Assistant Coach Ernie Rosa made it clear that trying out for the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team is not as easy as one thinks.
Not long after his year’s tryout for the maroon and gold was underway some players left the Loyola gym in silence, with their heads down.
“On the first day of try-outs we try to filter out the guys not at the level required to play university basketball,” said Rosa. “It’s not like you can just walk off the street and impress us.”
Like any team tryout, the Stingers basketball tryout includes drills. But Rosa said walk-ons won’t be standing in line for the basic lay up and shoot around drills familiar to the sport.
Walk-ons will have to show what they can do in a scrimmage.
“We want to see how they run the floor, move without the ball and defend away from the ball,” he said. “A walk-on has to be able to do a bit of everything. You just cannot run up and down the court. We need more.”
There are tangible reasons for a scrimmage. The first is to see if a player has these basic skills, and the second is to show the coaches if they can play within a team structure.
“Well have a good idea if one player can compete after the first few scrimmages,” said Rosa. “The ones who are cut are usually the walk-ons who have had some playing experience but not enough to compete at the team level we require.”
The concern this year of those hoping to be part of the Stinger team is to break through the pack. The men’s Stingers team lost three seniors at the end of the 2005-2006 Season. Rastko Popovic, Chris Blackwood and Ben McCarthy have moved on.
But the future is bright. Ben Sormonte is coming back for his last year at the two-three guard; Desmond Murphy out of Dawson will join the team as a big man; Sebastien Martin from Granby, and Paget Burridge, a local two-three guard returning from a stint in the US basketball system will also join the team.
“We have a commitment to the players we recruited,” Rosa said. “Open spots on our team are very limited.”
Skills and basketball savvy isn’t the only criteria. A player’s eligibility period is taken into consideration. “Someone who has just started and has five years left may get an invitation over someone who has two years left,” Rosa said.
The Stingers’ coaching staff is up front and honest and thinking of what is best for the team.
“Even if the older player has more skills we try to look at the big picture. If we think a player in his first year of eligibility can develop and contribute to the team over the next few years then we may choose him.”
Planning for the future is the Hallmark signature of head coach John Dore.
Veteran Stinger Rastko Popvics made the team for his shooting skills but developed to be an all round player.
Montreal born Jay Prosper was told in 1995 he didn’t have what it took to play in the QSSF, but eventually returned the year after and got the okay to join the team. Prosper ended up conference most valuable player in 1998-1999.
An invitation for a walk-on to join the team is rare but not unheard of.
But with this invitation comes a set of expectations. A player’s time and dedication is critical, along with a thorough understanding of what it means to be a part of a team.
“When we tell them what is required of them over a six month period it sometimes makes them rethink what they are doing,” said Rosa.
Team members are expected to practice five days a week, travel with the team to away games and keep up with their classes. During the play-off run in January and February a player is expected to put in a six day week. On game night, they are expected to be ready thirty minutes prior to tip-off.
Most first year players are burned out by December.
“It happens every year,” Rosa said. “Their bodies are hurting because they have never experienced such a grueling pace, but after a few weeks during the Christmas break they adjust.”
By then a player knows what it takes to be a Stinger.