Quest for respectability

John
John Browne
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Sea-Hawks see some light at the end of the tunnel

Memorial Sea-Hawks men’s basketball team won three of their last six games which seems pretty good until you realize they lost 13 of the previous 14.

Peter Benoite

A 4-16 Atlantic University Sport (AUS) record is the best the team’s had in six years under coach Peter Benoite, but it’s not even close to getting them into the playoffs, a place the Sea-Hawks have heard about but haven’t seen since the 2005-06 season.

Benoite held his annual end-of-the-season team meeting Thursday night.

There were some positives to take out of the season and while four wins doesn’t seem like something to get excited about, anyone who has followed the team in recent years will tell you there’s enough developing talent on the squad for a legitimate post-season run next time around.

The meeting which lasted about an hour will be followed up by one-on-one sessions with the coach later on.

“We talk about the high points and the low points and what we can learn from the season,” said Benoite about the meetings.

“It’s basically an open forum where players can have their say as well,” noted Benoite.

 And while there’s time to look back and assess what’s gone down, Benoite is looking ahead with a team that will have some crucial experience next year after going with a squad devoid of fourth and fifth-year men.

There’s obviously room for improvement and a few holes to be filled on the roster. The quickest way to get better is with players from outside this province who are more prepared for the rigors of the AUS.

Benoite hopes to recruit a body for the three-guard slot and he admits his team’s bench needs to be deeper because, “We didn’t get much from the bench this year.”

A consistent three-point shooter wouldn’t go astray, either.

In regards to recruiting outside of the province, Benoite has his eye on three players from Ontario, one from United States and one from Sweden.

He’ll check out the three Ontario natives later this year and he’d like to bring in at least three players to MUN this summer for a closer look.

A couple of locals are expected to get a close look for next season as well including Christian Greenland from Gonzaga Vikings who may sign on today.

“There are some good (local) high school players coming out in the next few years,” he said.

The MUN coach said there have been a few recruits — local and out-of-province — who haven’t worked out over the years, but that’s the same with every AUS team.

Benoite’s been very fortunate in recent years and has added some solid building blocks to the program in Vasilije Curcic, Caleb Gould and Alpha Kisusi along with rookie Davion Parnsalu this season. Sophomore Curcic was named to the AUS second-team all-star squad and Parnsalu made the conference all-rookie team.

Still, Benoite admits it’s taken him longer to build a playoff team than expected.

“I thought we’d have a playoff team in three or four years. We could have had it in Jason Sheppard’s last year, but even then we struggled at the guard position and we didn’t have a legitimate post. We were undersized and without a guard.”

If Benoite signs the recruits he really wants, he feels the team could win at least half of its 20 games next season.

That’s a tall order for a team that has gone 14-106 since Benoite took over the head coaching duties.

But there’s a feeling, not only with Benoite and his players but within the local basketball community, that things are about to change.

“We had a group this year that understands where we’re going and feel confident about it,” said Benoite.

“It was a real plus that we finished off winning three of our last six games. The players can see the tangible growth from the start of the season.”

Getting that elusive playoff spot next year would be huge for the struggling program.

“We want to take the next step and I think we’re ready,” said Benoite. “Even if we just squeak in, it would be great for our development and confidence. Sometimes teams that squeak in pull off surprises.”

Fourth-place St. Francis Xavier are a good example of what can happen in the playoffs as they upset first-place Acadia Axemen in the AUS semifinals during the weekend before losing to No. 2 Saint Mary’s in the final.

Regardless of where they finished this season, Benoite feels his team can be very strong over the next three years and the players seem to agree.

“Everyone has been waiting for it,” said Benoite. “The players want it. The community wants it. And no one wants it more than me.”

jbrowne@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Atlantic University Sport

Geographic location: Ontario, MUN, United States Vasilije Curcic Saint Mary

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