After a month of playing pre-season games across the country and in the States, the regular season will begin for the varsity basketball squads.
During the pre-season, the men’s team won seven of their nine games, and beat all six of their Canadian opponents.
“We have a great foundation to build something positive [on],” explained head coach John Dore. “We’re trying to get better every time we play.”
Eight of the 13 players on the men’s team are either rookies or in their second year.
Returning starters James Clark, Evens Laroche and Decee Krah will be called upon to lead the team this season.
Krah said he is excited about his new role. “It’s a new thing for me, but I’m adjusting. I’m looking forward to [playing with] the bunch of guys we have. It’s fun so far, I really appreciate the position I’m in.”
Zach Brisebois, a rookie forward from John Abbott College, appreciates the help and advice he’s been getting from the veterans.
He has a few thoughts on what it will take for the Stingers to be successful this season.
“I think it’s the way we play together, like the way our chemistry comes along during the year. We’ve got all the right players, [so] as long as we play together we’ll be alright.”
The acquisition of Kyle Desmarais has also bolstered the Stingers’ lineup. Having played for the Central Connecticut State Blue Devils in the States last year, Desmarais chose to return to Montreal this year and settled in with Concordia.
“He’s doing a terrific job for us. He brings intensity and toughness and skill to the point guard position. He’s also a pretty good defender,” Dore explained. “So with him and [Krah] in the back court, we have one of the best back courts in the country, we feel.”
The challenge now will be to translate pre-season success into a strong showing this year.
They posted a 4-12 record last year, and finished in the fifth and last place.
The Stingers open the season on the road against the top-ranked teams in the Quebec division from last year. They play Laval on Friday and UQAM on Saturday.
“It’s a tough start to the year. If we can get by the weekend, we’ll be in good shape.”
The pre-season schedule for the women’s team has been gruelling. The team played tournaments in New Brunswick, Manitoba and Ottawa on consecutive weekends during October, when most students have the bulk of their midterms.
The games were also against opponents ranked among the top teams in Canada.
But head coach Keith Pruden explained that the schedule is designed with a purpose in mind.
“The idea is to learn how to play at the highest possible level, so that we carry that intensity into the regular season … Everything we do in pre-season is structured to help them prepare for league play, but also for the post-season.”
His team had less of a smooth start, posting a 4-5 record on the road and losing to Carleton in a non-conference game at home last week.
The women’s team has almost as many rookies as returning players. Seven of the players are first years, one is in her second, and six have been on the team for three years or more.
“The fact that we have so many rookies [who] are playing significant minutes has its drawbacks, because their learning curve is fairly steep. But they’re making improvements every day, which is really all you can ask for. So it’s working out probably better than I would have anticipated.”
Pruden said he is looking to all six of the veterans, including the three captains, Yasmin Jean-Philippe, Kendra Carrie and Andreanne Gregoire-Boudreau to help integrate the rookies.
“All of the veterans are in a position to offer leadership to the first-year players because they’ve been through a year and they know more or less what to expect.”
The game plan for this weekend is under wraps, but Pruden did offer some insight into what to he expects from his team.
“Everyone’s going to be a little nervous and everyone’s going to be a little tight. Exhibition games count, but it’s not the same as playing against your league rivals. And because the Quebec league is so small, everyone’s a rival.”
The ultimate goal for this year? Win games, win playoffs, win nationals.
“We’re more than talented enough to do that […], given that we’re deeper and more athletic this year, I think we have a chance to do a little bit better.”
The Stingers, both the women’s and men’s teams, will take on Laval in Quebec City Friday night and UQAM at their home gym Saturday night. Game times are 6 and 8 p.m. on Friday, 5 and 7 p.m. on Saturday.