Kings of the basketball court

As I watched the Huskies win the CIS title against UBC 91-81, I couldn’t help but get a little emotional for a team that finally got their day. I guess it’s true: every Dog has its day.

I think I speak for many when I say that this team makes me proud. They make me proud because they’re a bunch of men who had to fight for everything they got all year. And when you talk about respect, well, there was never that for this team.

After starting the season a mediocre 4-4, the Huskies were undoubtedly the best team in the nation the second half of the year. They only went 17-2 down the stretch. Not only did they post a near perfect second half record, they did so while beating the best.

Consider this: to win this year’s championship the Dogs had to beat the CIS No. 1 ranked team, UBC, twice. They beat them in overtime en route to a Canada West title and then, for good measure, the Huskies beat them again in the CIS championship game. They won the games they should have won and also dethroned the unheralded kings of the hardwood from Carleton, in their home, in the national semi-final. To be the best, you have to beat the best and the Huskies did that.

And they did it as a team.

Michael Linklater, Troy Gottselig and Showron Glover were names that garnered national recognition down the stretch and for good reason. All season long these three men poured their heart and soul into this team.

But there was a supporting cast that could out-duel any in the league. Duncan Jones’ game was out of this world at the Final Four Tournament in B.C. Michael Lieffers was unbelievable throughout the whole playoff run, cementing himself as a key player going into next year. Nolan Brudehl, Trevor Nerdahl and Clint Unsworth, and company made pivotal plays when it was needed most. Everyone contributed.

There’s no disputing the fact the University of Saskatchewan basketball program is one of the best in this country. After the women’s team brought home the bronze medal from nationals and the men won it all, the basketball Dogs are going to garner the respect they deserve, at least they should.

“It’s breathtaking, you know, having all these people come out here to support us throughout the year,” said Linklater.

“Hearing their stories about how excited they were about us winning hasn’t fully sunk in yet, and I don’t know if it ever will or when it will, but it’s amazing.”

For years the women’s team has quietly gone about their business. Year after year they find themselves ranked in the CIS top-10; this year at McMaster University in Hamilton, the team finally broke through and won a bronze medal.

Head coach Lisa Thomaidis and her coaching staff perennially assemble teams that compete at the highest level. Yes, the U of S basketball program is a place where athletes want to come and play.

Just ask Lindsay DeGroot. The three-time All Canadian had one year of eligibility in her CIS career when she had to make a decision about what university to play at. Having spent most of her time at McMaster, DeGroot left her former team for the greener pastures of Saskatchewan.

Finally, for coaches Greg Jockims, Nathan Schellenberg and Barry Rawlyk this win is as sweet as it gets. These coaches always knew that they had the talent and pleaded their cases day-in and day-out about the quality of their program; people never really paid attention.

All Jockims ever wanted was a little respect. Now he’ll get it, and a lot of it.

“At the beginning of the season we knew we had the team to get the job done. I just told the guys how proud I am of them, and how happy I am for them, because this experience is something that none of us will ever forget,” said a choked up Jockims. “I’m just so, so proud of them.”

They are the champions, the women’s team is right there beside them and the city of Saskatoon better start realizing fast that basketball at our university is the best in the country, because for too long, we’ve all taken it for granted.

“At the beginning of the season we knew we had the team to get the job done. I just told the guys how proud I am of them, and how happy I am for them, because this experience is something that none of us will ever forget,” said a choked up Jockims. “I’m just so, so proud of them.”

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photo: Greg Mason – The Charlatan (Carleton University)