The men’s basketball team had a different looking team going into the second half of the 2017-2018 season. Despite the Ooks roster alterations throughout the year, they were able to come together to make a run at the ACAC Championship. Their run ended with them in fourth place coming out of provincials.
With NAIT’s roster finally intact, they were ready to play their best basketball. They finished the second half of the season with the same record of 8-4. But it’s how they finished the season that matters. They went 6-2 in their last eight games. Playing their best basketball at the end of year.
NAIT finished as the second seed in the North Division. In the playoffs, they won their first-round match against Red Deer College but then lost their second-round matchup in overtime to SAIT. This meant they would be playing for a bronze medal.
“The first term was about us growing,” said Ooks head coach Mike Connolly. “But our mission all year was to be playing our best basketball at the end of the year.”
Kennedy George led the Ooks during the first half of the season. George was an effective scorer, averaging 17.1 ppg, ranking him as a Top 10 scorer in the ACAC. George had some growing of his own to do. He was pulled off the team due to academic reasons.
Along with losing their leading scorer, they had a couple of injuries. None was bigger than the one to guard Wyatt Beaver. This meant was the rest of the team had to step it up. The Ooks didn’t have their leading scorer or leader on the court. If there was any time for someone to shine, this was the time. Enter fifth year forward, Brady McKay. McKay is a pure shooter who drew respect from all ACAC teams. With this being his final year, he was able to show his maturity as a player and a leader.
“ Brady has grown up and matured. He has become a really good leader,” expressed Connolly. “Especially with his voice and how he talks [and] how he carries himself.”
Brady and the ACAC’s leader in field goal percentage, Samson Cleare, were able to help the Ooks hold on till helped arrived. They finished the first half of the season with a 8-4 record.
At the start of the second season, the cavalry arrived. Wyatt Beaver and the other injured players returned, as did perennial allstar and scoring threat Jackson Jacobs, who returned after playing basketball for the Bahamian National team.
Other players have also made an impact, growing throughout the season. Notably the “Greek Landlord” Nikolaos Papavasileiou, a third-year forward. He is finally finding his game on the court.
“He has really become mentally tough,” said Connolly when talking about Papavasileiou’s game. “[He’s] not making a lot of mental mistakes.”
They lost to the Concordia Thunder 102-94 in the bronze medal game.
The Ooks will have a similar roster next year and with the growing process hopefully done they will be prepared for a championship run next season.
– Peter Go