The Stingers may be hard pressed to duplicate last season’s conference championship, and trip to the national finals. But don’t try telling head coach John Dore, because he’ll hear none of it.
“We want to finish on top and better what we did last year,” says Coach Dore, looking ahead to his 17th season at Concordia. “It all starts with the players, they’ve made it their goal to finish on top.”
Seven Stingers returned from last year’s team, that went an impressive 15-1 in conference play, including shooting guard Rastko Popovic. According to Popovic, the Stingers will have to play better basketball if they expect to reach last season’s success.
“Teams are going to come after us this year because of what we’ve done, and we’re going to have to be ready for that and work harder,” Popovic says. “The good thing is that we do have guys returning, we’ve been there before and we know what it takes.”
Despite the return of seven players, including three starters, it is difficult to ignore what will be absent from the Concordia Gym this season. While player turnover is inevitable in college sports, it is not every season that a team is forced to deal with the loss of a conference player of the year. Such is the case for the Stingers heading into 2005-06 however, with the departure of all-Canadian point guard Phil Langlois.
“Someone has to assume the role with Phil gone,” says Coach Dore. “Phil was a smart player, and was big on experience. [Starting point guard] Chris [Blackwood] will have to make responsible decisions that the team can benefit from.”
Blackwood, in his final year of eligibility will share time at point guard with freshman Damian Buckley, of Pierrefonds. Damian joins older brother Dwayne in the Stinger lineup. Langlois meantime is trying to crack the roster of the American Basketball Association’s Montreal Matrix, who begin play in November.
“It’s a big spot to fill when you lose one of the best in the country,” says Popovic. “But in landing Damian, we probably got one of the best point guards available in the nation.”
All-star forward, and returning starter, Patrick Perrotte, who played seven years with Langlois and remains good friends with him off the court, says the Stingers cannot focus on what’s gone from a year ago.
“Phil was a big part of the team, but we can win without him as well,” says Perrotte. “We can’t replace him man for man, but if our guys play better as a group and adjust their roles, then as a team we can be better.”
NEW THIS SEASON:
In addition to Buckley, Ben McCarthy of Brechin, Ont. should provide quality minutes in his first year at Concordia. McCarthy played four years at St. Mary’s before joining the Stingers as a graduate student.
At six feet ten inches, 240 pounds, McCarthy will team up with sophomore Jamal Gallier (6’7″, 277) to provide the Stingers with a size advantage they have lacked in seasons past. With McCarthy new to the lineup and Gallier expected to see increased playing time, the Stingers will rely on greater production under the basket.
The absence along the perimeter of Langlois and three-point specialist Ben Sormonte, also add to the need for strong play from the big men.
“It will take the focus off of guys like us on the outside,” Popovic said. “It gives us a more balanced offense and teams will have to respect that. We just have to learn how to use them and get the ball to them,” he said about the guards’ ability to feed the ball down low.
At six foot three, Perrotte also takes satisfaction in knowing that he will no longer be looked upon as one of Concordia’s tallest defenders.
“We’ve always had problems with mismatches. When our biggest guys were always six foot three or six foot four and we’d have to go against guys who were six foot 10, it was a real problem,” Perrotte says.
“But now, you look at us and suddenly we have one of the taller teams in the division, probably right up there with Bishop’s.”
NIKE BASKETBALL TOURNAMENT:
The Stingers opened the season last weekend with the 40th annual Concordia Nike Tournament from Concordia Gym. Led by Patrick Perrotte’s double-double (20 points, 10 rebounds), the Stingers beat a top-10 Ottawa Gee-Gee team 80-73 to captured the Nike Tournament championship. A day earlier the Stingers beat the Ryerson Rams 74-62 in their opening game.
Dwayne Buckley and Jamal Gallier were named to the tournament’s all-star team, with Perrotte taking MVP honours.
The Stingers are in Newfoundland this weekend for the annual Memorial Invitational Tournament. The following week they are playing a tournament at the University of Saskatchwan. Conference play begins in mid-November, following seven games against NCAA division I schools. The seven games will be played at Duke University, the University of Connecticut, the University of Vermont, the University of Georgia and the University of Virginia, who came to Concordia last year to take part in the Nike Tournament. It will provide the Stingers with some good experience before the regular season.