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With key returnees, Camosun Chargers eager for tipoff

Media Release
Release date: October 28, 2015

By Mario Annicchiarico, Times Colonist

With a strong core of returning veterans, both Camosun Chargers basketball teams look forward to hitting the hardwood Friday in their PACWEST league openers at Vancouver Island University.

“We’re a little bit older and little more ahead of the schedule because of it. There’s a little more maturity, which is always good for a coach,” said Chargers men’s head coach Scot Cuachon, who was blunt when asked what his expectations were for the 2015-16 team. “I would expect to compete in every game and we would love to put more wins in the win column, of course.”

After finishing fifth with a 9-12 record last season, Cuachon sees no reason why the Chargers can’t be a plus-.500 team.

“We have a large number of returning guys and we all share the same sentiment about it. We underachieved with that team last year, so hopefully it’s a different outcome,” he stressed.

With nine returnees, it is a fair goal to set as Cuachon will rely on players like former UVic Vikes Matt Hampton and Rulon Schmidt, but also the likes of Evan Woodson, Cody Yates and point guards Lucas Derksen and Ismail Abdulahi. The latter two have moved in from Lakeland College in Alberta and Thompson Rivers University.

Abdulahi is well known from his stint at Lambrick Park where he and Matt Neufeld were leaders.

2014-15 PACWEST All-Rookie Ali Cooper looks to get the Chargers back to Provincials. / Photo by Bruce Stotesbury, Times Colonist

“We’ll rely on all these players in the sense of production, but I don’t think we’re a super-star type team where one guy will do it for us every night,” said Cuachon. “It will be more of effort, defence and offence by committee. It has to be by committee. We’re just not a one-man show type of team.”

The same holds true for coach Carl MacDonald’s women’s team, which posted an identical 9-12 regular-season record, but performed well in the provincial playoffs, defeating Capilano 68-64 in the quarter-finals. In the semis, the Chargers lost a tough 59-56 decision to Quest, which was at the time the No. 1 rated team in the country.

“I see us being stronger and better than last year,” said MacDonald, who has eight players back, including three starters. “Certainly we lost talent, but the players we’ve picked up have added to this team and made us very strong.

“There is a real bond and cohesiveness to this team. The whole dynamic is solid. They’re ready to go and waiting to get going.” Kathryn Candell, of Pacific Christian, is back at point guard, only now as a starter. MacDonald also has Oak Bay products Kelly Young and Ali Cooper, Lambrick Park’s Amy Acheson and Emma Cunningham of Spectrum all back, and all will be strong players.

“Ali had a fantastic rookie year and certainly was complimented by Kelly,” said MacDonald. “Both were top-10 in scoring and rebounding last year.” Cooper was PACWEST rookie of the year, a member of the all-rookie team and a second-team all-star. All will use their experience from last year’s regular-season and playoff run to make the Chargers better.

“It certainly is something to build on. The girls that are back understand what we’re doing and the desire to build is in them. They’ve worked hard all summer on developing our game and our program,” said MacDonald.

“Absolutely, it’s something to build off,” Cooper agreed. “We still have half of us as returning players, we remember the battles we lost and we want to take those back this year.”

Cooper, who turns 23 in December, enjoyed a strong 2014-15 campaign after taking some time off after high school.

“I felt like I spent the first half of the season getting back into it and got it going at the end so I’m excited about having another year,” she said.

The women’s team tips off at 6pm at VIU on Friday, with the men to follow at 8pm The Chargers’ first home game isn’t until November 20 when they host Quest at the PISE gym.

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