Courtside Seats: First-year Lion looking like the real-deal in rookie campaign

Courtside Seats: First-year Lion looking like the real-deal in rookie campaign

Contributed by: Tyler Bennett / College Court Report Canada (@CCR_Canada)

Another week of OUA basketball is in the books, and the playoff picture is starting to become somewhat clearer on the men’s side of things.

This past weekend’s action played out as most would have expected. Kadre Gray (Toronto, Ont.) helped lead the Laurentian Voyageurs to an upset win over the Ottawa Gee-Gees at home on Saturday with one of his best individual performances of the season. The Brock Badgers picked up a pair of wins to keep pace with Western atop the West Division standings, while the Mustangs extended their winning streak to stay one step ahead of their competition in the divisional race.

The city of Toronto, meanwhile, is a focal point most weekends, with last weekend being no different. A rivalry game caught the attention of most as there was a potential upset that fell just short in the fourth quarter, while one of the league’s brightest young stars hopes to follow along the same trajectory of the reigning OUA Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Year.

This week’s edition of Courtside Seats focuses on two teams from The Six and a player that you’ll want to become familiar with before it’s too late.

Ryerson passes road tests to keep pace with Carleton

It was another stellar weekend for the Ryerson Rams on the road.

Playing without a banged-up Tanor Ngom (Dakar, Senegal), who was dealing with an injury that was sustained in the Rams’ loss to the Carleton Ravens, the Rams’ depth was tested as they were on the road for a pair of games this past weekend against the Queen’s Gaels and York Lions. Not having Ngom in the starting five didn’t hinder the Rams too much; however, as they came away with a pair of wins to stay within striking distance of the Ravens atop the East Division.

After the holiday break, the Rams saw their perfect season come to an end with a loss to the Ravens in what was likely one of the best games of the season across the entire U SPORTS schedule. Instead of letting the loss get to them, Ryerson bounced back in a big way with a win over the Gee-Gees to send them into the new week with another boost of momentum.

And now that there proceeding games have come and gone, the Rams are riding another winning streak, one that they will look to carry deep into the post-season.

Up first for Ryerson was a Friday night contest against Queen’s in Kingston. The Gaels have their share of talent and are a team to watch come postseason, but the Rams made relatively easy work of the Tricolour on the road.

It was a balanced effort for the Rams in their 84-62 win over the Gaels. Four of their starters scored in double-figures on the offensive end and on defence, they held Queen’s to single-digit points as a team in two different quarters. Ryerson played a strong two-way game and that allowed them to continually build their lead as the game moved along.

Jean-Victor Mukama (Hamilton, Ont.) led the way with 25 points to go along with eight rebounds and three assists for a Ryerson team that led 24-9 after the opening quarter. The Rams stretched their lead to 20 points at the half and they would roll over the final 20 minutes for the 22-point victory. Filip Vujadinovic (Burlington, Ont.) kicked off his strong weekend with a double-double of 21 points and 10 rebounds.

Warsame Mohamed (Toronto, Ont.) chipped in with 16 points and five rebounds.

The next night, the Rams were back in Toronto but were playing against the York Lions in a key divisional battle that also had some city bragging rights on the line. On the heels of a big win over the Gaels, the Rams found themselves in a much tougher battle with the Lions and Ryerson needed a big comeback in the fourth quarter to come away victorious.

For three quarters, it looked as though the Rams would fall victim to York’s upset bid. The Lions held a five-point lead at the half and were up by four heading into the fourth quarter after Ryerson trimmed the lead by a single point in the third. In the final frame, the Lions would succumb to the Rams’ comeback efforts and narrowly miss the upset win.

Ryerson delivered the first blow in the fourth quarter on a three ball from Yusuf Ali (Toronto, Ont.) just 13 seconds into the frame. Just over a minute later, a three-point play from Myles Charvis (Mississauga, Ont.) gave the Rams a 65-63 lead.

Down the stretch, the teams would trade baskets, meaning neither side could gain any separation from the other. Ryerson took the lead for good on a jumper from Vujadinovic with 5:53 to play in the game and they never looked back.

After having to sweat it out down the stretch, the Rams came away with a hard-fought 84-77 victory over York to extend their winning streak to three games.

For the second night in a row, the Rams posted four players in double figures. Vujadinovic recorded another double-double, posting 13 points and 12 rebounds in the win. The pair of Charvis (24 points, four rebounds) and Mukama (20 points, five rebounds) led the way for Ryerson.

On the heels of a loss to Carleton, it’s clear the Rams are still one of the top threats to win it all come March. They have a roster that’s loaded with both talent and experience, and that will go a long way when all is said and done.

DeAndrae Pierre has a bright future ahead of him at York

After winning the OUA Men’s Basketball Rookie of the Year award last season with the Laurier Golden Hawks, guard Ali Sow (Ottawa, Ont.) has taken the next step this season and is now a serious contender for the OUA Men’s Basketball Player of the Year award.

First-year guard DeAndrae Pierre (Brampton, Ont.) could very well follow a similar path with the York Lions.

The 6’2’’, 170-pound guard came to York after a successful senior season at GTA Prep and he has continued to enjoy success with the Lions. Pierre chose York over a slew of Division I offers in the NCAA, and it may have been the right decision for him as he is a big part of the future plans for the program.

Through the Lions’ first 14 games of the season, Pierre is among the team leaders in several different key statistical categories. He ranks third on the team in scoring with an average of 13.4 points per contest. Pierre is one of five Lions averaging double-digit points per game this season, and he ranks only behind veterans Chevon Brown (Toronto, Ont.) and Gianmarco Luciani (Maple, Ont.).

Add in his 4.4 rebounds and 2.6 assists per game along with his 45.3% shooting from the floor and 36.6% shooting from beyond the arc and Pierre is enjoying plenty of individual success during his first season in the OUA.

When you look at the stat line for Pierre this season, it is considerably similar to that of Sow a season ago. Here’s a look at the stat lines for both players during their first seasons in the OUA:

Sow (24 games): 16.5 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 2.8 APG; 45.9% FG, 37.8% 3PT, 76.8% FT

Pierre (14 games): 13.4 PPG, 4.4 RPG, 2.6 APG; 45.3% FG, 36.6% 3PT, 66.7% FT

Over the course of the season, Sow produced at a slightly higher clip in all areas except for rebounding when compared to Pierre’s stats through 14 games this season. With that said, Pierre has been an impact player in his first season for the Lions much like Sow was for the Golden Hawks a season ago.

From November 9 through to January 11, a stretch of 10 games, Pierre recorded double-digit points across the board to emerge as a consistent offensive threat for the Lions. Over the weekend of November 16-17, Pierre went for a combined 51 points to lead the attack for York despite a pair of losses. He recorded a career-best 31 against the Waterloo Warriors to kick off his big weekend that was his coming out party in the OUA.

While it’s been a small sample size of just 14 games so far, all signs are pointing towards Pierre having a successful career with the Lions. While the future remains to be seen, DeAndrae Pierre is a name you’ll want to have on your radar as the games come and go for York and he ascends to league stardom by the end of his first season.