St. Mary’s University Looking to Continue Making Strides in 2019-20

Britton, Jordan
Forward Jordan Britton is one of the longest tenured members of the Lightning in 2019-20, and he’s the top returning scorer this season for Head Coach Nathan Ruff. (Source: St. Mary’s University Lightning) (Header: St. Mary’s University Lightning)

CALGARY, 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 St. Mary’s University Lightning.

2018-19 in Review

In terms of results, the 2018-19 season didn’t go as planned for the St. Mary’s University Lightning. However, if you ask Head Coach Nathan Ruff, they have made positive strides and are knocking on the door in the ACAC.

“Last season I felt like we were just on the doorstep and had started to make some strides,” said Ruff. “We have been slowly and meticulously building up the men’s team and preaching roster integrity and retention.”

Overall, the Lightning finished the season with a record of 6-15, finishing in a tie for sixth place in the South Division with the Olds College Broncos. Down the stretch, they went 3-7 over their final 10 games and closed the year on a two-game losing streak.

The season didn’t start out the way the Lightning had envisioned. In the fall term, St. Mary’s went just 1-7 ahead of the Christmas break. Their lone win of the term came on October 13th against the Briercrest College Clippers, 89-63. It was the second game of the season, and they followed that up with six straight losses.

For what it’s worth, the Lightning picked up three of their six wins over the Clippers last season.

Five of their six wins came in the second half of the season. The Lightning picked up wins over the Red Deer College Kings and Lethbridge College Kodiaks in the first three games of the semester, and they followed that up with a sweep of the Clippers towards the end of January. A win over Olds College in mid-February marked the sixth and final win for the Lightning.

After missing the playoffs, the Lightning turned their focus to the 2019-20 season. What’s happened in the past is over with, but they can alter the future. To do so, the Lightning will need to replace the production lost with their six departing players from last year’s team. Among them, the team’s leading scorer has graduated after playing his fifth year of eligibility in 2018-19.

Who’s Gone?

In total, six players are gone from last year’s team. The Lightning lose three of their top four scorers from 2018-19, a group that includes their leading scorer who was also one of the top guards in the ACAC.

Cordell Minnifee (Calgary, Alta.) has moved onto the next chapter of his career after helping lay the foundation for the St. Mary’s men’s basketball program. Last season, Minnifee was one of the league’s better two-way players. He posted 17.6 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.7 assists, and 1.7 steals per game while shooting 43.5% from the field, 43/6% from three-point range, and 78.6% from the free throw line.

Losing Minnifee’s quickness and ability to fill up the basket will sting for the Lightning, but the biggest loss will be his experience. They can always replace the production on the scoreboard and the box score, but replacing his experience is something that simply cannot be done.

Isaac Amsing (Cochrane, Alta.) was one of three double-digit scorers for the Lightning last season. He ranked third on the team with an average of 12.7 points per game. He also pulled down a team-high 7.2 rebounds per contest. Amsing saw the floor in all 21 regular season games last season, making 11 starts along the way. His presence on the glass will be missed this season.

Rounding out the group of top scorers departing is Joshua Matosevic (Nelson, BC). He posted 9.1 points and 4.1 rebounds per game last season while shooting 33.5% from the floor and 33.9% from three-point range.

Also gone from last year’s team is Ethan Minde. In four games, he averaged 12.0 minutes per contest, posting 5.3 points and 1.8 rebounds per night on 43.8% shooting from the field. The pair of Kamal Pennant and red-shirt Carson MacKenzie have also moved on from the program.

The losses of Minnifee, Amsing, and Matosevic will hurt the Lightning in terms of experience, but they also create opportunities for others to step up and contribute for the program. St. Mary’s does, however, return a pair of veterans who can carry the team from an experience standpoint, plus a slew of players looking to seize their opportunity and help the Lightning continue making positive strides in 2019-20.

Who’s Back?

Despite losing three of their top four scorers from last season, and their top overall scorer, the Lightning return an intriguing group of players. They have a pair of veterans back to lead the way, plus a slew of intriguing players who will be looking to step up and seize a new role with the program.

Forward Jordan Britton (Drumheller, Alta.) is the top returning scorer for the Lightning, and he brings a veteran presence to the floor as one of the longest tenured members of the program. Last season, Britton averaged 13.3 points and 5.5 rebounds per game while shooting 39.4% from the floor and 38.7% from three-point range.

With the departures on offense, Britton will be a focal point of the rotation this season. The 6’7’’ forward will look to carry the load on offense.

In the back court, Ryan Tod (Calgary, Alta.) will look to build off a strong season as the team’s point guard. He posted 6.7 points, 2.5 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game on 31.0% shooting and 82.4% from the free throw line. Tod recorded at least four assists in nine games, and three games with double-digit points over the course of the year.

For the year, Tod put together an assist-to-turnover ratio of 1.8, highlighting his ability to get teammates involved while keeping control of the ball. He will look to take on an expanded role this season and help take the offense

Kevin Hammer (Calgary, Alta.) is another player who will look to take on an expanded role this season with the program. He posted 5.9 points, 1.9 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game while shooting 37.3% from the floor and 73.3% from the free throw line. Hammer saw the floor in 13 games, making eight starts along the way.

Hammer posted a pair of double-digit games over the course of the year. He went for 19 points against the Ambrose Lions on January 18th, and he posted 11 points in the regular season finale against the Medicine Hat Rattlers.

From there, the Lightning return a slew of role players who will look to seize new roles with the team. In the front court, the pair of Alex Cliche (Drumheller, Alta.) and Johnpaul Okodua (Edo, Nigeria) give the team two big bodies in the paint. Cliche made 21 appearances last season, 10 of which were starts. He posted 5.1 points and 5.5 rebounds per game on 43.6% shooting from the floor.

Okodua posted 4.5 points and 5.2 rebounds per game on 44.4% shooting from the floor. He made four starts over the course of the year while appearing in 20 regular season games.

Coal Clark (Okotoks, Alta.) posted 4.1 points, 2.1 rebounds, and 2.6 assists per game while shooting 33.3% from the floor and 69.2% from the free throw line. He averaged 20,9 minutes per contest over his 21 regular season appearances, 10 of which were starts. With the losses in the back court, Clark will look to step into an expanded role and contribute on both ends of the floor in 2019-20.

The Lightning have a group of returnees who will be looking to usher in a new era for the program. After the likes of Minnifee and Amsing laid the foundation, it’s time for this year’s group of veterans to continue building.

Incoming Talent

In addition to their returnees, the Lightning have a four-man recruiting class that addresses their biggest loss from last season: experience. A total of three transfers from the U Sports ranks will join the Lightning this season, while a first-year guard will help to shape the future of the program.

St. Mary’s will welcome a pair of transfers from the UBC Okanagan Heat to the mix this season, one of which will be making his return to the Lightning. Randall Mosca returns to the Lightning after a previous stint with the program. Mosca averaged 21.0 points per game while at St. Mary’s, last playing with the team back in 2013-14.

Mosca transferred to UBC Okanagan to pursue a degree in Sociology, and he will now finish his basketball career where it all started.

Joining Mosca with the Lightning from the Heat is Ryan Morck (Airdrie, Alta.). The 6’9’’ forward posted 3.4 points and 2.1 rebounds per game with the Heat back in the 2016-17 season, and he will bring size and a wealth of experience to the front court rotation.

The third and final U Sports transfer is Wil Konybai, who joins the Lightning after transferring from the Nipissing Lakers in the OUA. The Calgary native will return to his hometown to complete his collegiate career after completing his Sociology degree at Nipissing.

In terms of first-year players, the Lightning have added guard Josh Pahl (Okotoks, Alta.). Pahl gives the program a young, talented shooting guard with a strong ethic that they can build around in years to come.

Add in Caleb Jipp, who sat out last season as a redshirt, and the Lightning have injected their roster with a ton of talent.

“This is by far the strongest recruiting class we have had in my time at St. Mary’s University,” added Ruff.

The Lightning lost a lot of experience with their graduating class from last season, but they addressed that with their recruiting class. Adding three players from the U Sports ranks helps to boost the experience level of the team, while their talents help to fill holes up and down their roster.

Thanks to the likes of Minnifee, Amsing, and others, the foundation has been put down for the Lightning.

Now, entering the 2019-20 season, it’s time for the program to continue building and take positive strides towards getting themselves back into the playoff picture. Last season, Head Coach Nathan Ruff felt as though they made some strides, but they have their sights set on making bigger strides this season.

Equipped with a veteran recruiting class and a slew of players looking to make their mark and step into new roles with the team, the Lightning have their sights set on a playoff spot in the tough ACAC South Division.

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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