Ready for tip-off: 2019-20 preview of Tommies basketball

(Billy Cole/AQ)

The St. Thomas University basketball teams are preparing to tip-off for another season. The women’s team will come off an Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association finals loss while the men’s team will start the season with a new head coach.

Women’s team

Established forward for the St. Thomas women’s basketball team and fourth-year economics student Madison Owens has been eagerly preparing for the fall.

“We never really stop training for the season,” Owens said.

“At the end of one season we get about a month off, then we begin training for the offseason … Tryouts are typically the first day of classes in September. That’s when you get to see what kind of work people put in over the summer.”

This year’s team has a lot to build off, finishing their regular season with 17 wins and four losses and an appearance in the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association finals only to lose to Mount Saint Vincent University.

“We’re trying to learn from that loss and grow from it so that we will not let it happen again,” Owens said.

Like Owens, Tommies head coach Fred Connors is eager to start his seventh season with the team.

“We have a core group of seven from last year’s team that went to the championship game,” said Connors.

The finalists include Owens, Emily Owens, Kiandra MacMullin, Becca MacNeil, Christina Richardson, 2018-19 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association All-Canadian Bridget Frazee and 2018-19 ACAA Rookie of the Year Vanessa Soffee.

New introductions to the team are Abby Draper, Cassy Hemphill, Sam Stordy, Emma Connors and ACAA transfers from different schools, Morgan McHatten from Crandall University and Kassidy Hamilton from the University of King’s College.

“I like our team, their skill set, and the way we’re playing [but] we still need to learn how to play together. We’re still going through that growth process, and it’s coming along well,” Connors said.

Moving forward, Connors thinks the team will be able to leave last year’s loss behind them.

“It was a new experience for a lot of our players and we played a veteran team. MSVU came in and played some good basketball on the right day,” he said.

“We had a couple of chances to stay close but I think we just got a little wrapped up in the moment.”

Connors said the loss gives his team extra experience.

“It was a learning experience for a lot of the girls, and hopefully we’ll carry that through to this year,” said Connors.

Men’s team

Incoming STU men’s basketball head coach John Hickey is keen on beginning his tenure at STU. A local face, Hickey had previously led both the varsity and junior varsity Leo Hayes boys’ basketball teams for 15 years, as well as coach provincial teams for Basketball New Brunswick for a decade.

“I’ve been pretty fortunate,” Hickey said.

Hickey is replacing long-time Tommies’ coach Scott McLeod.

For his inaugural season with St. Thomas, Hickey is optimistic about what he will offer to the team.

Hickey said there will be a period of adjustments for everyone on the roster because all coaches have different styles.

“I think everybody is doing pretty well with adjustment— everybody is settling in nicely,” he said.

The men’s team fell short of a playoff appearance last season, going 7-14. This year’s team features a steady balance of new and returning players.

Veterans include Arthur Reece III, Michael Otoo, Almin Dervisevic, Geoffrey Lavoie, Carlo Theriault and Jordan Underhill.

New additions brought in comprise of Garan Davies,  Joel Harris, Zachary Vautour, Colin Loughery and Ted Braden, with Daemen Hemphill transferring from Acadia University and Ian Watters from the University of New Brunswick Saint John.

“For as young as some players may be, we have a pretty experienced group,” Hickey said.

Both the women’s and men’s Tommies regular season home openers will be on Saturday, Nov. 2, against Mount Allison, at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., respectively.