© — Photo by Gary Hebbard/The Telegram
Not enough experience, too many turnovers and a simple lack of effort combined for a dismal season for a Memorial Sea-Hawks team still struggling to earn respect and a playoff shot in Atlantic University Sport (AUS) men’s basketball.
Although the Sea-Hawks finished 1-19, a little light that still flickers at the end of the tunnel gives coach Peter Benoite some encouragement.
“I thought we did a much better job in the new year even though its tough to see that in the results,” said Benoite, who says the team’s lone win against St. Francis Xavier X-Men in late January was “a highlight” for the last-place squad.
“It’s been a long, tough year for us,” said Benoite. “We had a pretty rough start to the season, and we struggled to give the necessary effort to compete at this level in he first half of the season.
“Our Achilles Heel all year was our turnovers. We just were not able to take care of the basketball, and when you turn it over as much as we did, you’re not going to be in position to win games.”
Memorial led the conference in turnovers with a 23.2 per game average, and was second only to University of New Brunswick Varsity Reds in most personal fouls.
MUN also finished last in conference scoring at 66.1 points-per-game and in average points allowed at 88.5.
Part of the problem in regard to turnovers was obviously the team’s youth. There were no fourth- or fifth-year players on the roster, which is a rarity in the AUS conference.
“Its a tough league to compete in if you don’t have experience,” said Benoite.
“Unless you are super talented, there is no way to make up for it.”
Having said that, Benoite believes the team has a “solid base to build upon” for next season.
The experience under their belts, he said, will automatically make the Sea-Hawks better next year.
“My hope is we can use that experience to make us hungry, and use the year as motivation over the summer to get ourselves individually ready for next season.”
There were some bright spots on the team this year, including the play of rookie Vasilije Curcic and second-year Noel Moffatt.
“Vasilije did a great job for us the second half of the year. It’s disappointing we didn’t have him for the first half,” Benoite said of the Serbian, who redshirted until after Christmas.
Benoite said if the team had Curcic the entire season, “It may have changed the complexion of the season for us.
“When you consider the fact he was playing with a pulled groin for all 12 games the second half as well, it will be interesting to see what he can do next year healthy for a full season.”
Curcic, who named to the AUS all-rookie team Thursday night, was MUN’s top scorer and his 16.5 points-per-game average was sixth overall in conference scoring.
The 6-9 Curcic, along with 6-8 rookie Chris Henderson, who Benoite said “is improving every day,” finally gives MUN an imposing post combination.
“It’s the first time since I’ve taken over the program that we’ve had quality and consistent post play,” the coach noted.
That alone is reason for optimism.
Then there’s the play of second-years Moffatt and Ryan Wood, both products of the St. John’s high school system.
Benoite calls Moffatt’s play “a pleasant surprise” this season, noting, “He has developed into a very confident shooter and, at 6-5, he can get his shot off against most defenders fairly easily.
“If he puts in a hard summer of work, he could make himself into a pretty tough guy to guard in the league next year.”
Moffatt opened a lot of eyes with a sensational 36-point effort against the UPEI Panthers in Memorial’s final game of the season last weekend at the Field House.
Wood is still a work in progress.
“Ryan had a great start to the year for us, but struggled with his consistency the second half. No doubt he has the tools to be a great player in the league,’ said Benoite.
“He just needs to be able to adapt and adjust to the play and to defences. But given that it was only his second year of eligibility, he has a strong upside for the years to come.”
In the meantime, Benoite hopes a couple of Corner Brook Regional High Titans will decide on Memorial University next season.
Benoite is looking to land guards Daniel Foo and Ryan Harnett.
“I think Daniel Foo has the ability to compete and be an effective guard at the next level,” said Benoite.
“He handles the ball well, he can shoot and he’s a willing passer. He sees the floor well and has a very good understanding of the game.”
Benoite said Harnett is, “a very good shooter and very competitive as well. He is a little bit undersized for the two (shooting guard) position, but his ability to shoot the ball is an asset at any level.”
Foo was named the MVP of the recent Hall of Fame Cup (Elite Eight) tournament, while Harnett scored 24 points to help the Titans beat Gonzaga Vikings 72-63 in the final.