Gee-Gees Dream of Winning National Championship
Gee-Gees team and fans rush the court to celebrate their victory at the Capital Hoops Classic, February 5th. All photos by Meagan Simpson.
They say the third time’s the charm, and that just might be true for the Ottawa Gee-Gees. After losing in the championship game to the Ravens two years in a row, they are itching to take home the title.
Head coach James Derouin says he and his group of veteran players have set their sights on becoming Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) national champions.
“The team’s goal this year is to win a National Championship,” says Derouin. “But unlike the past we are trying hard to focus on getting better throughout the season and focus more on being at our best when it matters most.”
They have won the last two games this season against Carleton University men’s basketball team, the most recent at the Canadian Tire Place on February 5th. The University of Ottawa’s team won this year’s 10th annual Capital Hoops Classic 78-72.
It has been eight years since the Gee-Gees men took home the Capital Hoops trophy and Derouin says the win was extra special for them and definitely helped get rid of some of their ‘ghosts’ in the building.
“Winning the Capital Hoops means a lot for our team and our program,” Derouin says. “Carleton has dominated that game in the past, and despite the fact that is only a league game, for a lot of fans in this city, it might be the game they remember the most.”
However the team has their sights set higher Derouin told Ottawa Life Magazine, “We’re different this year and we’re focusing on the future. We’re happy with the win but we want to win [nationals] in March.”
With an almost perfect season, the Gee-Gees may have what it takes to unseat the 11 time national champion Ravens. With only two losses in 15 games this season, they are leading the CIS Northern Division with 26 points.
Though the Ravens are not far behind with 24 points and only three losses this season, two of which were against the Gee-Gees.
Both teams have been going back and forth, vying for top spot all season and the latest statistics from CIS have Carleton ranked 2nd and the University of Ottawa 3rd after the Ryerson Rams.
The difference for the Gee-Gees this year? Derouin believes it is his team’s experience and size that sets them apart and makes them stronger compared to previous years.
More than half of the team consists of veterans, fourth and fifth year students, including point guard Mike L’Africain, forwards Matt Plunkett, Nathan McCarthy and guard Caleb Agada who is just coming back from an ankle injury.
After the Capital Hoops game L’Africain told reporters that their team motto is ‘FMB’ – For My Brothers – and their success doesn’t just come from lead players but a collective effort and sacrifice from the whole team.
Agada, who has helped bring his team to many victories, was back on the court this weekend, though Derouin says he was not one hundred percent yet and hopes to see him fully recovered in the next few weeks leading up to playoffs.
With only four games left in the regular season he says, “[Our] team needs to keep focusing on getting better and improve right to the end. Defence and rebounding are still the key for us moving forward.”
Over the weekend the Gee-Gees played away two games, losing 96-90 to McMaster but taking their game against Brock 89-82.
Derouin says, “We have shown signs of being great and also signs of being extremely vulnerable. This makes a coach very uneasy. We hope to have the best version of our team come March. If we can do that, [we’ve] got a shot.”
He notes that be believes there are six to eight teams who he thinks have a chance to win nationals this year and he counts his team among them. The CIS Final 8 championship tournament that will decide this year’s victor is being held at the University of British Colombia, March 17-20th.
If the Gee-Gees succeed in achieving their goals it would be the first ever time for the University of Ottawa men’s basketball team to bring home the national championship trophy.