The University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball team is currently third in the East division of Canada West with a 3-3 record, with three new recruits joining the starting lineup this season.
One of the standout players so far has been leading scorer Marquavian Stephens, a third-year guard who transferred from Southwestern Community College in Chula Vista, California. Stephens currently leads the team in scoring with 17.2 points per game, a figure that places him in the top ten in Canada West.
As a two-time MVP in the Pacific Coast Athletic Conference, Stephens brings dynamic scoring and playmaking to the Huskies offence. In an interview with the Sheaf, Stephens noted that he had a small adjustment period when he first started playing Canada West basketball. However, head coach Barry Rawlyk’s guidance helped Stephens settle into the team offence.
“He [Coach Rawlyk] just told me, play my game and be the great player that you are,” Stephens said. He added that playing “freely” has helped him play at his best early in the season.
The Huskies opened their season with a 2-0 weekend against the Brandon Bobcats, but fell to the Regina Cougars in consecutive games at the PAC. The Huskies held a seven-point lead heading into the fourth quarter of game two against Regina, but were unable to weather a 34-point fourth quarter from the Cougars, who completed their comeback victory.
Prior to their trip to Regina, Stephens stated that the team needed to “bring more energy” and hustle against the Cougars squad.
“Offensively, we are going to have some off and on [games]… If we are doing all the little things — defense, rebounding, communication — then I think everything else will play in our favour,” Stephens said.
Stephens explained that the Cougars are a team that shoots a high volume of threes. A focus of the Huskies defence against the Cougars was to “limit them getting good looks [from three].”
The Huskies fell 68-82 in game one against the Cougars on Nov. 26 despite a team-high 17 points from Stephens, but the team was able to execute their game plan and win game two 90-80 on Nov. 27. In their victory, the Huskies held the Cougars to just 10 made threes, their lowest mark in the four meetings against the Huskies.
In addition to Stephens, the Huskies offence has also been bolstered by two other starting guards, fourth-year Nervens Demosthene and third-year Tyrese Potoma, both of whom were new recruits for this season.
Though Demosthene is averaging 13.2 points per game, his main priority is the defensive end, Stephens said.
“ [Demosthene is] a great defender and a good leader… The main thing for him is defence, and that’s a big thing for us because he can [defend against] the other team’s better players… He’s very unselfish. He doesn’t mind not scoring as much for the betterment of the team, so I love playing with [him].”
Another guard averaging double digit points so far is Potoma, who provides the team with valuable spacing as a three-point shooting threat.
“[Potoma is] a crazy shooter. Once he gets going, it’s hard to stop him,” Stephens said.
The team’s success cannot be stated without highlighting the contributions of third-year guard Alexander Dewar, who has been excellent in the sixth-man role. Dewar is averaging 16.2 points per game this season, with three 20-point plus performances so far.
“[Dewar is] a great player especially because we bring him off the bench a lot of times. He gives us such great energy and he’s so aggressive and strong. That’s going to be beneficial, especially later on when it comes to playoffs,” Stephens said.
Stephens pointed out that the various guards on the Huskies relieve some of his past playmaking duties at Southwestern, allowing him to concentrate his efforts on scoring when playing with the Huskies. In addition to his scoring, Stephens stressed defence as the number one key for the team going forward.
“Our defence leads to our offence — that’s our identity.”
The Huskies will play their final games of the calendar year on Dec. 3 and 4 in a two-game battle against the Manitoba Bisons at the PAC.
Uday Chhina | Sports and Health Editor
Photos: Nicholas Saretzky | Contributing Photojournalist