James set to come aboard after five seasons as an assistant for the Dalhousie Tigers.

Having a coach who can recruit on the East Coast, where young people are typically more open to the notion of a career in the military, might help the Paladins become competitive again. The team is 1-65 in the OUA since the start of 2005-06; if James can get the program back in the playoffs, he'll probably be able to write his own ticket for another top job in a few seasons' time, not unlike former Paladins coach Craig Norman, who's now at McGill.

James takes RMC’s head job (Chad Lucas, Halifax Herald)
May-August are quiet months for Canadian university sports, but there are various ex-CIS names showing up on this or that national team, or in some professional capacity. One of those names is Jordan Mason, the All-Canadian guard who spent four years at SFU and one at Manitoba. And like most Canadians, Mason is spending his summer playing basketball in Slovakia.

He led his Extraliga team, which I hope I am referring to correctly as Nova Ves, with 23 points in their quarter-final-clinching win over Lucenec. They're now facing elimination in the semi-finals, down 2-1 in a best-of-five, so that may be as far as he gets in his rookie year.

Either way, it was a pretty successful first season by any standard: Mason joined a 27-17 playoff team, averaged about 26 minutes per game, finished with the fourth-most points on his team, and did various other things I can't translate. Congratulations to him.

(So we're all cheering against Inter Brat on Saturday, right?)
One of the interesting things about CIS volleyball is how many stars at the university level go on to play either for the national team or in the pro leagues in Europe. Earlier this week, the men's and women's national team rosters for this competitive season were announced, and as expected, almost all of the selected players come from a CIS background. On the men's side, several of the chosen players just finished their university careers, including Winnipeg's star setter Dustin Addison-Schneider, middle hitter Nathan Groenveld of the OUA-champion McMaster Marauders and fellow middle Adam Kaminski of the CIS-champion Alberta Golden Bears. Some of those selected to the team still have CIS eligibility, such as Laval Rouge et Or libero Nicholas Quirion and UNB left side hitter Davin St. Pierre, who's entering his second year with the national team. There are also plenty of CIS volleyball alumni on the team, including former Saskatchewan Huskies Michael Wiens, Mark Dodds and Kris Brand, former Alberta Golden Bears Brock Davidiuk and Dallas Soonias, former Queen's middle Adam Simac and former Manitoba Bisons Toon van Lankvelt, Mike Munday and Nathan Toews. Many of the other players selected also have CIS experience.

The women's side features a strong CIS flavour as well. Current Bisons Samantha Loewen and Ashley Voth cracked the squad, along with Bison alumnus Tammy Mahon. It's Voth's third-straight year on the senior national team, and she's only 19. Current UBC Thunderbirds Liz Cordonier, Jen Hinze, Marisa Field, and Kyla Richey are on the squad, as well as past Thunderbird Emily Cordonier (Liz's older sister). Three out of the four setters on the team have connections to the Alberta program: past Pandas Tiffany Dodds and Larissa Cundy made the squad, along with current Panda setter Daryll Roper. Current St. Mary's standout left side Kerri Smit, a member of the CIS All-Rookie team this past year, was also selected to the national side. Another prominent player with CIS connections is middle hitter Dayna Jansen Van Doorn of the Trinity Western Spartans, who will return for her senior year with the program in the fall after spending the summer with the national team. Much of the rest of the squad also has CIS connections, showing the prominent role university volleyball has in developing talent for the national teams.

This will be a bit of a lighter summer for the national sides, as they didn't qualify for the Beijing Olympics. The advantage of that is it allows for some younger players to be given more prominent roles in preparation for the 2010 World Championships and 2012 Olympic Games. Both programs will take part in the Pan-American Cup, which begins May 28: there will also be several exhibition matches spread over the summer.

- The official announcement at Volleyball Canada
- Some further analysis at Bomberino, a notable volleyball blog.
- A nice feature by Gary Ahuja of the Langley Times on Dayna Jansen Van Doorn, who's putting off knee surgery to compete for Canada.
Confirmation of what everyone knew ...

... It doesn't mean that Nipissing will join the league, but it would be great to see.

Nipissing hockey set in motion; University submits letter of intent to ice team in 2009-10 (Ken Pagan, North Bay Nugget)
McMaster's Jody Kingsbury has done outdone himself with the YouTube-age from yesterday's CIS East-West Bowl.

Mount Allison's Gary Ross, on video, looks really impressive. Can a wideout from a school the size of Mount Allison win the Hec Crighton?

McMaster's new Ron Joyce Stadium looks gorgeous, by the way.
The aforementioned sixth-annual East-West Bowl provided some quality May afternoon viewing for aficionados of CIS football. The East overcame their string of five straight losses to pull out a 25-12 victory, although the game was much closer than that: at the end, the Eastern team had only racked up 10 more yards than the Western squad. The East was able to turn their possessions into points, though, and led for most of the game.

Several players turned in stellar performances. Queen's quarterback Dan Brannagan had a good game for the East, including a highlight-reel 50-yard bomb to star Mount Allison receiver Gary Ross. Brannagan also threw several other excellent long passes that his receivers couldn't quite pull in, and had an impressive outing overall. As colour commentator Don Edwards noted, "He has got a cannon for an arm."

On the ground, BLG Award nominee Jamall Lee, the Bishop's running back, had several good rushes for the East, and Acadia kicker James Michener (no word on if he's related to the author) had a stellar day, nailing all three of his field-goal attempts and consistently producing effective punts.

For the West, Guelph quarterback Justin Dunk had a good day, completing six of his ten passes for 66 yards. McMaster's Matt Giordano and Saskatchewan's Travis Gorski were constant threats at receiver, along with Manitoba's Simon Blaszczak, a 6-foot-5 star who made some of the day's best catches over the middle, including a great touchdown grab off a pass from Laurier's Ian Noble.

Overall, it was a strong game that should whet the appetites of CIS football fans for more to come in the fall. Some great talent has moved on to the CFL, but this game showed that there are still plenty of good players left to compete at the university level next season.

Update: 2:41 AM, May 11: There seems to be some inaccuracy in Justin Dunk's numbers. The TV/web commentators said at the end of the game he was 6 for 8 for 74 yards, which is the information I used as I didn't have access to a box score (which still doesn't seem to be posted anywhere). A source informs me that the box score sent out to various media outlets has him listed as passing for 66 yards. This could be another OUA/CIS statistics mixup, or it could just be that the announcers were given the wrong numbers. Also, the aforementioned lack of scoresheet data meant that I didn't have statistical data on the day's best performers, so I generally went with the impressions I had. Players who had good days who I didn't mention earlier include Mac's own Kevin D’Hollander, the West's top receiver with six catches for 67 yards, and Saskatchewan's Tyler O'Gorman, the top Western rusher with 52 yards on 10 carries. Lee, Brannagan, Gary Ross and McGill's Anthony Lukca all had strong performances for the East.

One more update, May 11, 3:38 PM: I just received a copy of the official box score, and it seems the TV commentators not only stated the wrong yardage for Dunk, but also gave a wrong number of attempts. According to the box score, he was 6 for 10, not the six for eight stat they gave (which I posted earlier). Still not a bad day, but nowhere near as impressive as the 6 for 8 for 74 yards they mentioned originally (which I promptly wrote about). Laurier's Ian Noble had a better day for the West, completing 7 of 11 passes for 89 yards.

- Mark Masters has a good article for the CanWest papers here.
- The CIS recap provided by McMaster Sports Information is here.
- The CP story is here.

Update the third, May 12, 2008, 8:55 P.M.

Some more information on the stats mixup has come in... apparently, Cable 14 in Hamilton (who I thought did a great job on both the local feed and the webcast, by the way: it was nice to see this game televised for the first time) used their own statisticians due to a lack of Internet access in the stadium, which would have allowed the broadcast crew access to the official stats. A Thus, blame shouldn't be cast on the OUA/CIS or the McMaster officials keeping stats: they went with their own official set of stats, and the TV guys went with their own unofficial set. It's interesting that Dunk's stats are so different, though: perhaps he was misidentified on some pass attempts by one of the groups? That wouldn't be hard to do with three different quarterbacks all seeing frequent playing time. Anyways, to summarize: original stats posted were unofficial. Justin Dunk's official stats as kept by the CIS: 6 for 10 for 66 yards. Hope that clears things up.
Just a quick note that this year's East-West Bowl, the annual showcase for top CIS football players, will be televised and webcast live for the first time at 4 p.m. today. The game will be shown live from McMaster's new Ron Joyce Stadium (Timbits, anyone?) on Cable 14 in the Hamilton area, and the TV feed can also be seen on the web both at the Streaming Sports Network's site and on the CIS site.

It should be a pretty good match. There's some quality talent on display, including CIS Player of the Year and BLG Award runner-up Jamall Lee, the star running back from Bishop's who will suit up for the East squad. Lee put up 1464 rushing yards this year, almost 300 more than his nearest rival in CIS competition (Calgary's Anthony Woodson, who finished with 1183). One of the Eastern quarterbacks is Queen's Dan Brannagan, who finished third in Ontario and sixth in Canada in passing yards last season with 2123 yards on 112 completions (good for a very impressive average of 18.96 yards per completion). He'll face competition from Laval's Benoit Groulx, who finished first in the CIS with a 75.86% completion percentage (in a small sample size of four games) and Mount Allison's Kelly Hughes, the top AUS passer with 2048 yards on 153 completions. The East's receiver corps includes Hughes' teammate Gary Ross, who finished 12th in the country and first in AUS competition with 633 yards receiving on 36 catches, an average of 17.58 yards per catch. An Eastern defensive standout is defensive back Anthony Lukca of the McGill Redmen, who finished first in CIS with 71.5 tackles this year.

The West also has some quality players, starting at quarterback, where Western's Michael Faulds, Guelph's Justin Dunk and Laurier's Ian Noble will compete for minutes. The three pivots finished third, 13th and 14th in CIS competition in passing yards last year, with 2292, 1784 and 1388 yards respectively. One of their top targets will be Waterloo receiver Joshua Svec, who finished 17th in OUA competition last season with 334 yards on 17 catches, averaging 19.65 yards per catch. Other options at receiver include the McMaster tandem of Andrew Ross and Matt Giordano, as well as Saskatchewan's Travis Gorski and Scott McHenry. At running back, the West has Alberta's Tendayi Jozzy, Saskatchewan's Tyler O'Gorman, Laurier's Peter Quinney and UBC's Cheng Wei. Jozzy put up the most rushing yards last season, recording 577 on 110 carries in seven games (5.25 yards per carry). A defensive player to watch for the West is Calgary's Andrea Bonaventura, a linebacker who recorded two interceptions and 26 tackles in just five games for the Dinos last year. Another defensive star is Bonaventura's teammate Matt Grohn, a defensive back who racked up 39 solo tackles in just seven games for the Dinos last season. Regina linebacker Brandon Ganne also will suit up for the West: he put up 39 solo tackles, a sack and a forced fumble in last year's campaign.

Historically, the East-West Bowl has been quite the talent showcase. 24 of the 33 CIS players picked in the April 30 CFL Draft played in the 2007 game, and another player chosen this year played in the 2006 edition. You can bet the scouts will be watching, along with the rest of us. I'll check in here with some thoughts after the game.
  • Word of Queen's student broadcaster Matthew Bisson's "the greatest moment in amateur or professional sports history" goal call has reached as far as South Dakota. The Rapid City Journal played it up in a story about Golden Gaels centre Brady Olsen signing with the Rush of the Central league.
  • A hearty congratulations is due to London Free Press scribe Morris Dalla Costa, who's the OUA nominee for the Fred Sgambati Award for media coverage. 
  • Well-known CIS football chronicler Duane Rollins, of College Colours renown, has signed on to be a co-blogger at Out of Left Field, which should raise the property values over there.
  • A good site that I should have found out about earlier is CIS Football Recruiting Database. It's exactly what it sounds like — a comprehensive list of who's headed where among the incoming high schoolers, junior players and transfers. There's no claim as to whether it's up to date or accurate, but it's more information than fans and journalists have had at their fingertips when it comes to new players.
The Vancouver Province — which is definitely on the Heroes list for its university coverage — noted the other day that the Saskatchewan Huskies visit Simon Fraser on Sept. 13. There's a Roughriders-B.C. Lions game in Vancouver on the same day, so apparently a doubleheader for B.C. Place is being mulled.

It isn't something that happens often, a university and pro football game in the same stadium on the same day. In 2005, a doubleheader occurred in Hamilton — McMaster played rival Western in the afternoon at Ivor Wynne prior to a night game between the Tiger-Cats and Calgary Stampeders.

It also happened in 2002, but it wasn't planned — a few months before the season, some  Internet geek looked over the OUA and CFL schedules and saw that a Queen's-Ottawa Gee-Gees and Toronto-Ottawa game were each scheduled for the afternoon. 

The university game ended up being moved to the evening; the Ottawa teams lost both games.

(Hat tip to Robert Hilson on the Hamilton footnote.)
It's not the only offseason coaching change in women's basketball, but it's worth noting that Tyler Slipp, previously an assistant coach with Simon Fraser, will be the head coach of the Waterloo Warriors next season. It's his first head coaching job in the CIS after a year assisting an extremely successful coach out west and four years at UNB.

UW's a good place for Slipp to start his coaching career. Since 2004-2005, the Warriors have finished 6-16, 5-17, 10-12, and 12-10 last year (plus a pair of playoff games). Waterloo should also have Reanne Holden, their red-shirted transfer from York, in the lineup this fall, so there's certainly enough talent for Slipp to work with. However, that four-year record increase coincides with the rise of two graduating players: Gillian Maxwell and Kate Poulin, who logged a lot of minutes and scored a lot of points last year. So there's also work to be done with the returning players, but Waterloo's student body is also, shall we say, not exactly crazy about athletics. The pressure on Slipp will likely be lessened compared to Simon Fraser. (The previous coach lasted just a year, too, so there isn't any shoe-filling he isn't capable of.)

SFU's dominance in women's basketball is well-known around these parts and if Slipp can bring some of that success to southwestern Ontario, it will certainly improve Waterloo's chances.

As a side note, Tyler Slipp's from a basketball family (mom Joyce is in the Canadian Hall of Fame and coached UNB for several years, a few with her son by her side; dad Dick played for the Varsity Reds and also assistant-coached for a bit), meaning he should fit right in with the Kieswetter clan surrounding the men's team.
"The North Bay Skyhawks are likely out as the main tenant at Memorial Gardens after next season and a new Nipissing Lakers men's varsity hockey team is in.

"That was the message delivered Sunday by Skyhawks management, who decided togo public with the issue by calling a media conference." -- North Bay Nugget
This sort of reads as a pre-emptive strike fired by the Junior A club. It is threatening to fold and hang on to the junior hockey rights for the area so no junior team can move in with Hockey Canada's blessing -- in other words, make Nip U look like Larry Tanenbaum in a mortorboard.
"... after an initial meeting between the two groups Saturday, it appeared the revenue pie provided by arena advertising rights isn't sufficient enough to operate both programs effectively."
Obviously, given the focus of this site, it would be great to see another Canadian university get in the game for men's hockey (and women's hockey in good time, right?). One point that should be stressed is that ideally, any school wishing to ice varsity hockey should have its own campus rink, so these rob-Peter, pay-Paul situations don't crop up.

Hopefully, the people in North Bay do what's right for North Bay. The timing and the tide might be right for CIS hockey in Ontario's North.

One question in the long, long, long term is realignment if Nipissing and McMaster (does anyone know what's going on there?) push the OUA up to 20 teams.

There doesn't seem to be a satisfactory way to put Brock, Guelph, Lakekead, Laurier, McMaster, Nipissing, Waterloo, Western, Windsor and York into two five-team groups without irking someone. McMaster would probably want to play traditional Southern Ontario rivals, while Nipissing would probably want a Northern Ontario with Lakehead.

It might be the spur for the OUA to finally drop that byzantine four-division setup, with its "Mid-East" and "Far West," and just have two 10-team conferences. Each team can play a home-and-home in the conference (18 games) and play each team on the other side once for a 28-game schedule.

Of course, going to 20 teams might be used to justify having 16 playoff spots, which would be just as bad as major junior hockey. The university game is better off having teams earn their spot.

UPDATE, 3:40 p.m., May 6: Just doing our rock 'n' roll duty to pass along Ken Pagan's latest on hockey at Nip U... : Process underway for Nipissing hockey squad; Plenty of details still to be worked out for 2009-10
Interesting, interesting ... Calgary Dinos hoops star Henry Bekkering is working out with the football team as a wide receiver and slotback, a year after the CFL's Stampeders took a fifth-round flier on him.

Evidently, someone passed along a link to Out of Left Field.
Bekkering's gridiron bid leaves hoops coach wincing; Dinos basketball forward goes 'all into it' in tryout (Rita Mingo, Calgary Herald)

Northern Ontario has been off the OUA hockey map since Laurentian folded its program after the 1999-2000 season, but one commentator is suggesting that Nipissing, in North Bay, should give it a long look.

There's a feeling that Nipissing might have missed out on what Lakehead, who joined the league in '01-02, discovered.
"As Nipissing University continues to grow, exploring the establishment of a university hockey team is a reasonable progression. The successful Lakehead model is there to be emulated. With scholarship money available and OHL players looking to spend their education package and continue playing, the player pool is steady.

"A new health and physical education program at Nipissing is also a nice complement.

"Nipissing University is growing and the college and university will continue to fuel the city's growth. A hockey team might also reduce the disconnect between the campus and the core of the city."

McMaster has also talked about re-establishing hockey after being out of the game for about 20 years. Mac would be the 19th team in the league; there would be a need for a 20th in order to help with scheduling.

Peering into the future of North Bay hockey, perhaps (Ken Pagan, North Bay Nugget)
One aim here is to highlight stories that are quirky and wouldn't get widely reported.

Former UBC forward Michael Gough leading Australia win the Division II Group B world championship falls under both headings.

Gough grew up in Kingston, Ont., but has dual citizenship since he was born in Australia while his father was there on a teaching exchange. Hey, everyone loves this kind of story. Let's not piggyback on it any more than necessary.

The all-time greatest story about an athlete competing for a country he had only a loose tie was told by the late Dick Schaap (yes, I have blog and have heard of Dick Schaap, take that Buzz Bissinger) about a British decathlete named Clifford "Snowy" Brooks.

In 1972, Brooks wrote to the Olympic bosses in Barbados and said, "My father, whom I never met, I'm told was from Barbados. May I represent Barbados in the Olympics Game." Not only did they say yes, but they let him be their flagbearer in the opening ceremonies.

Years later, Snowy Brooks checked and found out his biological father was actually Canadian.

Down Under wonder; Kingstonian helps Australia win hockey championship (Patrick Kennedy, Kingston Whig-Standard)
Seeing that Lakehead's basketball recruiting class includes Ottawa point guard Greg Carter certainly did get my attention.

The 5-foot-10 Carter led his high school team, St. Pat's, to the Ontario AAA championship this season, as they became the first school from the nation's capital to win in the province's second-largest classification. With Carter, St. Pat's was competitive with top quad-A teams from the Toronto area, and they won at the provincials after coming in as a No. 4 seed — not too shabby for a team with a 6-foot-3 centre.

Lakehead isn't necessarily a contender, but getting a point guard who's won championships always turns heads. Western freshman point guard Ryan Baribeau came up big at the Final 8 for the Mustangs and of course, he won three Ontario AA titles at Belleville Nicholson Catholic.
Sorting out the CFL's draft proceedings with respect to the CIS (and no claim on being an insider or well-informed):
  • Tinfoil-hat-wearers will surmise that there was no way all six rounds would pass without a Canadian quarterback being selected. Regina's Teale Orban went to the hometown Roughriders with the first pick of the final round, meaning he'll be the next Canadian hope.

    Ottawa's Josh Sacobie, who went undrafted, pointed out the fact that he and Orban were invited to work out for CFL teams is an indicator of progress. (I was talking to him for Ottawa Sun purposes.)

    "When you look at the history of the draft, if he was labeled at quarterback, had an option to convert him to receiver, that's usually what they would do," he said. "I do think the fact we were the first quarterbacks invited to work out in about four years is progress. Teale's going to have his shot."

    There always seems to be an 'out' with Canadians who get a CFL shot -- too old (think Darryl Leason), not athletic enough, not enough knowledge of a pro-style offence. Orban doesn't seem to have any obvious strike against him.
  • Thoughts on Queen's running back Mike Giffin going to Hamilton in the third round are up over at Out of Left Field. Western coach Greg Marshall noted on the TSN.ca webcast that teams are looking for big backs who can catch the ball "in space" and are both fast and strong enough to carry the ball on the inside zone play that's a staple of the spread offence. Giffin, at 235 lbs., might fit the bill.
  • Daryl Stephenson, the '06 Hec Crighton winner, went to Winnipeg, with the 24th overall pick.

    Stephenson still has a year of eligibility left, which creates an interesting scenario with where he'll play this season. Winnipeg seems to like the Windsor guys, since they already have Arjei Franklin.
  • Third-round picks apparently have a better chance at a lasting CFL career than first-rounders. That's good news for Giffin, Stephenson, McGill LB Jean-Nicolas Carriere (Argonauts), Saint Mary's LB Tim St. Pierre (Edmonton), Manitoba D-lineman Justin Cooper (also Edmonton), Mac LB Jason Aragki and Manitoba D-lineman Justin Shaw (both B.C.).
  • Anyone else surprised that no kickers were drafted?
  • The one wild card in the draft, as opposed to the big auction held a week earlier in the NFL, is that there's so much variance in football experience, which actually makes a much more fun crapshoot. The Toronto Argonauts took Mac slotback Mike Bradwell and Ottawa d-back Delroy Clarke, each of whom had limited football experience prior to beginning their post-secondary education.

    That's probably going to change in the years to come, what with the growth of youth football in many parts of Canada. In the long term, the CFL should use this as a basis to increase the import ratio, but fat chance of that happening.
  • Ottawa's SID, Dan Carle, provided some neat details about Clarke. He was an accomplished soccer player and sprinter in Jamaica before moving to Toronto during his teens; he learned about football by watching it on TV. He didn't take up tackle football until three years later.

    "A couple of my friends thought it would be good for me to try," is how Clarke put it on the phone yesterday. "Never in a million years did I think I'd get a chance at playing pro football."

    Now he'll get a chance with his hometown Argos. Only in Canada.

Again, this is by no means expert, just a couple opinions.

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