By Orrin Farries
The NAIT Ooks 2019-2020 men’s basketball team were an exciting bunch to watch.
Between the enigmatic play of Sean-Michael Clancey and Hugo Cluysen, and the emotional vibrancy with which the whole team played every game, this team was built to entertain. The men’s team made waves in the first round of the ACAC provincial tournament, upsetting the number two ranked team in the country, the Lethbridge Kodiaks.
Unfortunately in the second round of the tournament, the Ooks fell short against Ambrose University, which abruptly ended their season of resiliency.
“I felt we had a pretty good season. It didn’t end how we wanted it to. It didn’t start how we wanted it to as well. Not having [forward Markus Taylor Knighten] for the full year felt like it kind of gave us a slow start,” said team MVP Sean-Michael Clancey.
Clancey was an unstoppable force this year, compiling ludicrous stat lines on a nightly basis. He led the league in scoring at 26.6 points per game to go with 9.5 rebounds and 4 assists per game.
“We got the first round upset, and I’ll look back at that game, just how everything transpired leading up to that game. They had the ACAC player of the year (Brock Dewsbery) who got it over me,” said Clancey.
“I felt disrespected, but humbled at the same time going into the game. They had an incredible season, Brock Dewsbery had 21 and 7, shooting amazing, 50 per cent from the field, 46 per cent from the three point line, 80 per cent from the free throw line. Not disappointed that he got it, but I felt like the stats I put up, I should have got it, so going into that game against Lethbridge, I knew we had a chance to make a really good statement.”
As far as the fallout of the season was concerned, Clancey was on brand with his genial stoicism.
“No regrets on the season, everything that came, happened for a reason and I’m proud of how the team and myself handled it,” said Clancey.
“I hope the fans remember the excitement that we brought game in and game out. We took pride in not losing at home, we wanted the fans who came out to enjoy the games, and to put on a show for them.”
First year head coach Slav Kornik took over the men’s basketball program this year and brought NAIT back to provincial championship dance. In the hearts of his players, Kornik did well this year to prove himself.
“Coach Slav was able to take a group of passionate, and at times hot-headed individuals who all had our own goals that we were chasing, and take all of those goals and focuses and shift them all towards achieving a collective team goal,” said Keilan Dobish, the fourth-year emotional leader of the team.
“I have no doubt in my mind that Coach Slav will be here at NAIT for many years to come and will become the first person in NAIT history to win a national championship as both a player and a coach,” said Dobish.
Dobish has made his intention clear to return next year for one last run at a CCAA national championship, and it appears he won’t be alone.
“Heading into my final year, my goal is to win a conference championship and have the opportunity to compete at Nationals,” said Dobish.
“Returning the core of our team from this year, along with the return from injury of Point Guard Solon Ellis, and perhaps the addition or a few more players to the program and another summer and year for the rest of us to grow and mesh with one another, I feel we will be legitimate contenders.”
The Ooks enter the off-season fired up from their close-call with the big dance of the National championships, and will look to make good on the big expectations they have for themselves to raise another National championship banner.