Humber’s basketball rosters may have the biggest names in Ontario, but when competing on the National Stage it was the Hawks’ deep bench that made a vital impact.
Canada’s top college basketball talents from the 2014-15 season were honoured at the National Championship tournaments last week. And Hawks’ Tyrone Dickson and Ceejay Nofuente’s names were noticeably absent from the CCAA All-Canadian short lists.
Humber’s two powerhouse squads quickly redeemed the early off-court upset with triumphant performances.
The women’s side made program history with a fourth place finish on the National level and the men’s side captured its sixth National title, proving it takes a team to capture the gold, not an All-Canadian.
“We are not so reliant on a guy that will take 15, 20 shots as a high volume shooter,” said men’s assistant coach Samson Downey.
The men’s team capitalized on the winning formula of depth in the roster, but also seized the opportunity to target the disadvantages of their opponents’ one-man-teams.
“The three teams we faced in the quarter final, semi final and final each had All-Canadian players that were high volume shooters,” he said. “We did a great job on those guys. Forcing them to take a lot of shots to get their points. So that is the difference.”
Humber’s luxury of a deep talent pool allowed for a different Player of the Game in the three games, as well as centre Vule Grujicas coming off the bench to share tournament All-Star along with Dickson.
Humber varsity coordinator and Basketball Canada affiliate James DePoe narrows down the key to success at the National level to the philosophy of high performance, high intensity … and high numbers.
“Shawn (Humber’s head coach) and I prefer to have a deep team where everyone can be competitive,” he said. “If we can have players play less minutes but with a lot more bodies, then all the guys know we need their best three-minute shifts at a time where they go as hard as possible.”
The program’s high-level recruitment has a history of taking the best club and high school players that the Ontario pool has to offer. Arriving at a basketball institution like Humber these individual stars buy into a system of being a part of a supporting cast.
“They need to accept who they are as a player and what we need from them,” DePoe said. “They committed to each other, to playing together and being good teammates and executing what we’ve been asking.”
The wealth of the talent is not an exclusive trait of the men’s team.
The Hawks’ women wiped out the Ontario competition to take the provincial title before moving forward to compete at the Nationals on Vancouver Island last week.
Second-year point guard Ceejay Nofuente is no stranger to all-star recognition, receiving numerous provincial accolades. Graduating from the OCAA to the National stage there were no top honours belonging to the Hawks, yet the women made an early statement defeating Quebec’s powerhouse Cegep team, the Sainte-Foy Dynamiques.
“We made history for Humber,” said Nofuente.
“Making our way to Nationals, it was all about the impact we had on every team,” she said. “We were out there as a team and there wasn’t that one player who led us there. Everyone out there gave what the team needed.”
“Every single player had an impact and it was never just one person,” said Nofuente.