OFSAA silver medal team in rebuild mode with six seniors leaving
Oakwood Collegiate’s motto is Tempus Litteris Demus, or “take the time to learn.” It’s a Latin phrase that basketball coach Anthony Miller wants his team to take to heart for the 2016–17 school year.
The Barons’ senior boys basketball team are coming off a gold medal at the City championships and a AAA silver medal performance at OFSAA. The troupe lost in the finals, 61–53 to Toronto rival Father Henry Carr in early March, (St. Michael’s College School made it an all-Toronto podium with a bronze), and now Miller is looking at another rebuild.
“I think for us, it’s not just from the basketball side of things,” Miller said, via a June phone conversation. “We’re really trying to get back to being really academic, really strong.
“It’s kind of the ebb and flow of being a teacher.”
There are many challenges facing the squad, especially with six key players leaving for post-secondary school and preparatory programs. Contributors like Kadre Gray, Josis Thomas, Dequan Cascart and Matey Juric are on that list.
But there’s is growth on the horizon for the team when Oakwood absorbs Vaughan Road Academy’s Interact Program in 2017-18. The program was developed to help accommodate students with outside arts and sports. Notable alumni include West Ham United player Doneil Henry and NHLer Brandon Pirri.
“Hopefully that will put a new dimension into our program,” Miller said. “It will give us an opportunity to do the things we’ve already been doing with our basketball program, to do it on a bigger scale.
“Fitness and athletic development are our main focus over the last eight years, and that’s why we’ve had so much success.”
An issue on the rise for Oakwood is the introduction prep basketball in the city. Leagues like the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association may be beneficial to the sport, but Miller questions the impact on the classroom, and how it will draw players from the public school programs.
“Sometimes to keep your really good kids, the knee-jerk reaction is to do more,” he said. “I don’t think that’s type of demographic to do more with, you want those kids to be allowed to do more in the classroom.”
There’s also the risk of complacency now that Oakwood’s perennial rival, Eastern Commerce shuttered its doors after 2014–15 school year.
“We definitely missed (the rivalry),” Miller admitted. “We went undefeated in league play … it was definitely because you’re not prepared for Eastern.
“It doesn’t hold the same level of cachet for the kids as it did in the past when you’re looking forward to that really tough game against Eastern.”
Still, Miller’s looking at forward Georgi Nedyalkov and guard Jordan Andell to carry a much younger team into the league play next year.
The two will be tagged with buying into a program that has seen three OFSAA championship final appearances in six years.
“It’s work. Every time you hear, it’s offence, offence, offence and when you’re trying to win a championship there’s no better way,” Miller said. “More people in history have won it on defense than offence.”