When the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks men’s and women’s basketball teams take the floor again, hopefully next fall, both teams will be vying for the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) playoffs.
It’s been over a year since the Ridgebacks played a game at the Campus Recreation and Wellness Centre, and they’re just returning to the facility after another lockdown but the Ridgebacks have upgraded both of their basketball teams across the board.
The men’s team had defined issues when it came to bench production. When AJ Cummings and OUA All-Rookie team stand out Graddy Kanku weren’t on the floor, there was no one they could rely on to step up, outside of Amar Hassan.
Over the last year, Francis has added a number of talented players who give them tools to work with and former Carleton Raven guard Anthony Pate looks to be a perfect fit in the starting line up next to the two young stars.
The women’s team never had issues with depth but injuries throughout their first season cut down on the potential that the team had. Being able to bring a fully health squad, with all the hustle and toughness that they showed so far will make the world of difference to them.
They’ve also added a number of intriguing talents like Mackenzi Chapman, and Vancouver Island all-star Harriette Mackenzie that will give them a needed boost on offence to complement their players.
The Ridgebacks have also retained every major piece from their inaugural season, including Kanku and Cummings and the front court of duo of Katherine Onunkwo and Vanessa Budimunda.
While it’s easy to look at the pandemic as a negative, the Ridgebacks teams have kept a positive attitude throughout the cancelled season. Ontario Tech ranked last in points against in 2019/20, which is to be expected with first-year teams . The extra time allows for head coaches Christa Eniojukan and Greg Francis to install defensive schemes beyond the standard fare.
The Ridgebacks signature “one bad quarter” should be a thing of the past when they return. Although it’s something coach Francis identified early in the preseason as a problem, it’s been a recurring message throughout the year. The Ridgebacks have to be more consistent to win games, and they know it.
Whenever Ontario Tech lace up their shoes for an official game of OUA basketball again, they’re going to be a completely different teams with new playoff expectations to match.
Long gone are the days of two wins combined between the teams.