Hamilton, ON- When the McMaster men’s basketball team finally returned to the court for their first preseason games, there was a different look to the team.
Gone are Khalil Miller, Mychael Paulo, Sefa Otchere, Tristan Lindo, Johnny Kitenge and Brandon Bernard. Back are Ares Culley-Bremner, Mike Demagus, Nathan Charles, Brendan Amoyaw, Ay Osunde and others.
In are nine new players. Some were first years. Some were OCAA transfers. Nevertheless, those players got their first taste of U SPORTS action in the past week.
After three home games so far, the Marauders are 1-2. They lost to the Mohawk Mountaineers 74-64 before beating the Memorial Sea-Hawks 60-47. Then came arguably their toughest test yet: a date with the Concordia Stingers on Sept. 30.
The Marauders – featuring plenty of those new players – kept the game close throughout. They attacked the rim and hit threes. However, they also gave up the same on the defensive end. Concordia was able to hit three-pointers of their own and drive into the paint.
The end result? A 101-89 defeat, where the home side was close and within striking distance but couldn’t pull off the comeback.
“I honestly felt like we could have won it,” guard Tyrelle Miller said. “There were things that we missed out on, gave up easy baskets. Just little stuff that we need to clean up.”
Defence was a main focus for Marauders head coach Patrick Tatham after the game as well. He talked about the need to know the scouting report and the personnel better. He talked about they gave up too many threes.
“Our defence just has to get better,” he noted. “Can we get consistent with the defence. Yeah, we’re going to have to find a way.”
The Marauders are trying to improve defensively with a group including several new faces. There’s Miller – a transfer for Lambton College. There’s fellow transfers Daniel Graham (Mohawk), Parker Davis (Redeemer) and Moody Qasim (Sheridan).
Tatham said their college experience definitely helps but added that U SPORTS is a different level. “The speed is a little bit faster. The physicality is a little bit more. The height is a little bit more,” he added. “And then the understanding of scouts [report], out the roof.”
Miller transferred to McMaster because of the opportunity to play at that next level. He felt if he stayed where he was, he would have been stagnant instead of trying to elevate what he wants to do – which is play basketball.
He also mentioned the faster pace in U SPORTS as well as facing different defences. He mentioned adapting on the go – something evident even by his third preseason game.
“Really just slowing down and letting the game come to me,” he said. “The last few games, I was rushing. I felt rushed.”
As point guard, Miller’s making reads and helping run the offence. He’s focused on not letting the defence dictate what he does. Instead, he focuses on what they’ve done in practice.
A main focus for the team is getting acclimated. It’s something the first-year players from high school will have to get used to as well.
“The biggest thing for me is you got to know what we do and do it consistently,” Tatham said. Understanding how to be consistent on defence for example – something he hopes they’ll become over the next few weeks and months.
This involves lots of film review, some growing pains and time, according to their head coach.
The Marauders still have several preseason games to go before their regular season tips off against on Nov. 1. Tatham called it a pretty hard first half of the season with opponents such as Laurier, Toronto, Ottawa, Carleton, TMU and Brock.
They still have three games in a tournament in Manitoba before hosting the Mercyhurst Lakers and Calgary Dinos to round out their exhibition schedule.
“My hope is that this preseason challenges us,” he added. “This challenges us right now, so it’s good.”
Featured Image: Stephen Leithwood/McMaster Athletics