CALGARY, Alberta — The third time is the charm.
In each of the last two seasons, the SAIT Trojans have entered the CCAA National Championships as the ACAC Champions. They have won each of the last two post-season titles in the league, but haven’t been able to turn that into success at nationals, falling short of their quest.
Two seasons ago, the Trojans finished second in the South Division behind the Medicine Hat Rattlers. They went on a run through the post-season and secured their first league title since the 1999-2000 season. SAIT would go onto the CCAA National Championships and finish in fifth-place. They would go 1-2 over the three days, with their win coming against the ACAA’s Mount Allison Mounties.
Last season, the Trojans entered the playoffs as the team to beat in the ACAC. They finished the regular season with a record of 16-5, which earned them a share of the regular season South Division title with the Medicine Hat Rattlers. A win over the Lakeland College Rustlers sent the Trojans back to nationals as the ACAC Champions.
At the 2018 CCAA National Championship tournament, the Trojans once again fell short in their quest for a national title. This time around, they finished in sixth place after posting another 1-2 record, with their win coming against the Humber Hawks of the OCAA.
Now, in 2018-19, the Trojans are hoping that the third time is the charm. With a talented roster back for head coach Marty Birky and his staff, SAIT will be looking to bring home yet another ACAC title and turn that into success on the national level at the CCAA National Championships.
In each of the last two seasons, the Trojans have advanced to the CCAA National Championships as the ACAC Champions, but haven’t been able to turn their league results into success on the national stage.
Last season, the Trojans knocked off the Lakeland College Rustlers in the ACAC Championship game to earn their second straight league title, 88-77. Both the Trojans and Rustlers earned spots in the eight-team field at the CCAA National Championships, giving the ACAC two chances at securing the national title.
The Trojans finished the 2018 CCAA National Championships in sixth place, posting a 1-2 record across their three games at the event. SAIT picked up an 86-83 win over the Humber Hawks, a victory that was sandwiched between losses to the Douglas College Royals and Holland Hurricanes.
For the second year in a row, the Trojans finished in the bottom half of the field.
Back in the 2017 CCAA National Championships, the Trojans posted an identical 1-2 record, finishing fifth in the event. SAIT picked up a win over the host Mount Allison Mounties in their second game of the event. They fell to Holland in an offensive slug fest in their opener, 113-103, before dropping their final game of the tournament to the VIU Mariners to finish in fifth place.
Heading into the 2018-19 season, the Trojans have their sights set on a third straight ACAC Championship, but they will be looking to turn that into success on the national stage come March.
The Trojans will be without the services of forward Murphy Beya from last year’s team, who averaged a team-high 10.6 rebounds to go along with 15.8 points per game last season. The graduation of Beya leaves a hole in the front court that the Trojans will look to fill with newcomers and returnees alike, but they add some talent to an already loaded back court by way of a former CCAA All-Canadian.
Former Red Deer College Kings’ guard Ian Tevis joins the mix for the Trojans this year as a fifth-year guard. The native of Kent, Washington played professionally in Germany last season after posting impressive numbers with the Kings back in 2016-17. In his last season in the ACAC, Tevis averaged 23.6 points, 7.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists per contest with Red Deer College, en route to earning himself ACAC Player of the Year accolades.
Tevis was also named a CCAA All-Canadian for his efforts.
After a year playing professional basketball in Germany, the 5’11” guard is back in the ACAC, and he will look to help the Trojans capture a national championship that has eluded them in each of the past two seasons. As a team, the Trojans averaged over 90 points per game last season, and the addition of Tevis to the mix will only add to their offensive firepower.
SAIT will have three players from the state of Washington on their 2018-19 roster, as the pair of Charlier Conner and John Smith both hail from Lacey, WA. Conner will be entering his second season of eligibility, while Smith will be a fourth-year player for head coach Marty Birky and his staff this season.
Smith played in just seven games last season prior to the Christmas break, but he posted some impressive numbers. He had a pair of 30+ point performances, including a 39-point outing against the St. Mary’s University Lightning on November 25th, Smith’s final game of the season. Over his seven games, Smith averaged 22.9 points per contest. A full year from Smith will add yet another weapon to the rotation for the Trojans, and that should help the Trojans down the stretch and into the post-season.
Conner emerged as a star in his first season with the Trojans in 2017-18. The 6’1” guard started 19 of the Trojans’ 21 regular season games, and he was one of seven players to average double-digit points per contest. Conner posted 13.0 points, 6.1 rebounds, and 5.3 assists per game last season for an all-round impressive debut season in the ACAC. In 2018-19, Conner will look to continue his strong play on both ends of the floor and help the Trojans secure a third straight ACAC title.
While the back court is loaded with talent, the front court is where the question marks remain for the Trojans. With the loss of Beya, the Trojans have just one forward with ACAC experience on their roster. Second year forward Magai Magai averaged just 6.5 minutes per game last season for the Trojans over 21 regular season games. Three newcomers and Magai make up the front court rotation for SAIT on their 2018-19 roster, so don’t be surprised if the Trojans go with a smaller lineup on a regular basis this season.
The Trojans have arguably the best back court rotation in the ACAC this season with the trio of Conner, Smith, and Tevis leading the way. Add in key veterans like Nicholas Molina and Amitoj Rehill along with talented newcomers, and the Trojans are the team to beat once again in the conference. SAIT has their sights set on another league title in 2018-19, and this could be the year that it translates to success on the national stage.
– T. Bennett