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Ole Miss basketball coach: “We just want to play”

by Nicholas Di Giovanni August 28, 2018
Ole Miss basketball coach: “We just want to play”

NCAA coaches see little difference between Canada and U.S.

The Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team hosted three American schools for a series of exhibition games in early August. The Ole Miss Rebels, South Carolina State Bulldogs and the Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks — all NCAA Division I teams — made the trip north of the border.

The Ole Miss Rebels, who play in the Southeastern Conference (SEC) — rated by ESPN as the fifth-best conference in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) — played the Stingers on Aug. 6. Although the Rebels finished the 2017-18 season in last place in the SEC with a 12-20 record, they’re still considered a top team. They made the second round of the men’s national tournament — meaning top 32 teams in the nation — in 2013 and 2015.

ole miss coach

Ole Miss head coach Kermit Davis said intense games against Canadian opponents is what his team needs. Photo by Mackenzie Lad.

The Rebels beat the Stingers 84-77, but Concordia nearly pulled off the upset when they led 45-35 at halftime. After the game, Stingers head coach Rastko Popovic said he hates losing, but was still happy with how his players competed.

“We told [the team] before the game, ‘Yeah they’re bigger than us, but size is just size, it doesn’t mean anything when you have heart, effort and energy,’” Popovic said. “It’s satisfying to know we can play with some of the top teams in the NCAA.”

The game against the Rebels, even though it was just the preseason, was high-intensity, with each side pushing hard to win. When The Concordian asked Rebels head coach Kermit Davis on why he decided to bring his team to Canada for a preseason tour he said, “For [competitive] games just like this.”

He also spoke highly of the Stingers. “I have so much respect for guys that play at Concordia,” Davis said. “Some of them worked today, got off work and came to play. They’ve had six practices. They’re privy to all the [facilities] we have in the Southeastern Conference.

“But basketball is basketball, and this is a university sport. Those guys played with a lot of energy and have a great coach,” the Ole Miss coach added. 

The Stingers’ other opponents, the South Carolina State Bulldogs and Maryland Eastern Shore Hawks, each play in the weaker Mid-Eastern Atlantic Conference (MEAC) and respectively had 10-22 and 7-24 records last season. The Stingers beat the Bulldogs 80-72 on Aug. 8 and won 82-76 against the Hawks on Aug. 12.

“The basketball up here is very good, there’s a lot of talent north of the border,” said South Carolina State head coach Murray Garvin. “I believe it opened our guys’ eyes to really what it’s about outside of the United States.”

Garvin pointed out to some rule differences between U Sports and the NCAA. Canadian universities play under the International Basketball Federation (FIBA) rules, while the NCAA has its own rules. FIBA rules have four quarters of 10 minutes with a 24-second shot clock, while the NCAA has two halves of 20 minutes with a 30-second shot clock. The three-point line is also a half-metre further from the rim in Canada.

“It’s a much faster and [more] physical game under FIBA rules,” Garvin adds. “The offensive game [in Canada] is very different. I think the coaching is second-to-none in terms of how they coach the offensive game.”

“Yes there’s differences,” Popovic said after the win against South Carolina State. “But at the end of the day, once the referee tosses the ball up, it’s just two teams playing basketball.”

The Stingers host the Concordia Classic tournament from Oct. 5 to 7 before starting their season at home against the Laval Rouge et Or on Nov. 8.

Main photo by Mackenzie Lad. With files from Eric Beaudoin.

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