The Ooks have started announcing new players they’ve recruited for the upcoming 2023-24 season. Each player brings something different to the team, so here’s an overview of some of the recruits that have been announced.
The women’s basketball team has recruited two new players, Mya Stemberger and Pamela Rutto. Stemberger will bring much-needed size to the Ooks roster standing at 5’10. This would have made her tied for the third tallest player this season and tied for the tallest guard with Blyss Ward. Rutto is also a guard, but not as tall as Stemberger at 5’5. According to the women’s basketball team’s Instagram, she “brings a high level of IQ and a desire to learn to the Ooks.”
The men’s team has recruited two players so far, Gabriel Humilde and Austin Walter. It will be interesting to see Humilde transition to college basketball as he’s only 5’9, which would have made him the smallest player on this year’s team. He’s also the younger brother of Ephraim Humilde, who was recently named ACAC Men’s Basketball North Rookie of the Year.
Walter comes from Paul Kane high school in St. Albert and stands 6’1. He was a guard on the Paul Kane Blues and was named MVP in the YEG Showcase, an annual high school basketball showcase.
Moving on to volleyball, the women’s volleyball team has recruited two players, Tanisha McQueen and Makenna Doyle. McQueen is a transfer student from Keyano College. She appeared in four games this season and has turned into a very good blocker, with one block every other set. Those numbers, if she qualified for league leaders, would have put her just under the top ten for this season and second on the Ooks. Doyle comes from BC to join the Ooks. She played left side on Sky Volleyball’s U18 team this past season.
The men’s team has recruited four new players so far: Mason Gorski, Finn Howard, Josh Annet and Josh Watson. Gorski is a transfer student from King’s University. He has made a name for himself over the past two seasons, being named to the ACAC All-Conference All-Star team in both seasons, winning ACAC North Rookie of the Year in the 2021-22 season and the ACAC North Player of the Year this past season. ”[NAIT has] a great volleyball program and I am excited to train and play with elite players, coaches, support staff, and overall program,” Gorski said on Instagram.
Finn Howard is huge at 6’7, which would have made him the tallest player on the team last season. He comes all the way from New Zealand and was a member of their U20 team this past summer with new teammate Jared Robert. “Finn brings exceptional size and length to our program and is a strong natural athlete with a massive wingspan,” said Head Coach Jordan Taylor in the announcement post on Instagram.
Josh Annet is somehow even bigger than Finn; Annet stands 6’8. He played for Bev Facey High School under NAIT alums Isaiah Stime and attended NAIT’s Train Like an Ook camp this past summer. “Josh is a big body that provides a physical presence at the net. We first met Josh this summer at our NAIT Elite Camp and quickly realized not only did he have the physical tools to play at the college level, but also has a great mind for the game,” said Taylor. Josh also played in the U of A Ganza All-Star game in the winter and against other top prospects across the province.
Josh Watson is another New Zealand native and actually played with Howard in his youth. He spent last year playing with the NWP Wolves and plans to also play with Volleyball New Zealand National Team Program during the summer.
The women’s team has recruited three players: defenceman Sawyer Norman, hybrid forward defenceman Abby Robar and forward Kienna Higgs. Norman put up six goals and twelve points in 29 games for the Battleford Sharks this past season. She also picked up 53 penalty minutes. Robar played in 30 games for the St. Albert Slash. She scored four goals with 16 points with 22 penalty minutes last season. Higgs played a grinder role for the Saskatoon Stars, appearing in 28 games with no goals and three assists but did have 34 penalty minutes. Grit and sandpaper seem to be the focus for the Ooks, not goal-scoring.
The men’s team has also recruited three players, defenceman Alex Von Sprecken, defenceman Brophy Dunne and forward Jackson Hassman. Von Sprecken won a championship with his hometown team, the Estevan Bruins, before being traded to the Flin Flon Bombers this past season. In 48 games with the Bombers, Von Sprecken put up four goals and 19 points with 140 penalty minutes.
Dunne was an assistant captain with the Spruce Grove Saints. In 45 games with the Saints, he scored five goals with 13 points and 75 penalty minutes. Hassman is a pure goal scorer, scoring 24 goals and 37 points in 52 games with the Weyburn Red Wings. He also had 139 penalty minutes. Again, grit was the objective with these additions, and the offence that Jackson provides is a nice bonus.
That is all the new players currently announced joining NAIT next season. It will be interesting to see which players make the biggest splashes with their new teams.