OCAA Basketball has returned to Canadore College.
It has been a near 20 year wait for the school and they will step on the court for the 2012-13 OCAA Basketball season.
Leading the charge will be head coach Leo Bechard, who started the recruiting process last summer and says he was quite nervous to start but everything came together at the right times.
“The very first site I went to recruit at was Laurentian’s invitational high school tournament and then from then on, everywhere we went, coaches started recognizing us and players started to recognize us. I made it a few points to follow a few teams around like Timmins High & Vocational School because I know the coaches and then followed St. Basil's from the Sault and some of the other schools and Twin Lakes from Orillia and then pretty soon, all the coaches are starting to know us so yes, a challenge, but an exciting challenge, it was just a lot of fun doing (the recruting).”
Over 25 athletes will be put through the tryouts in September, and possibly more.
Bechard was admant towards his potential players that ‘basketball is secondary’ and that when you come to Canadore, come for the high quality education.
“We assume there are going to be some walk-ons that we don’t know of and all we know is for sure is we can only take two international students on the team, that’s OCAA rules and we are going to select 16 players and the rest, we are hoping will stay.” he said.
Additionally, a junior team will be made up of prospects who don’t make the team. That team will play locally and will work as a farm system.
“At least there will be an out for them to have some competitive ball and if something happens to any of our players, injury-wise or someone should not meet the academic standing at Christmas time, then we have a source to go to.”
The Panthers will play in the Western Division in Division one, a huge challenge for this new team, as Bechard admits that his team isn’t “exactly in the weakest division” and will be in tough with the likes of Humber, Sheridan, Niagara, Fanshawe, among other strong opponents.
Bechard was also quick to mention that the game isn’t what it was 20 years ago and shared his thoughts on what kind of style his team may employ.
“The game has changed drastically, it’s a lot of run and gun type of thing. There’s a lot more perimeter shooting being done," he said,
"When I first came this year, I was (Varsity Basketball Associate Coach) Stacy (Gallagher)’s associate coach (for the club team) and I was sitting there and I could see these players shooting from the outside and here I am, a coach who is very defensive-minded and saying ‘You better start using your big boys inside’ and they were falling in love with the outside shots and I was getting frustrated but over this period of time, I’ve realized that the game has changed," said Bechard,
"Defense has not but offense has changed drastically and there’s more emotion, offense-oriented, very guard-oriented offense and that’s why were excited because we have a real sound group of guards that can handle the ball and pass and penetrate, things like that.”
The Panthers have a history with basketball, winning a Division I Silver Medal at the 1991-92 Provincial Championships and two Division II Gold Medals in 1985 and 1989.
“We’re faced with a big challenge, we know that, but so do the players and they’re excited about going that way and when we told the players ‘If you want to play some exciting basketball, then you have to come to us’,” said Bechard,
“It’s not too often in life that you get an opportunity a first good impression in many things, especially in sports. These guys have that opportunity and it’s really going to be an exciting journey to be on.”
The journey to another medal begins in a few months, when the new season kicks off.