Written by Stetson Collichio.
U Sports basketball is back. The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball team’s season kicks off Thursday night as they look to grab a win over the visiting York University lions.
The Rams offseason was substantial, as longtime lead assistant coach Borko Popic was informed he’d be taking over the team, as previous head coach Roy Rana departed for his new position with the NBA’s Sacramento Kings. The Rams’ offseason included a seven player recruitment class, including ex-laurier guard Tevaun Kokko, who dropped 17 points last game in the loss against Dalhousie, respectively.
Kokko, a two-time OUA All-Star from Markham, Ontario looks to provide a spark for Ryerson this season. Averaging 19.1 PTS, 3.1 AST and 31 MPG in his sophomore season with Laurier, Kokko earned Laurier Team MVP in back-to-back years.
Last season, the Ryerson men’s basketball team set a school record for points in a season, finishing with a remarkable 42 points and placement of 2nd in the OUA East. As Ryerson will look to set the same standards, the team is noticeably different.
The loss of five graduating players meant there would be holes to fill in the starting lineup. Their loss will certainly be felt this season, but these departures allow one of the many new or returning rams to step up and bridge the gap.
“With the mix of returning guys and new players, we’re hoping to bridge that gap that’s been left by those graduates,” says Popic. “It’s an opportunity for our returning players to take on leadership roles and for some of our young guys to step in and establish roles early on. It’s a time of transition, but it’s also very exciting.”
Something to note is the brand new conference realignment. After playing in the OUA East for many seasons, the Rams have been moved into the OUA Central realm, which includes teams such as Brock, York, and Lakehead.
“Our mindset is focusing on how we get better today and how we take care of our next opponent,” says Popic. “If we take care of that, the standings will take care of themselves.”
All in all, Ryerson is desperate for a title. Attempting to carry the legacy of ex-head coach Roy Rana, as well as the elite graduating players may prove to be too difficult. However, this will in no way shape or form stop Ryerson from trying. The character and passion within each individual is resounding.
Ryerson kicks off their season Thursday, October 24th against york in the Mattamy Athletic Centre. The game will begin at 6 PM and can be streamed live at OUA.tv.