Little wonder why coach Shawn Swords can hardly wait to get started.
“I think in the players’ minds, they are ready to take the next step,” he said recently. “Our expectation is to get even better this year and be at nationals.”
Lofty goals for a team that is not without some key graduating players who will be missed. The absence of Mike Hull, Isiah Pasquale and Mark Ramalho changes the complexion of the team. But so too does the addition of Timmins native Josh Budd, expecting to help provide CIS scoring sensation Manny Pasquale with one more offensive threat.
Along with the return of the likes of Alex Ratte, Georges Serresse and defensive wizard Nelson Yengue, the Voyageurs are more than comfortable on the attack.
“I have no worries that we are going to be able to score on teams,” Swords said confidently. “It’s just going to be a lot more effort on the other end of the court.”
In fact, the focus for the L.U. crew heading into training camp was very plain to see.
“Offensively, we were fine,” Swords said. “Our defence, in certain games, really let us down and didn’t allow our offence to shine. We really are still a transition team and in order to get out offensively, you need to be good defensively." Fans of fast-paced run and gun basketball will enjoy taking in a Laurentian game or two.
The Voyageurs might well have been the only team in the country to hold a 10-point lead over Carleton, also taking Lakehead to overtime when the Thunderwolves were ranked third in the country. Coach Swords sees the possibilities.
“I think we showed we could compete with the national champions for spurts of time, but obviously the game is 40 minutes,” he said.
But it is clearly something to build on.