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Basketball Sports

Jaheem Joseph dominates, no matter the circumstances.

The second-year basketball Stinger is a top scorer, despite being blind in one eye.

Jaheem Joseph plays basketball using one eye, and he has scored the most points in the RSEQ this season. The phenomenal shooting guard, in his second year at Concordia, is completely unphased by the fact that he only has five per cent vision in his right eye. It took lots of hard work to normalize his game.

Originally from Ottawa, Joseph spent his early years playing soccer. His father, a prolific basketball coach and ex-player, brought him to shoot around at their local gyms. This is where Jaheem discovered his love for basketball. He started playing on teams in his first year of secondary school, and discovered he had a talent when he was bumped up to play with older players due to his exceptional gameplay.

It was in July of 2020 that the hooper’s life would change forever. He and his friends were messing with fireworks at the park, and one flew into his right eye. At the time, he was getting ready to head to St. Benedict’s Preparatory School in New Jersey to pursue his athletic potential in America. Due to the unfortunate accident, he was now limited to rehabilitation, numerous surgical procedures and the classroom.

It was in April of the following year that Joseph would be ready to step on the hardwood again, accompanied by his high school athletic trainer Isabelle Chiasson at Saint Laurent Express. The two would spend four hours daily, every day for four months, performing sensory exercises and finding solutions to his impairment. Running, head positioning, positioning on the court and spatial awareness were their main targets for improvement.

That summer, Joseph played against Vanier College in the finals of a tournament while he was on the Red Rush Basketball Program, which is part of a grassroots leadership organization. The guard put on an incredible performance for a decisive win, and attracted attention from the CEGEP’s coach. 

“I just felt really natural. I felt like everything was just normal, like I’ve been through nothing in my life,” said the guard remembering the game. “It was just like playing basketball or just doing what I love. It was pretty normal, but when we go way back, I know it was all the work I had done with coach [Chiasson], of course.”

This 2023-24 season, Joseph dominated with the Stingers. He finished as the league’s second top-scorer, averaging 15.8 points per game. This was after being injured for two weeks after spraining his ankle playing at Université Laval on Nov. 25, before suffering a light concussion for a couple of days this past January.

Joseph was selected for the RSEQ All-Star second team, despite these outstanding statistics which he had thought sufficient to land him a place in the first team.

“I couldn’t understand why I got second team, but I feel like it’s pretty good,” he said. “I mean, I had a good season and I showed I should have been an all star this year, and then I think the next year coming up I can probably get on the first team and be MVP (Most Valuable Player) of the league one day.”

The star is grateful to have strong supportive people surrounding him, including head coach Rastko Popović, who was named RSEQ coach of the year in March. The trainer’s obsession with the game is contagious to his players. 

“[Popović] locks himself up and then just watches [game recap] film until he gets tired,” said Joseph. “You can see on film—it says he was watching a clip at 4:00 a.m., so he is crazy about details, but that’s what makes us like the number one team. So it’s really the passion, the drive that he has that really got the team going.”

Joseph is looking forward to next season, where he will be looking to prove himself all while being more supportive for the team.

Having only come up short by a hair this season when losing in the RSEQ finals to the UQAM Citadins, the Stingers team evidently has amazing potential. With more hard work, Jaheem Joseph and the men’s basketball team are sure to go the whole way next season.

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Basketball Sports

Serena Tchida wins perseverance award through long-time passion for basketball

Women’s basketball star picked for RSEQ All-Star team, wins U SPORTS award.

Stingers star Serena Tchida dominated the 2023-24 basketball season, finishing with the most overall points scored and the second-highest scoring average in the league at 15.1 points per game in the RSEQ. The forward finished with the third-highest field goal percentage, and fourth place in rebounding, averaging 7.2 rebounds per game. She was selected for the RSEQ All-Star Team, along with teammates Areej Burgonio and Rowena Blais.

She performed at this level in her first year back from a season ending tear in her Achilles tendon, which she suffered in the second half of the 2022-23 season, away against ULaval’s Rouge et Or. For this impressive feat, Tchida won the Tracy MacLeod award for determination, perseverance, and an unwavering spirit while overcoming adversity.

“The first time I heard of this award was in my first year. Myriam Leclerc won the award, so I had an example of what you need to do,” Tchida said. 

Coincidentally, Leclerc won U SPORTS Rookie of the Year in 2019, and Tchida was selected for the RSEQ all-rookie team in 2021. “It was one of my goals to get that award,” she said. “I tried to focus on my work, and gave all my worries and stress to God.”

Tchida started playing basketball in her fourth year of high school. Growing up in Notre-Dame-de-Grâce, she attended Saint-Luc High School, where she tried out for the school team with her friend. Her friend didn’t make the team, but Tchida did. She didn’t originally have a passion for basketball, but gradually discovered her talent along with a sense of family in her teammates, and support from her coaches which she didn’t have at home. 

One day, she was at Pagé Basketball with her friends for a shoot-around. A coach who was casually watching was impressed with her talent, and suggested that she try out for CEGEP Édouard-Montpetit. Which is what she did, and succeeded yet again. Although, for her, basketball was still only a pastime, and not pursuable in the future. 

Before her Achilles tear last season, Tchida suffered another major basketball injury in 2019, while she was playing for Édouard-Montpetit. She was anxious, as she was being scouted for the first time in her life. Coach Tenicha Gittens from Concordia University was visiting.

For the first time, she felt important, wanted, and looked forward to possibly being coached by a Black woman. Her whole career thus far, she had been coached by men. During the game, Tchida tore half of her ACL amid a scuffle on the hardwood. She shot right back up, and pushed to stay in the game. Unfortunately, her team’s athletic therapist refused. On the bright side, Gittens was convinced.

“That’s when my passion started,” Tchida said. “I saw that I was wanted by someone. [Gittens] took care of me since day one. I have a really good relationship with her… It was a dark time for me, but she didn’t let me quit, she didn’t let me go.” 

Fast forward to January 2023, Tchida tore her Achilles tendon in what seemed to be an unprompted, unexplainable manner. The small-forward was frustrated, as she had caught momentum after her impressive rookie season, where she averaged 6.8 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. 

“[Gittens] really helped me through the injury,” the All-Star forward explained. “She visited me at the hospital, she brought me to the hospital by car in Québec. She made sure that everything was on the table for me so I could just eat it. Her and my assistant coach, Shawn Browne, I’m super grateful for them because they made it so easy for me to get better. They made a good investment in me, and I was able to return it.”

Tchida said the secret to her speedy recovery was perseverance, all while staying calm and being in the present. “I didn’t put pressure on [myself],” Tchida said. “I was just going day by day and giving my all everyday. I was making sure that I gave the effort that I needed to, doing my exercise, eating good, being there for the girls, and putting 100 per cent effort.”

The leader has high expectations for her upcoming final season, and is grateful for every member of the Stingers. “I would love for us to go to nationals and play during nationals and live the experience that I lived when I went to get my award,” she said. “I want to win the championship for my coach and for my teammates and for everybody that believes in me.” 

Serena Tchida hopes to play at the professional level, and believes she will with help from her coaches.

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Basketball Sports

The Stingers’ quest for a RSEQ basketball title ends at the final hurdle

Concordia’s men’s basketball team loses in the final, the women’s in the semifinal.

The Stingers men’s basketball team hosted the UQAM Citadins on Saturday, March 2, for the RSEQ title and a place in the 2024 U SPORTS Final 8.

It had been a successful season for the Stingers up until the final. A 12-4 league record propelled them to first place in the RSEQ in the regular season. A 77-67 win against the Université Laval Rouge et Or in the semifinal set up the provincial final against UQAM for a spot in the U SPORTS men’s basketball national championship.

This was the fourth matchup between the two teams in less than a month. The Citadins won the first one, as well as another one in November 2023. But the Stingers had won the most recent two, including one on Feb. 24 to finish the regular season. 

The Stingers came into the playoffs without their first-team all-star guard Sami Jahan, who suffered an injury in a game against McGill on Feb. 17. As such, the two key players for Concordia were Jaheem Joseph and Alec Phaneuf. They ranked second and eighth, respectively, in terms of points per game in the RSEQ during the regular season. Proving their importance, they combined for 46 of the team’s 77 points in the semifinal against Laval.

In front of a sold-out crowd at the Concordia Gymnasium, it was UQAM who would be crowned provincial champions and book their tickets for the Men’s Final 8. Leading 17-14 after the first quarter, the Citadins would never surrender the lead and ultimately win by the final score of 63-57. Karam Sahly was the Stingers’ top performer in the final, scoring 18 points.

The road ends in the semifinal for the Stingers women’s basketball team

Concordia’s women’s basketball team has had a season full of ups and downs. After finishing 2023 with a 4-2 league record, the team lost six straight games to start the new year. However, they finished the season strong, winning three of their final four games. As such, the Stingers finished the regular season with a 7-9 record, good for a third place in the RSEQ.

This third-place finish called for a trip to Lennoxville to play the Bishop’s University Gaiters, who finished second in the league with a 9-7 record. Both teams equally split their four matchups this season, with Concordia winning the first two in 2023 and Bishop’s taking the last two in early February. 

However, the Stingers could not avoid a third defeat in 28 days against the Gaiters, losing 77-67. This final game concluded the season for the women’s basketball team.

There are still some positives to take away from the women’s team’s season. Serena Tchida is a RSEQ first-team all-star. Her 15.1 point-per-game average places her second in the province. She is also the RSEQ nominee for the U SPORTS Tracy MacLeod Award, which “rewards determination, perseverance and unwavering spirit.” She could become the second Stinger to win this award after Myriam Leclerc in 2021-22.

Areej Burgonio and Rowena Blais were also named on the RSEQ second all-star team.

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Sports

Stingers basketball dominates at Loyola in the Concordia Classic Tournament

How strong is the home court advantage? Women go 3-0 and men go 2-1 against nation-wide visitors.

The men’s and women’s Stingers basketball teams hosted the Concordia Classic Tournament over the first week of October at the Loyola campus. Both teams invite three other schools from around Canada to participate. Each team faces a new opponent per day over the course of three days. 

Women’s tournament results

Our women’s team hosted Thursday through Saturday and played University of Toronto (U of T), University of Northern British Columbia (UNBC) and Ontario Tech in order. The Stingers were unbeaten, accumulating a total point difference of 102 against the three teams and finishing at the top of the table.

On Oct. 5, Concordia played the U of T Varsity Blues. It was a very close matchup. The teams were more or less even, though the Stingers had the edge in converting free throws. Out of both teams shooting 19 shots from the line, the home team made 14, compared to the away team’s 10. Forwards Angela Batrla and Gretta-Olivia Ineza were the main contributors to this precision, succeeding in 83.3 per cent and 100 per cent of their shooting respectively. Bartla later won the tournament’s MVP award. Concordia won 53-49.

Against the UNBC Timberwolves the next day, the women’s team showed utter dominance, never letting the opposition take the lead. Up by one in the first quarter, expanding to 19 in the next, to 30 in the third and finally reaching 35 by the end of the game. Concordia won 75-40.

On Oct. 7, the Stingers played the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks. This was a blowout, as the Stingers dominated in almost every aspect. The Stingers put up 14 more shots, converting 22 per cent more, collected 16 more rebounds and were able to score 29 points off of turnovers. Again, Batrla and Ineza were the stars of the show, though fifth-year point guard Areej Burgonio assisted nine times. Shooting guard Florence Poirier also scored 16 points and went 5-5 on free throws. Concordia won by a whopping 53 points, at 99-46.  

Men’s tournament results

As for the Stingers’ men’s basketball team, they also hosted UNBC, along with the University of Regina (U of R) and the University of New Brunswick (UNB) from Friday to Sunday. The Stingers managed to win their first two games, but were unable to pull through in the last showing. The men’s Stingers placed second out of four. 

On Oct. 6, the Stingers showed solid defense, only allowing 67 points throughout the game. Although the team had a significantly harder time scoring from three (34.8 per cent success) than the opposition (42.9 per cent success), Concordia was able to put up a significantly higher number of shots (30-75 vs. 27-65), and converted more at the freethrow line going 6-9. The Stingers showed off their ability to score off of the bench, as point guard Alec Phaneuf scored 10 points in the nine minutes he was on the court, as Emmanuel Duprate averaged a point per minute with 13. Starting shooting guard Jaheem Joseph managed a double-double with 10 rebounds and 21 points. Concordia won 74-67. 

The Stingers displayed their best performance of the weekend against the U of R Cougars on Oct. 7. This time around, even more love was shared around the team, as three bench players were able to ball for at least 15 minutes. First-year center Bradley Louidon impressively put up 12 rebounds in 25 minutes of play time. Starting guard Jordan Telfort made all of his free throws and scored 22 points in just over half the gametime. The Stingers’ decisive quality was their domination in three-point conversion, making 54.5 per cent, compared to U of R’s 32 per cent. Concordia won 81-73

Jordan Telfort vs. the U of R Cougars
Credit: Liam Mahoney

On the final day of the tournament, the Stingers faced the UNB Reds. Although Stingers veteran point guard Sami Jahan put up a lifetime performance of 32 points, six rebounds and made eight out of nine free throw attempts, there was no stopping the Reds. Every starter scored over 10 points, two of whom scored at least 20, including tournament MVP Marcus Barnes. The Reds were almost 14 per cent more clinical behind the three-point line and 4.5 per cent higher field goal percentage. They scored 10 extra points off of turnovers. No question. Concordia lost 90-72.

Stingers basketball is strong this year, and we should keep an eye out on their upcoming seasons. The women’s Stingers play ULaval on Nov. 4 for their home opener and will play in the AWE Classic York University in Ontario from Oct. 20 to 22. The men’s Stingers will also play their home opener against ULaval on Nov. 4. 

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Football Rugby Sports

Concordia Stingers Legends Inducted into Stingers Sports Hall of Fame

Concordia held their annual Sports Hall of Fame induction ceremony on Sept. 24

At the downtown Sofitel Montreal Golden Mile Hotel, the Concordia Stingers’ annual Hall of Fame induction ceremony took place in front of hundreds. Concordia alumni were inducted by different categories with current students in the crowd to support. In this year’s ceremony, Concordia inducted four athletes, one builder, and one team. 

On the ballot, an “athlete” is defined as a student-athlete who displayed outstanding athletic performances in their respective sport. A “builder” is an individual, coach or administrator who had a positive impact on Concordia athletics. A “team” is a roster in Stingers history that will be remembered for their performance and significant contributions to its sport.

Dave Miller-Johnston (left) with his Hall of Fame plaque. Photo courtesy of Joe Dresner.

On that 1998 Stingers football team was Dave Miller-Johnston, one of the athlete inductees in this year’s ceremony. Miller-Johnston went down in Concordia sports history after kicking the Atlantic Cup-winning field goal to send the Stingers to their first National Championship Final. While Miller-Johnston was the MVP following the game-winning kick with a minute remaining, he credited his teammates and coaches for the team’s success in his acceptance speech. “To my teammates–though it is me receiving this award today, this is really a shared celebration,” Miller-Johnston said emotionally. “We did this together. Winning or losing on and off the football field, we kept pushing each other. I want to thank you for inspiring me, pushing me and challenging me.”

Then there was Richard Mackay, graduate of Concordia in 1958 and athlete inductee in 2023. Mackay is known for his contribution to the 1957-58 men’s basketball team, then known as the Sir George Williams College Georgians, who won their fourth championship overall. That team, coached by the legendary Mag Flynn, got inducted into the Stingers Sports Hall of Fame in 1999. To honour his late coach, Mackay made generous donations to the basketball team since 2021 totalling $200,000.

Sheila Turner was the next athlete to be inducted in this year’s ceremony. As a member of the women’s rugby team between 1992 and 1994, Turner won provincial championships in all three years she played for Concordia. The 1994 team that Turner was a part of also got inducted this year. They were the only team to hold this honour in 2023. Turner graduated from Concordia in 1995, then went on to coach the Stingers in 1996, bringing more success and championships to the school in later years.

Inducted as an athlete in 2011, George Lengvari is now in the Hall of Fame as a builder in 2023. As part of the 1962-63 Loyola men’s basketball team, Lengvari helped the team with the first annual Ottawa-St. Lawrence title that season. Once he graduated in 1963, Lengvari paid back his time at Concordia as well as at McGill University. In 2021, Lengvari donated $1 million to each of his alma maters’ basketball programs in hopes of growing the sport at both institutions. Lengvari goes down in Concordia history as the only member of the Stingers Sports Hall of Fame inducted as a builder, athlete and team member.

To conclude the ceremony, Carol Ann Tull was inducted into the hall of fame as an athlete. Tull played on the Stingers women’s basketball team between 1996 and 2000, winning an award as the Defensive Player of the Year, as well as two Most Valuable Player awards in Quebec women’s basketball. In her acceptance speech, Tull thanked her teammates and coaches for all they did to get her to this point. Tull, a university sports legend and an inspiration to many, shared this note of motivation to close out her speech: “Together, we have proven that when passion aligns with purpose, any individual can achieve the most extraordinary feat.”

All the inductees should be proud of accomplishing the achievements they did. Their contributions to the Stingers are now etched in Concordia University history.

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Sports

Double-check what you read while scrolling

Don’t believe everything you see on social media, especially when it comes to athletes.

Social media has evolved into an array of platforms where people cannot know for sure if they are seeing the truth. Many users spin a big situation differently to make it fit their own narratives, and, like most societal problems, it finds its way into the sports world.

Athletes are always under the spotlight with so many people paying close attention to their lives. When something big happens to an athlete, hordes of people take to the keyboards to give their two cents. The biggest consequence is that a lot of unverified information and claims appear on an easily accessible public forum, and they can be misinterpreted by other users.

The most recent case of spreading misinformation is the discussion surrounding the COVID-19 vaccine and its possible effects on different athletes. A very glaring instance of this occurred in January 2023, when Buffalo Bills safety Damar Hamlin suddenly collapsed on the field during an NFL game. 

Before doctors confirmed that a rare cardiac condition called commotio cordis had affected Hamlin, the public was delving into conspiracy. As National Public Radio’s Lisa Hagen reported after the incident, while fans were scrambling to learn the cause, “…on the internet, anti-vaccine activists filled in the silence with unfounded theories that Hamlin’s collapse was brought on by COVID vaccines.”

The social media discussion became so loud and turbulent that the player’s health seemed to take a back seat, which is rather ironic. In fact, someone even went as far as altering the headline of a CNN article in a screenshot to make people believe that a doctor determined the cause to be a COVID-19 booster shot. Everybody and their mother had something to say about the incident. 

Ten days after the false rumour circulation, USA Today felt the need to publish an article clarifying that there was no evidence that Hamlin’s condition was caused by the vaccine. “Doctors said a connection is highly unlikely given the list of cardiac issues that have long been observed as causing such incidents of cardiac arrest in athletes,” the article reads.

Hamlin was resuscitated on the field, and has now returned to playing football after recovering fully. But this incident remains a reminder of how important it is that people independently verify the information they read, especially on a public forum where anyone can say anything that’s on their mind.

More recently, Bronny James (son of NBA star LeBron James) went into cardiac arrest during a workout at the University of Southern California. When Elon Musk took to Twitter (now called X) and implied that the COVID-19 vaccine must have been partially or completely at fault for the incident, many impressionable people have believed it. Once again, it is more likely that James’ cardiac arrest was exercise-induced, since it is not an uncommon problem in teenage and young adult men.

So, the next time you read an outlandish claim, make sure you double-check its sources.

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Sports

Areej Burgonio: A leader by example

The Stingers women’s basketball guard discusses stepping up as a leader this basketball season

There is a world of difference between the rookie Areej Burgonio was in 2018 and the veteran star she became this past season.

Going into the 2022-23 season, Stingers guard Burgonio was one of two senior players in a young team. It was also the first time in her four-year career with the Stingers that she had to take on a leadership role. 

“I had such great strong role models, and I was put in the position where I have to be that strong role model now,” said Burgonio.

It was a challenging adjustment at first for the Stingers playmaker who was previously known to keep more to herself.

“Being patient, being able to lead on and off the court, mentoring my rookies until they can be better basketball players while also keeping in mind that I have to perform as a point guard, it was tough,” she said. “But I’m glad I had that opportunity.”

Burgonio started playing basketball when she was 12 years old. Before coming to Concordia, she played for Crestwood Preparatory School, a Toronto high school with a well-established basketball program.

She went on to compete in a tournament in New York with her team from Crestwood, where she met Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens for the first time.

“Out of all the places, coach [Gittens] was there,” recalled Burgonio. “At first, given the location, I didn’t expect her to introduce herself from a Montreal university. Not going to lie, I [had] never heard of Concordia up until I met her.”

Head coach Tenicha Gittens and Burgonio on Senior Day. Evan Buhler/ Concordia Athletics

For Gittens, it was Burgonio’s attitude on the court that stood out to her.

“She [was] one of the smallest players on the court, but there was just something about her grit,” said Gittens. “I love the way she didn’t back down.”

Burgonio stands at five-feet tall, but Gittens didn’t think that mattered.

“She was one of the biggest players in terms of heart, aggressiveness and competitiveness,” she added. “That’s something I knew we needed on our team.”

The two stayed in contact, and when Burgonio eventually enrolled in sociology at Concordia,  she was invited to join the women’s basketball team after being scouted by the coaching staff while playing in Toronto.

As a 17-year-old rookie, Burgonio was surrounded by a very mature and strong team.

“I had to grow up fast,” Burgonio said. “When you’re surrounded by so many people like Caroline Task and Myriam Leclerc, you conform to their standards, which is excellence and nothing less.”

That year, Myriam Leclerc was a rookie guard like Burgonio, and Caroline Task was a third-year guard.

Burgonio went on to be named to the RSEQ All-Rookie team. Four years later, she was named to the RSEQ’s First Team All-Star and finished the season as the second-best scorer in the RSEQ.

Burgonio’s teammates pointed out that, throughout her career, the star player matured into a better and smarter athlete with extensive knowledge of plays and a great vision of the court. She also became more outspoken, especially this season.

“She had to be one of our top scorers, had to be one of our leaders defensively and be one of our facilitators as well,” said Gittens. “There is no player that I’ve coached at Concordia that has had more responsibility put on their shoulders and has stepped up to it.”

Serena Tchida, the team’s captain and a third-year forward, said that Burgonio abruptly went from being the sixth player to playing 40 minutes per game.

“This year, we didn’t have anyone on top of us to rely on so we had to take on leadership ourselves,” said Tchida. “She really embraced her role, especially when I injured myself and I wasn’t there to help her anymore.”

For the rookies of the team, having a veteran like Burgonio made all the difference.

“She wants to set an example for us,” said rookie forward Fabiola Lamour. “She takes the time to explain plays and she makes sure everyone is on the same page.”

Lamour recalled Burgonio often saying “my money’s on us,” her way of showing her team she believed in them. She also noted that Burgonio had made her feel welcomed on the team from the get-go.

Although Burgonio is a senior, she still has one year of eligibility left with the Stingers. She noted that, given she is only 22, she isn’t ready to walk away just yet.

“I do have goals, for example, going on the national team from the Philippines and playing professionally,” she said. “But at the same time I know that this chapter isn’t fully over if I still have that one year.”

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Sports

The “B.C. Boys:” Jack Vandenberg and Griffyn Bibbings

The rookies brought their positive vibes from Vancouver to Montreal

On July 27, 2022, Jack Vandenberg flew out from Vancouver to Montreal. The following day, Griffyn Bibbings followed, and the two were probably the only students at Concordia’s campus residence for the next few weeks.

The two British Columbians — Vandenberg, point guard from Central Vancouver, and Bibbings, forward from West Vancouver — bonded and started a friendship that earned them the nickname “B.C. Boys” from their teammates.

“When we got here, he was probably the first person I met,” Bibbings said about Vandenberg. “It was the morning after I landed, and because we’re both from B.C., we’re both on res [residence] as well. So we kind of do everything together. Our teammates just call us ‘B.C. Boys,’ and they just mean me and Jack.”

“Coaches have mentioned a few times, they don’t really see us without each other,” Vandenberg added. “Because we have a similar schedule apart from classes. It’s just practice, and then we go eat, and then we go back to the res [residence].”

Although the two rookies were both only 18 years old at the time, they didn’t feel that moving to a new city on their own was intimidating or particularly difficult to navigate.

“At no point was I just in my room not knowing a single person or not knowing what to do,” said Bibbings. “The morning after I got here, I met him [Vandenberg]. I probably met like 20 people on the first day. So it wasn’t really that hard.”

Vandenberg and Bibbings had the chance to meet the rest of the team at practice before playing exhibition games against NCAA teams in August.

They acknowledged that being part of a team can definitely make moving across the country a lot easier.

The “B.C. Boys” during the national anthem before a game. Kyran Thicke/ Concordia Athletics

“I feel like in our situation, it might be a little different than most,” Vandenberg explained. “Because when we came here we had the support of the coaches, teammates, like we already kind of had a friend group going into it with our teammates.”

Although the pair only met here last summer, they had played against each other in B.C. at some point, so they knew of each other.

Bibbings played high-school basketball at Rockridge Secondary and club basketball with 3D Basketball Academy during the spring and summer time, while Vandenberg played at St. George’s School and DRIVE Basketball.

Like all student-athletes, the two basketball players missed some time due to COVID-19 shutdowns. But according to them, this time off really helped separate the players who had been practicing during the shutdowns from those who hadn’t. They both stayed active with their respective clubs, which held outdoor sessions.

“Before COVID… I wasn’t that recognized [or] that good,” Vandenberg said. “Then I started getting more recognition because I put in more work whenever, I guess, a lot of people were chilling out.”

Stingers’ head coach Rastko Popovic also appreciates how hard his rookie point guard has been working.

“At the point guard position it’s tougher,” Popovic said. “Because we do have two really good point guards on our team, but what I like about Jack a lot is he’s a competitor, he competes, he’s not afraid, and he works really hard.”

Popovic has also been impressed by his two players’ maturity and ability to adapt from a high school setting to university, while juggling basketball and school.

Bibbings is currently enrolled in sociology, while Vandenberg is studying psychology, but they’re both keeping their options open, as they’re not sure if they want to stick to those programs yet.

Another thing that has impressed Popovic is the duo’s work ethic.

“They want to get better everyday, they’re very coachable, they listen, they’re both going to keep improving and hopefully by next year they’ll be able to make bigger contributions to our team,” Popovic said.

But that’s not the only thing that matters. Popovic also looks at the kind of people he’s recruiting and what they’re like off the court, and it was all positive when it came to Bibbings and Vandenberg. 

“They’re very very good kids in general, they’re good people, and that’s important to us when we recruit players.”

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Sports

Why do teams tank?

Tanking is helpful… until it’s not

Tanking happens when a team is losing games on purpose, or has a losing record in a season, in order to get higher draft picks in the following draft. This is generally done by a general manager and not the players or coaches.

While the NFL’s draft order is based solely on the previous season’s rankings — meaning the lowest-ranked team gets to draft first — the NBA, NHL, and very recently, the MLB, have a lottery that decides the order between certain ranks and their corresponding picks. But the lower a team finishes in the standings, the greater the chances are to pick higher in the following draft.

Some draft years are stronger than others, with projected top picks that are almost certain to become superstars. An example of this is the 2023 NHL draft, which is a particularly strong year with Connor Bedard as the projected first-overall pick, who will most likely be a generational player.

While tanking used to be frowned upon, it seems to have generally become more and more accepted.

But there are different levels to it.

Teams can tank simply by keeping a mid coach and play with half their roster sidelined due to injury. An example of this is last season’s Montreal Canadiens. Although they changed coaches before the end of the season, the culmination of all listed above resulted in the Canadiens finishing the season last in the standings.

Or, if a team really wants to take it to another level, a possibility is selling every player who’s decent enough to get acquired by another team, and get worse players in return to make sure they really tank and finish last in the league. But with a lottery, things don’t always go well.

The best-case scenario? That team gets the first overall pick and makes it work eventually.

But the worst-case scenario? The team doesn’t get that pick and gets a good player, but not nearly as good as they’d hoped.

An example of this is the 2014-15 Buffalo Sabres. They got rid of any good player who helped them win games in order to improve their lottery odds to draft Connor McDavid. However, they ended up getting the second pick, which they used to select Jack Eichel. The Sabres still aren’t nearly as competitive as they would’ve been had they drafted McDavid.

Tanking doesn’t always work, and taking it to the extreme can do more harm than good for a team in the long run as it makes rebuilding a longer and more difficult process.

But sometimes it works. An example of a successful tank is the 2013-14 Philadelphia 76ers, who traded good players away and ended up drafting Joel Embiid third overall in the 2014 draft. Since then, they have made the playoffs five times, and the conference semifinals four times.

At the end of the day, just like everything else in sports, tanking either ends in a W or an L.

Anything done the extreme way is very tricky. So low-risk high-reward should be the way to go when it comes to tanking. You can lose to increase your chances, but don’t trade away everyone so you don’t have to rebuild for too long.

But we can agree to disagree.

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How is Stingers’ basketball doing so far?

Both Stingers basketball teams are facing strong competitions this year

As the holiday break approaches, the first half of the season has proven challenging for Concordia’s women’s and men’s basketball teams.

The women’s basketball team currently ranks fourth out of the five teams in the RSEQ, just ahead of crosstown rivals McGill. Although the start of the season has been rough, the Stingers are confident that they are improving with every game.

“We’ve gotten better across the board, and at some point the results will show in the win column,” said women’s head coach Tenicha Gittens. “Right now, we’re picking up Ls, but we still see we’re getting better.”

Gittens said that the elements they practice still have a hard time translating over to the game. They’ve especially been working on their defence, but are still lacking the “toughness, grit, and discipline” needed to win games.

The women’s basketball team is working with a lot of rookies this year. The Stingers experienced a similar situation back in 2018-19. Although a young team had once been advantageous back then, it is now currently plaguing them.

“It’s taking a little bit more time for them to get it,” said Gittens. “With a young team, it takes some time to figure it out and to trust themselves, their teammates, and the coaches.”

But Gittens also sees improvement in the team’s morale. “It was down, but it’s better and steadily climbing.” she said.“Right now, the morale is good but that doesn’t mean that it’s going to equate to a W. For us, it’s a good thing that we’re feeling good.”

Although players like forward Serena Tchida and guard Areej Burgonio have been scoring some desperately needed points for their team, Gittens wants to make sure everybody is putting in the effort so they can be as unified as possible.

Men’s basketball is shining bright

Concordia Stingers’ guard Sami Jahan in a game this season. KYRAN THICKE/ Concordia Athletics

The men’s basketball team on the other hand, has done great so far starting the season with a five-game winning streak presenting a close-to-perfect track record leading on top in the RSEQ. However, gaining the edge over the four other teams hasn’t been easy.

“Every game in our league is very hard, so a lot of credit goes to our guys for finding ways to win games,” said men’s head coach Rastko Popovic.

The five victories recorded by the Stingers have been challenging. Their latest three wins finished in close calls including a 75-74 win against Bishop’s, 83-79 against Laval and 58-57 against McGill.

According to Popovic, the team’s ability to turn up the defence in the second half of the game has helped them secure wins against Bishop’s and Laval. To Popovic, defence is one of his team’s greatest strengths.

“You can’t guarantee that you’re going to make shots, but what you can guarantee is having a great defensive effort every time you play,” Popovic said. “We have a very detailed defensive system that we spend a lot of time working on. It’s hard for younger players to grasp, but some of our guys have done a great job.”

The men’s basketball team is also working with a young squad this year, only having three players who are in their third year or higher. However, the preseason games have helped develop and flourish team chemistry.

“I purposely scheduled these games because I want our players to play against the best competition,” Popovic said. “Even though results weren’t great, it’s not all about wins and losses in preseason, it’s all about getting better. It definitely prepared us for league play.”

Going into the break, Popovic knows that his players aren’t getting too cocky about their success.“I remind them every day that we haven’t won anything or accomplished anything,” he said. “While it’s nice to win some of these games, it’s not like we won a championship or a playoff game.”

Unfortunately, after the Stingers’ game against UQAM on Nov. 26, their five-game winning streak came to an end after an 83-59 loss. The Stingers will be back at home on Jan. 14.

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Colour Commentary: The demise of the traditional NBA centre

The NBA has morphed into a purely shooting league, ultimately isolating the traditional big man

I was watching an NBA preseason game between the New Orleans Pelicans and the Orlando Magic, and something happened that seems to be a recurring trend in the NBA. Pelicans centre Jonas Valančiūnas received two quick-triggered technical fouls, ultimately leading to his ejection midway through the third quarter. These weak calls weren’t warranted because when I say weak, I mean that they were extremely soft calls towards a seasoned centre in the league. 

Yeah, Valančiūnas can hit the occasional three-pointer, but he’s a traditional meat and potatoes style player who is highly effective in the paint. Though slightly more grizzled than most current centres, he knows his role. He gets rebounds both offensively and defensively, plays defence, initiates in the pick and roll, but with the way modern basketball is played and officiated in the NBA, Valančiūnas is hindered to a certain point.

It’s a shame that traditional centres like Valančiūnas are dwindling. Long gone are the days of Wilt Chamberlain or Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. We will never again witness a team’s playing style tailored for dominant big men like Shaquille O’Neal or Tim Duncan. Not only were these guys the biggest physical players you could lob the ball to, they would secure the win for their respective teams come crunch time.

Basketball is more spread out than ever before, resulting in more long-distance shot attempts from the three-point line. If you add the way referees have begun to call more fouls on centres while favouring shooters, traditional centres nowadays have less control in the paint. They’re now drowned out, becoming backup vocalists instead of lead singers.

Over the last few years, the number of three-point attempts has more than doubled from 14.7 in 2002-03 to 34.6 in 2020-21. Teams like the Houston Rockets have adopted a “small ball” style that doesn’t require a traditional centre. This style prioritizes speed and agility over size and encourages players to shoot from outside.

Refereeing has also become stricter on big men, preventing them from using their size in certain situations. Philadelphia 76ers centre Joel Embiid is arguably the only dominant traditional centre left and his team usually receives more personal foul calls in a game than most NBA teams.

You’re probably thinking “Well, Nikola Jokić is dominant, how about him?” Though Jokić is as dominant as a centre gets, he isn’t a traditional centre. He can pass on a dime, space the floor, and is a consistent shooter from deep. Many young centres are now trying to adapt to this model but I shed a tear when I see older players try to change and end up throwing bricks from deep.

The way Embiid soaks up rebounds and scores underneath the basket at will, and with such authority, proves there’s still a chance for big men in today’s NBA. But the centre position will never return to its former glory.

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A long road to recovery for Serena Tchida

Concordia Stingers basketball forward Serena Tchida battled adversity to get to where she is today

In 2019, Serena Tchida’s collegiate basketball career was taking off. Playing for Cégep Édouard-Montpetit, her knack for rebounding and finishing around the rim was able to draw the attention of Concordia Stingers head coach Tenicha Gittens in January.

Tchida had excelled in basketball since she first picked up the sport at 15 years old. Now, in the midst of recruitment, all the six-foot forward needed was to showcase her abilities one more time. 

She had no idea that would be the last five-on-five game she would play. 

“In the first quarter, I partially tore my ACL,” Tchida said. “I had never been injured before besides some ankle issues, so during the game I wanted to go back on the court and play through it. I knew coach [Gittens] was recruiting me but my coach at the time told me to slow down and sit for the game because it’s my knee.” 

Tchida took some time to rest in the days following the game and managed to reduce the swelling in her right knee. Upon returning to practice with her team, despite the precautions she would fully tear her ACL.

“There were times when I wanted to quit [basketball], but coach [Gittens] helped steer me back in the right direction. She was there through it all,” Tchida said. 

The road to recovery in sports is impossible to accurately document. For every moment of glory in an athlete’s career, there is potential suffering around the corner. All the hard work and repetitions put in the gym behind the scenes can come crashing down with a single misstep, and prompt years of devotion towards simply being you again. 

Unfortunately for many student athletes, sustaining a major injury will beat them to the ground. Tchida said it tested her mentality more than anything. “Honestly, I feel like I’m stronger now,” Tchida said. “Now I think my injured [right] knee is stronger than my left. The MRI, rehab, and surgery was all taken care of by Concordia and coach [Gittens] because I was still being recruited, so recovering properly definitely helped.” 

Tchida works on her free throws ahead of the 2021-22 basketball season

“What made it so tough was that I was still studying at Édouard-Montpetit, but I was getting treatment on my knee at

 Concordia. So I was travelling between two schools and home every day.” she added. 

Tchida’s battles with injuries wouldn’t end there. While rehabbing from her ACL injury, she pulled her hamstring which kept her out of action for the entire 2019-20 basketball season. 

She described her experience as a rookie, and not being able to play and contribute to her team, as strenuous. 

“As a first-year, I felt a little bit out of place with the change in school,” Tchida said. “Under normal circumstances, I could play and connect with my teammates on the court but I was still rehabbing from my injuries. Again, coach [Gittens] was amazing to me and helped me find my place and feel comfortable.”

Once March 2020 rolled around and in-person activities were cancelled in response to the global pandemic, the women’s basketball team met online three times a week and continued to train with weights from home. In the summer of that year, government regulations permitted groups to train outside as long as physical distancing rules were respected as much as possible. Tchida said the team was split into groups for guards and forwards and would meet at 6 a.m. to train. In the fall, things shut down once more. 

“During that time, I connected with my teammates a lot and now we are like sisters. So it was really difficult when we had to go back to meeting online. I honestly don’t remember what we did after that, everything passed by like a blur,” Tchida said. 

To help the team cope with ongoing stress, Gittens set up weekly online meetings during the semester that were focused solely on talking amongst each other. 

“We would talk about things that were not related to basketball, just connecting with each other and letting out our emotions. It was an amazing idea by coach [Gittens] and another reason for why she’s so great.” 

When Montreal became a COVID-19 green zone, the team took their outdoor training back to the gymnasium, where they would practice three times a week. With the resumption of school and basketball season around the corner, the team upped their practice regiment to five times a week on top of weight training sessions.

Tchida has been on a long and strenuous road to recovery since early 2019, the last time she participated in a high-level basketball game. There were bumps and bruises along the way, but the Stingers forward going into her third year at Concordia University is finally ready to make her presence on the court known. 

“It’s been so long since I’ve played five-on-five, so I’m honestly a bit nervous,” Tchida said. “But I’m trying to take it one day at a time and focus on the things I can control.”

“I’m confident in the work I put in during practice and my recovery, so I’m hoping to show people I came out of this long break as a more complete basketball player.” 

 

Photographs by Catherine Reynolds

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