Augustana Vikings Ready to Contend Again in ACAC North Division

Hunter, Mason
Replacing Mason Hunter isn’t going to be easy, but Head Coach Dave Drabiuk and the Augustana Vikings have a solid core back who will be looking to build off their banner season a year ago. (Source: Alberta-Augustana Vikings)

CAMROSE, Alta. — 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 men’s basketball program for the Augustana Vikings.

2018-19 in Review

Last season was a banner year for the Augustana Vikings and their men’s basketball program.

Playing in the tough ACAC North Division forced the Vikings to bring their A-game each time out. They posted a record of 15-9 during the regular season, a record that was good enough for the third spot in the North Division standings.

Augustana finished five games back of the first-place CUE Thunder.

The Vikings went 7-3 over their final 10 games to build some momentum ahead of the post-season. Their stretch of strong play ultimately helped them secure a playoff spot in the jam-packed divisional race. Augustana posted an average of 89.0 points per game in the regular season which ranked third-best in the ACAC.

In addition to their high scoring offense, they were the best shooting team in the league, hitting on 47.8% of their field goal attempts as a team throughout the year.

In the playoffs, the Vikings had their sights set on bringing home their first-ever ACAC medal in men’s basketball. In their quarter-final contest, the Vikings took down the 2nd-seed from the East Division with an 85-75 win over the Red Deer College Kings. From there, a 100-70 loss to the Thunder in the semifinals sent the Vikings to the bronze medal game.

Despite the loss, the Vikings still had the goal of bringing home a medal, and they wouldn’t be denied. While they needed overtime, the Vikings picked up the 107-104 win over the Medicine Hat Rattlers to secure the school’s first-ever men’s basketball medal in ACAC play.

Fast forward to the 2019-20 season, and the Vikings will be looking to build off their bronze medal finish. Only this time, they get to do it on their home floor. The Vikings will host the 2020 ACAC Men’s Basketball Championship, and with the home support at their backs, the Vikings have their sights set on adding another medal to their resume.

Who’s Gone?

After winning the ACAC Bronze Medal last season, the Augustana Vikings will be looking to replace two of their key contributors in 2019-20. Head coach Dave Drabiuk will be tasked with replacing the team’s top scorer, who made the jump to the U Sports ranks, while also looking to replace one of the team’s better two-way players.

Mason Hunter (Edmonton, Alta.) has made the jump from the ACAC to the U Sports ranks after a standout 2018-19 season. Hunter will suit up for the MacEwan Griffins in 2019-20 after leading the Vikings in scoring last season. Over the regular season, Hunter averaged a team-best 15.6 points per game on 48.8% shooting from the floor and 41.3% shooting from three-point range.

In addition to his offensive production, Hunter averaged 4.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, and 0.9 steals per contest, showcasing his abilities on both sides of the ball. Hunter will look to post similar numbers for the Griffins as they look to climb out of the basement in the Canada West standings.

In addition to losing Hunter, the Vikings will be without the services of Darian Smigorowsky in 2019-20. Last season, Smigorowsky averaged 6.3 points, 4.2 rebounds, and 2.9 assists per game while shooting 31.2% from the field and 33.8% from beyond the arc. Smigorowsky was highly effective from the free throw line, hitting on 96.9% of his attempts from the line during the regular season.

Augustana will look to their returning group and incoming recruits to make up for the loss of production with the departures of Hunter and Smigorowsky. Five of the Vikings’ returnees averaged at least 8.0 points per game this past season, and a slew of incoming recruits will help make the transition a smooth one.

Who’s Back?

The Vikings may have lost their leading scorer from last season, but they return their share of talent in 2019-20 as they get set to host the 2020 ACAC Men’s Basketball Championship in Camrose. Three double-digit scorers are back in the mix this season along with a pair of role players who will take on expanded roles when the new campaign gets underway.

Nathan Bowie (Edmonton, Alta.) is back for 2019-20 and he gives the Vikings a consistent presence on offense. Over the regular season, Bowie recorded double-digit points on 20 occasions, a number that includes six games with at least 20 points. On back-to-back nights in November against the NAIT Ooks and TKU Eagles, Bowie recorded consecutive 26-point performances.

For the year, Bowie averaged 15.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, and 3.9 assists per game while shooting 45.3% from the field and 39.0% from three-point range. He is the top scorer back for the Vikings after last season. With his strong play on both ends of the court and his ability to impact the game with or without the ball, look for Bowie to be among the conference’s best again this year.

The first half of the season had its ups and downs for both Spencer Marion (Edmonton, Alta.) and Michael Stasuik (Cold Lake, Alta.), but both players found their rhythm once the calendar shifted to 2019 and the playoff race began to heat up.

Marion posted an average of 12.3 points and 5.1 rebounds per game last season, all while shooting 54.0% from the field. He recorded 14 games with double-digit points last season, nine of which came in the second half of the season alone. However, his best game of the year may have been early on in November. He went for 16 points and 15 rebounds in a 10-point win over GPRC.

Stasuik led the Vikings in rebounding last season, averaging 6.7 rebounds per contest to go along with his 12.2 points and 1.8 assists per game. Like the rest of his team, Stasuik was effective from the field, shooting 47.7% from the floor and 46.7% from three-point range. Like Marion, it wasn’t until 2019 hit that Stasuik found a consistent rhythm on offense. He did, however, close the regular season with three-straight games with at least 21 points.

In addition to the three double-digit scorers, the Vikings welcome back Elijah Schmuland (Spruce Grove, Alta.) and sixth-man Austin Brulotte (Leduc, Alta.). Schmuland had himself a strong year from the field, shooting over 60% from the floor overall in 2018-19. He posted 9.8 points and 5.4 rebounds per game, and he will look to take on an expanded role this season with the loss of Hunter.

Brulotte was impressive as the top option off the bench, posting 8.5 points and 1.4 rebounds per contest. He shot 37.8% from the floor and 40.4% from beyond the arc. With Hunter and Smigorowsky gone from last year’s team, don’t be surprised if Brulotte cracks the starting five this season.

Incoming Talent

“This is the first year that we have a significant number of transfers coming in,” added Drabiuk. “They will add depth, competitiveness in practice and defensive presence to our already veteran anchored roster.”

“I am really happy with both the high school recruiting class and our transfers.”

The Vikings have six recruits in their 2019-20 recruiting class, three each from the high school ranks and post-secondary programs. Augustana will welcome a pair of transfers from the GPRC Wolves to the fold this season, as well as one transfer from MacEwan.

UAA Commits
Evan Smith and Gavin Limber, both from Salmon Arm Secondary, will join the Vikings in 2019-20 as they look to build off last year’s bronze medal win. (Source: Alberta-Augustana Vikings)

In terms of high school recruits, the Vikings have announced just two names on their official website thus far. Guard Evan Smith and forward Gavin Limber both come to the Vikings after playing their high school basketball at Salmon Arm Secondary School. Smith will add depth to the back court rotation, while the 6’8” Limber adds size to the front court mix, giving Drabiuk another big body in the paint.

“Our High school recruits will bring athleticism, scoring touch and competitive fire to our team,” continued Drabiuk. “All three of them will have a great career in the ACAC based on the work I have seen them put in so far this summer.”

In addition to their recruiting class, the Vikings have added players who can help the program, both now and into the future. Adding U Sports and ACAC experience to the mix on the transfer market will help the team make an easier transition from last season to this year.

“Every game matters,” added Drabiuk. “Last season, the North Division was full of teams that were tough outs.”

In 2018-19, the North Division was competitive from start to finish, and the playoff race went right down to the wire. This season will be no different, as the Vikings will find themselves in a dog fight almost every night out.

One thing that works in favour of the Vikings is that their spot at the ACAC Men’s Basketball Championship is secured as the host program. Still, the Vikings will be looking to put together a strong regular season to show that they earned their spot just like the other seven teams in the field.

From there, they will be looking to use their home court advantage and turn that into a second straight ACAC medal when all is said and done.

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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