Young Gaiters face challenges as conference play begins tonight

By: 
Mike Hickey
Special to the Record

The Bishop’s Gaiters reaped the benefits of having an experienced line-up last year when they captured the Quebec provincial championship, this year they will have to deal with the growing pains that accompany a roster with 11 newcomers.

“Tonight we commence league play,” head coach Rod Gilpin said. “We travel to UQAM to play a team with talent and athleticism. There will be no easy victories in our league as each of the other four teams are experienced and talented. If Thursday is jumping into the frying pan, then Saturday is jumping into the fire! We host McGill and they are currently ranked third in the CIS. They return everyone from last year and have added a transfer and recruits that will make them even tougher.

“Both games will be excellent challenges for our young group and we look forward to having the support of the BU faithful both in Montreal Thursday and back here at Mitchell on Saturday.”

The Gaiters are coming off a weekend in Massachusetts where they concluded their pre-season with a 77-67 win over Worcester Polytechnic Institute and a 75-52 defeat at the hands of American International College. The Gaiters finished with a 5-8 overall preseason record.

Gilpin will rely heavily on veterans Jona Bermillo and Sherbrooke native David Belanger, transfer Pete Weston and rookie Abdul Kamane and expect a lot of playing time for a group of talented but inexperienced rookies.

The McGill Redmen are the pre-season favourite and their No. 3 national ranking is justified. Head coach Dave DeAveiro has a talented, deep roster headed by last year’s most valuable player Francois Bourque, defensive player of the year Dale Ogundokun and conference all-star Vincent Dufort.

The biggest changes with the Concordia Stingers and UQAM Citadins are the departures of long-time coaches John Dore and Olga Hrycak.

The Stingers new mentor Rastko Popovic has a veteran squad including Michael Fosu, Ken Beaulieu and Richard Monge and an outstanding rookie in Schneiders Suffrard.

The Citadins, under the direction of Nate Philippe, will be looking to bounce back from a 64-49 season-opening loss to Concordia last week when they host Bishop’s tonight. Two players that the Gaiters need to watch are Greishe Cleiguste and Kewyn Blouin.

Finally the Laval Rouge et Or have experience, athleticism and a veteran coach in Jacques Paiment Jr. Karl-Demers Belanger and Thibaud Dezitter were both league’s all-stars while Alexandre Leclerc was selected as the top rookie in 2014-15.

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