Carleton Ravens Reload in Search of 15th National Championship

Tutu, Munis
Munis Tutu is one of three double-digit scorers back for the defending champion Carleton Ravens in 2019-20. (Source: Valerie Wutti – Carleton University Ravens) (Header: Carleton University Ravens)

OTTAWA, Ont. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.

To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.

That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.

From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.

Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.

Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the defending U Sports Men’s Basketball National Champions, the Carleton Ravens.

2018-19 in Review

After losing the title for one season, the Carleton Ravens came back with a purpose in 2018-19.

Coming into the 2017-18 season, the Ravens had won seven consecutive men’s basketball National Championships. They had their sights set on number eight, but the Ryerson Rams had other ideas. An 84-76 win for the Rams over the Ravens ended their title run, sending Carleton to the Bronze Medal game.

In the end, the Calgary Dinos took home the 2018 U Sports Men’s Basketball National Championship with a 79-77 win over the Rams. Carleton won bronze with a 76-71 win over McGill University.

Fast forward to the 2018-19 season, and the Ravens came with a purpose. Their seven-year title reign ended the season before, and they were looking to start a new streak.

Throughout the regular season, the Ravens were the top team in Canada. They posted a record of 22-1 in the regular season, with their lone loss coming at the hands of Ryerson back on January 26th, 78-74. Still, they finished first in the OUA East Division, closing the regular season with a 9-1 record over their last 10 games to carry a ton of momentum into the playoffs.

After winning the Wilson Cup and entering the U Sports Men’s Basketball National Championships as the OUA Champions, the Ravens had unfinished business from the year before. In the quarter-finals, Carleton squared off with the Alberta Golden Bears, and the game was never really close.

The Ravens cruised to the 100-60 win over the Golden Bears to book their spot in the semifinals. There, they met up with the host Dalhousie Tigers. While the game was much closer than their quarter-final contest, the result was still the same for Carleton. After falling in the semifinals the season before, the Ravens earned their way back to the National Championship game with a 76-65 win over the Tigers.

In the Championship game, the Ravens and Dinos squared off in a battle of the only two teams to win a men’s basketball championship since 2011. Calgary came into the game without a loss on their record, but the Ravens were a team that wasn’t going to be denied.

Carleton came out of the gates on fire, and they took a 44-23 lead after into the locker room at half time. In the second half, the Ravens built on their lead and cruised to their 14th National Championship in program history with a convincing 83-49 win over the Dinos.

After a brief one-year hiatus from the National Championship game, the Ravens dynasty lives on with their eighth championship since the turn of the decade.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Ravens have their sights set on starting another lengthy title run. They will have to do so without the services of Dave Smart behind the bench, as the longtime Head Coach of the Ravens accepted the Director of Basketball Operations role with the University. Taffe Charles, formerly the women’s basketball Head Coach at Carleton, made the move to the men’s program.

Charles and the Ravens won the U Sports Women’s Basketball National Championship in 2017-18.

Despite the change behind the bench, how will the Ravens look on the court this season? Given the players they graduated and their incoming recruits, one could argue they’re a better team than they were a year ago, and that should scare the rest of the country, let alone the OUA.

Who’s Gone?

After winning their 14th National Championship in program history, all since the 2002-03 season, the Ravens had four players leave or graduate from the program. While all of them weren’t necessarily their bigger name players or their top scorers, their departures will still be felt across the lineup.

The most significant loss for the Ravens this year in terms of departures is forward Eddie Ekiyor (Ottawa, Ont.). In 2018-19, Ekiyor was primarily used off the bench, making just 10 starts over his 23 regular season appearances. Still, he finished tied with Tanor Ngom of the Ryerson Rams with the best shooting percentage in the OUA during the regular season (63.8%).

Ekiyor was also the Ravens’ leading scorer and rebounder last season, averaging 13.9 points and 6.2 rebounds per contest. Against Ryerson on January 26th, he posted 21 points and 10 rebounds for the first of back-to-back double-doubles. He followed that up with 25 points and 12 rebounds against the Ottawa Gee-Gees on February 1st.

*NOTE: The roster has yet to be finalized, but we are operating under the pretence that Ekiyor will not be returning based on the fact he did not participate in their NCAA opener against South Florida.*

Mitch Wood (Regina, Sask.), Mitch Jackson (Guelph, Ont.), and Troy Reid-Knight (Vaughan, Ont.) all capped off their careers with a National Championship. All three players were key role players for the Ravens during their title run, and the Ravens will need to find new faces to step into their roles as they look to defend their crown.

Of the three, Jackson was the one who found himself in the starting five most often. The Guelph product appeared in all 23 regular season games, making 13 starts along the way. Jackson posted 6.1 points and 3.9 rebounds per contest while shooting 62.8% from the field and 78.0% from the free throw line.

On January 26th against the Toronto Varsity Blues, Jackson went for a season-high 17 points in 17 minutes of action in the Ravens’ 116-61 win. He finished the night shooting 4-of-5 from the field, and 9-of-10 from the line.

Reid-Knight saw action in all 23 games off the bench last season. The transfer guard from the Maine Black Bears averaged 10.8 minutes per outing, and he posted a productive stat line of 4.3 points and 1.3 rebounds per game while shooting 53.3% from the field and 44.4% from three-point range.

Rounding out the graduating class is Wood, a player who primarily came off the bench but found his way into the starting five on occasion. Over his 23 regular season appearances, he made 10 starts. Wood posted 5.6 points and 4.3 rebounds per game, giving the Ravens yet another productive option up and down their lineup.

For reference, every player on the Ravens last season averaged at least 3.7 points per contest.

Who’s Back?

The core group from last year’s National Championship team is back in the Nation’s Capitol for another go at the title. The Ravens return five of their top six scorers from last year’s team that went 22-1 in the regular season. Equipped with some key role players to compliment their starting unit, Carleton is loaded and ready for another title run.

In the back court, the Ravens return the two-time defending U Sports Defensive Player of the Year in Marcus Anderson (Brampton, Ont.). Last season, Anderson ranked ninth in the OUA with an average of 1.7 steals per contest, and he was the leader of the Ravens’ defense that held opponents to a league-low 1,364 points in the regular season. On offense, Anderson added 6.3 points while pulling down 3.8 rebounds per contest.

Anderson, Marcus
Marcus Anderson, the two-time defending U Sports Defensive Player of the Year, is back in a Carleton jersey and ready to wreak more havoc on the defensive end of the floor in 2019-20. (Source: Valerie Wutti – Carleton University Ravens)

TJ Lall (Cambridge, Ont.), Munis Tutu (Windsor, Ont.), and Yasiin Joseph (Ottawa, Ont.) are all back after averaging double-digit points per game last season. Lall was one of the Ravens’ more consistent scorers over the course of the regular season. From November 17th through to January 12th, a stretch of nine games, Lall recorded double-digit points in each game. Lall wasted little time in making a statement, as he posted 31 points, on 13-of-18 shooting, in the regular season opener.

He posted an average of 12.5 points and 5.8 rebounds per contest while shooting 54.9% from the field.

During the summer, Tutu was a part of Team Canada at the 2019 FISU Universiade, giving him some top-level experience ahead of the new campaign. Tutu is coming off a season in which he averaged 11.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 4.3 assists per game. He was arguably Carleton’s best two-way player last season, having an impact on both sides of the ball.

Rounding out the Ravens’ group of returning double-digit scorers is Joseph. The Ottawa native posted 12.1 points per contest while also averaging 3.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists. The back court duo of Joseph and Tutu give the Ravens a veteran tandem who can score when they need to, but have the capabilities to get their teammates involved and are able to battle for rebounds in the paint.

On the bench, Isiah Osborne (Windsor, Ont.) is back for his second season with the Ravens after transferring from the UTEP Miners prior to 2018-19. He posted 8.6 points and 3.0 rebounds per game in his return to the OUA. Stanley Mayambo (Fredericton, NB) is back and will look to build off his 4.7 points per game average from last season.

Up and down their roster, the Ravens are loaded with talent with their returnees. The talent doesn’t stop there, as their recruiting class is packed with even more talent to fill in the cracks and make Carleton even stronger on both ends of the floor.

Incoming Talent

While most of the gang is back together for the 2019-20 season, the Ravens have another loaded recruiting class that adds even more talent to what was already a talented roster. In total, five players have committed to the Ravens for next season. They have added another two players with Division I experience in the NCAA, plus another forward who will add a ton of size and strength to the front court.

Headlining this year’s recruiting class is the addition of guard Cordell Veira (Etobicoke, Ont.). The Etobicoke native returns north of the border after playing Division I basketball with the Florida International Panthers of the Conference USA in the NCAA. In 22 games last season for the 20-14 Panthers, Veira averaged 1.5 points and 1.0 rebounds per contest while averaging 7.7 minutes per night.

Veira, Cordell
After two years at Florida International University, Toronto native Cordell Veira is returning to Canada with the Carleton Ravens. (Source: FIU Panthers)

The addition of Veira adds depth and experience to a back court rotation that already features several players with Division I experience.

Up front, forward Elie Karojo (Montreal, Que.) comes to the Ravens after a successful CEGEP career. Last season as a member of the Nomades de Montmorency, the 6’8” Karojo posted an average of 18.9 points and 9.8 rebounds per game in the RSEQ. Karojo brings a ton of size and strength to the front court rotation for Coach Charles and his staff, adding yet another element to what’s already a lethal roster.

Joining Karojo in the front court this season is another player with Division I experience under his belt. Center Ivan Cucak (Kitchener, Ont.) spent the last two seasons playing in the NCAA with the Austin Peay Governors of the Ohio Valley Conference. The 7′ big man will give the Ravens a size advantage in the paint against most of their opponents this season. He posted 2.9 points and 1.8 rebounds per game last season over 19 appearances.

To top things off, the Ravens have added guards Joshua Haughton (Toronto, Ont.) and Wazir Latiff (Toronto, Ont.) to further solidify their back court rotations, as if they needed it.

The Ravens lost just once last season, and despite losing three players from last year’s team, one could argue that this year’s team is better than the one that won the Ravens’ 14th men’s basketball National Championship. Their incoming recruits help to fill in the cracks up and down the lineup, and they bring different skill sets to the lineup.

With each passing game, the Ravens’ biggest issue may very well be getting guys minutes. With talent up and down the roster, there are only 200 minutes to go around on a nightly basis. Carleton has a problem that every other coach in the country would love to have when it comes to talent and allocating minutes.

If minutes are their only issue, things are pretty good for the Ravens.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Ravens have their sights set on a second straight title, and their 15th overall as a program. Given the fact that they lost three players from last year’s team and found a way to improve, Carleton is the clear team to beat once again this season.

Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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