Ken Gould Invitational gives Tommies basketball high hopes for the season

Still of the St. Thomas University women's basketball team, playing against Holland College for the Ken Gould Cup. This past October 14th, 2023. (Daniel Salas/AQ)

The St. Thomas University Tommies hosted the 12th annual Ken Gould Invitational at the Lady Beaverbrook Gym from Oct. 13 to 15, bringing together men’s and women’s basketball teams from the Atlantic Collegiate Athletics Association (ACAA) for preseason play.

The men’s team won all three of their games, while the women won two and lost another by just two points to the Mount Saint Vincent University Mystics.  

John Hickey, STU men’s basketball head coach, recognizes that there is a lot to improve on looking forward to the season, despite getting good results throughout the preseason.

“Our attention to detail needs to be a little bit better, defensive execution… we needed a little bit more consistent energy,” said Hickey. “We’re not playing with pace consistently enough offensively.”

Last season, the STU men’s basketball team finished second in the regular season standings, even though they finished with the same record as first-place Holland College. Hickey hopes that the team addresses the downfalls that they had last year that cost them first place. 

“It’s just bringing that consistent work ethic every day in practice, being in situations that are filled with adversity and reacting properly,” said Hickey.

“Our expectation is to win… we certainly are not going to be happy with finishing second.”

Harrison Florean, a fifth-year player for the Tommies and one of the team captains, said his biggest concern for the season is that everyone stays free of injury. 

“Our first two games we played great… our third game, I think we were just tired because we came off the weekend before playing three games.”

“My biggest fear is that we won’t be able to stay healthy,” said Florean, referring to potential injuries. 

The men’s team has been building chemistry throughout activities such as a cooking class, where they were taught about cooking healthy food by a chef. 

“In past years, we’ve always had two or three different groups in teams that never really hung out,” said Florean. “This year we don’t have that.”

Fred Connors is heading into his 21st season as the head coach of the Tommies women’s basketball team. He expects to win the ACAA championship for the first time since 2013-14. 

“This is the youngest team I’ve coached here … we sat down as a coaching staff to talk … we’ve just shifted our focus, to simplify how we’re teaching skills and simplify the weight workouts and how we make it make sense to our players in modern terminology,” said Connors.

After the preseason, he said that his team, though very young, is not selfish and works hard. 

“I thought everybody stepped up in different ways… we play very much as a ball movement, player movement, defensive-minded team,” he said. 

“I’m more concerned about who’s guarding and defending and rebounding than I am about who’s scoring.”

Celine Sterckel, one of the captains of the women’s team, expressed her excitement for the start of the new season. She sees a lot of character and resilience within the team. 

“We will do anything for each other, whether that’d be diving on the loose ball … like one through 13, we have each other’s backs,” said Sterckel. 

“I think we are gonna shock a lot of teams this year.”