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Well, the players have flown in and training camp is officially underway. That means it’s time to look at the final group of Ottawa BlackJacks, the U SPORTS players.
The league held its annual U SPORTS draft recently, which saw all ten teams select 2 players from U SPORTS programs to join their ranks. Some of the players picked up have actually graduated school and are signed to Standard Player Contracts, though the league still classifies them as U SPORTS players and they are eligible for that award at the end of the season. Others are still in university and are paid in the form of a bursary towards their school in order to keep their “amateur” title (which is needed to further be enrolled in U SPORTS programs as well as participating in certain tournaments).
Teams have since gone about snatching up non-drafted U SPORTS players to fill out their rosters, and the BlackJacks are no exception. Let’s take a look at the 4 university players on the squad.
Last year’s number-one overall pick fell to number-five in this year’s draft, but the Ottawa BlackJacks were none the less happy to snatch him up when they could.
Demosthene has split his U SPORTS career between Bishop’s University and the University of Saskatchewan. Through 77 games he has put up 13.2 points, 5.3 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.2 steals.
He was one of the few bright spots on the Saskatchewan Rattlers roster last year (really, Devonte Bandoo was the only other one), as he averaged 6.9 points, 2.3 rebounds and 1.5 assists on 45.2% shooting in 13 games while never looking out of place against the professional ranks.
It will be interesting to see how Demosthene will fit into the BlackJacks rotation this summer. He’s proven that he can compete on this level, but Ottawa has a ton of depth at the guard positions with guys who have constantly performed in professional leagues.
As we saw last year with Alain Louis and Kadre Gray, head coach Charles Dube-Brais is more than comfortable with letting U SPORTS players earn their way into the lineup. If Demosthene outperforms his counterparts in training camp, a spot in the rotation could become his to lose.
Pepin joins the BlackJacks rosters after being their second-round pick for the second year in a row.
The Ottawa Gee-Gee alum is coming of a season that saw him score 15.8 points and 5.2 rebounds a game. For his career at the University of Ottawa he appeared in 52 games, averaging 15.3 points, 6.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.6 steals.
He only appeared in one game last season, but made it count, as he registered 8 points and 5 rebounds in the playoff victory over the Hamilton Honey Badgers.
The 6’6” Montreal native has spent the majority of his career as a forward but spent this past season in university transitioning to a guard, presumably to make better use of his shooting ability. That versatility could give him a leg up on some of the other players he’ll be competing for minutes against.
In all likelihood this will just be another developmental season for Pepin. But given his showing in the playoffs and ability to play multiple positions, we could see him work his way into the lineup should a few teammates be late to join the squad or finish the season early.
An Ottawa native, Boursiquot return home last summer to continue school after a four-year stint at Northeastern.
While with the NCAA program, Boursiquot averaged 6.8 points and 4.3 rebounds in 21.5 minutes over 95 games, shooting 53.2% from the field. Back home with the Gee-Gees, he put up 12.4 points and 5.3 rebounds over 15 games, while also nabbing 2.1 steals – good for ninth in the province.
Boursiquot brings a lot of interesting things to the table, especially for a guy who was signed right out of U SPORTS. Perhaps the most intriguing aspect of his game is his defense. On top of averaging over two steals a game last year, he averaged 1.7 in his final year at Northeastern. While he’s a bit small at forward standing at 6’5”, he’s in tremendous shape, so strength shouldn’t be a problem when it comes to battling with players down low.
On top of that, while he was never a star south of the border, he did put up good numbers in a limited role and was highly efficient in doing so.
He could get some looks this season if he continues his steady play in practice.
Warnholtz is the final Ottawa native to join the BlackJacks roster this summer.
The Kid from Kanata spent his university career at Carleton University. He came off the bench for his first two years but was finally named a starter last season. He proved worthy of the promotion, averaging 12.9 points and 4.3 assists in 14 games while being one of the province’s best threats from deep.
For his career, he’s averaged 7.2 points and 2.5 assists in 57 games on the way to winning three consecutive U SPORTS championships.
Warnholtz will return to Carleton at the end of the season, so there’s really no pressure on him to come in and prove right away that he can compete against such high competition. That being said, there’s not much expectation that he’ll contribute a ton on the court this year either.
Warnholtz is on a development contract, and that’s really what this year should be viewed as. It’s an opportunity for him to train with some pros, pick up a few things about the game, and get used to the professional schedule.
As I’ve said before, this is a very, very deep team. Even the guys who were signed from U SPORTS programs are guys who would be pushing for regular minutes on the majority of other teams in this league.
That being said, when the full team is assembled and ready to compete, here’s what I think the lineup will look like:
Starters: Walt Lemon Jr., PG; Jared Wilson-Frame, SG; Jackson Rowe, SF; Deng Adel, PF; Chad Posthumus, C
Bench: Nervens Demosthene, PG; Cody John, SG; Jermaine Haley, SF; Tyrell Green, PF; Ryan Wright, C
Reserves: Corey Johnson, SG; Zena Edosomwan, C; Shameil Stevenson, SF; Guillaume Pepin, SG; Maxime Boursiquot, SF; Aiden Warnholtz, PG
The guards really sort themselves out. Lemon and Wilson-Frame are the most accomplished players on the roster, so there’s no question who the starters are going to be on the 25th. Teams are required to dress one U SPORTS player, which locks up Demosthene’s spot in the ten-man rotation. While Johnson is a lights-out shooter, John ultimately has a more proven track record in the CEBL, which gives him the leg up (but I won’t be surprised when Johnson gets some games in).
The wing spots on this team are really interesting. We could see any combination of the four players and I wouldn’t blink an eye. I think Rowe is the most dynamic offensive player among them, which earns him the first spot. Green is a phenomenal shooter, but he doesn’t offer much else on the court. I like him coming off the bench because it gives him the chance to score points or bunches, or if he struggles you can take him off the court without it affecting the gameplan too much. Adel and Haley both bring a lot on the defensive side of the ball, but Deng has a lot of experience at a high level and is a more reliable scorer.
Posthumus is a lock to start at the center position. He dominated in his few games with the BlackJacks last season and the coaching staff and front office adore him. Who gets the back-up role is anyone’s guess. Wright had the job last year and looked very good, though he’s not a big numbers guy. Zena Edosomwan is younger and more athletic, but he doesn’t have anyone near the same level of experience in terms of games or level of opposition. I think the team will ultimately go with the safer, more proven bet in Wright, but both will undoubtedly see playing time.
Haley being absent for the beginning of the season means Stevenson, Pepin and Boursiquot will all be competing to be the tenth man early. Depending how long Haley is away, we could see all three of them get a look.
This team wants to host the trophy on their home court at the end of the season, and even if they didn’t have an automatic bye, they would seem like a lock to be among the final four standing.