SAIT Trojans Eye Fourth Straight ACAC Championship

Conner, Charlie
Charlie Conner is the lone double-digit scorer back for the Trojans in 2019-20 as SAIT looks to rack up its fourth straight ACAC Championship. (Source: The Weal) (Header: CCAA – ACSC)

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.

We are attempting to preview each and every team from coast to coast ahead of the new season. Challenges have emerged as the months have gone on, but we’re still doing our best to get as many out as we can before conference play gets underway.

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 SAIT Trojans.

2018-19 in Review

It was another banner season for the SAIT Trojans in the ACAC, but they fell short once again on the National level.

For the third year in a row, the Trojans were crowned league champions at the ACAC Men’s Basketball Championship, earning themselves a spot in the eight-team field at the 2019 CCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. A stellar regular season and dominant run through the playoffs weren’t enough to propel the Trojans to success on the national stage, as they returned home without a medal for the third consecutive season.

After disposing of the CUE Thunder in the ACAC Championship Game, 95-84, the Trojans went to British Columbia for the National Championship. In their quarter-final match-up, SAIT fell to the VIU Mariners, 102-84. A 90-82 loss to the Humber Hawks followed, sending the Trojans into the 7th/8th Placement game against the host Langara Falcons.

The Trojans’ offense found its rhythm to close the event, picking up a 114-99 win over the Falcons to finish in 7th place with a 1-2 record.

In the regular season, the Trojans rolled over their ACAC competition, posting a 20-1 record while running away with the South Division title. Their lone loss came at the hands of the Olds College Broncos, 81-80, back on January 25th.

SAIT rebounded with a 109-76 drubbing of the Broncos the very next night.

The ACAC Championship win for the Trojans in 2019 was their third in as many seasons. While they have had tremendous success in the ACAC, it hasn’t translated well to the National stage, as SAIT has returned to Calgary without any hardware each time.

Heading into the 2019-20 season, the Trojans have their sights set on a fourth consecutive ACAC Championship and another shot at National glory. For them to achieve either of their goals, they will need to do so without several big names from last year’s roster. Six of their top seven scorers have either graduated or moved on from the program, leaving a ton of production on the table ahead of 2019-20.

Who’s Gone?

Last year’s SAIT team had a high-octane offense, one that could score in bunches. With four players averaging double-digit points per game, three of which averaged at least 15 points a game, they had different players who could step up and lead the team on any given night. Now, with six of their top seven scorers gone, the roster will look considerably different.

Here’s a look at who the Trojans will be without when the new season tips off.

John Smith (Lacey, Wash.)
23.9 ppg, 4.1 rpg, 4.3 apg, 1.6 spg; 41.3% FG, 35.0% 3PT, 72.0% FT

Ian Tevis (Kent, Wash.)
18.9 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 3.9 apg, 3.0 spg; 44.9% FG, 35.1% 3PT, 80.6% FT

Nicholas Molina (Calgary, Alta.)
10.4 ppg, 3.9 rpg, 3.4 apg, 2.3 apg; 38.7% FG, 29.8% 3PT, 80.0% FT

Rahsaan Chambers (Toronto, Ont.)
8.3 ppg, 6.8 rpg, 0.8 apg, 0.3 spg; 51.1% FG, 43.9% FT

Magai Magai (Calgary, Alta.)
6.2 ppg, 4.0 rpg, 0.7 apg, 0.7 spg; 47.7% FG, 81.6% FT

Shay Foggo (Calgary, Alta.)
5.1 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.4 spg; 44.9% FG, 27.3% 3PT, 61.9% FT

In the back court is where the Trojans’ losses hit them the most. Losing Smith, Tevis, and Molina takes away three of their regular starters from last year’s team. Smith and Tevis are do-everything guards who excel at both ends of the floor. Tevis’ ability to impact the game without the ball in his hands with his quickness and defensive abilities will be extremely tough to replace.

Molina’s leadership, along with his production, will also be tough to replicate this season.

Losing Chambers up front delivers a blow to the front court, but the Trojans return some depth pieces who could potentially make up for the loss. Chambers was the team’s second-leading rebounder last season, pulling down 6.8 rebounds per game.

The Trojans will be in tough to replace the production lost with the six departing players, but if anyone can do it, it’s Head Coach Marty Birky and the three-time defending ACAC Champions. With one of Canada’s most underrated players leading the way this season, the Trojans could very well be just fine.

Who’s Back?

While the Trojans lose their share of talent and will be in tough to replicate the production lost, they do bring back four veterans who will look to lead the way. Atop the list of returnees is arguably the country’s most underrated guard who does a little bit of everything for the Trojans on both sides of the ball.

Here’s a look at who the Trojans welcome back in 2019-20 from last year’s team.

Charlie Conner (Lacey, Wash.)
15.0 ppg, 7.2 rpg, 4.0 apg, 1.8 spg; 48.1% FG, 45.5% 3PT, 77.8% FT

Enoque Michel (Montreal, Que.)
4.5 ppg, 3.1 rpg, 0.9 apg, 0.5 spg; 55.9% FG, 33.3% 3PT, 77.8% FT

Wyatt Haux (Estevan, Sask.)
2.7 ppg, 1.3 rpg, 0.3 apg, 0.5 spg; 55.0% FG, 30.0% 3PT, 50.0% FT

Kenton Linton (Ottawa, Ont.)
2.3 ppg, 1.2 rpg, 1.1 apg, 0.6 spg; 23.5% FG, 50.0% FT

Charlie Conner is the guy for the Trojans in 2019-20. He ranks as the top returnee in points, rebounds, assists, and steals per game, and his ability to score at all three levels is among the nation’s best. The term ‘underrated’ fits Conner to a tee, as there’s little mention of him on the national level outside of Alberta.

That changes this season.

Last year, Conner posted double-digit points on 17 occasions, proving that he can consistently produce on offense. He had at least five rebounds in 17 games, while also dishing out at least four assists on 12 occasions. Conner’s ability to produce consistently in all facets of his game bodes well for the Trojans this season as he becomes the focal point of the offense.

Conner capped off his stellar 2018-19 season by being named to the CCAA All-Tournament Second Team for his performances at the National Championship.

After Conner, the production for the Trojans drops off considerably. Up front, the 6’5’’ Haux will look to take on expanded roles to help take some of the pressure off Conner and Michel in the back court. Linton will look to ramp up his level of production with the hopes of seeing an increased level of responsibility in 2019-20.

Fortunately for the Trojans, a nine-man recruiting class will bring reinforcements up and down the roster. Loaded with experience from colleges and universities across the CCAA and U Sports ranks, the Trojans have several pieces coming in who can contribute right away come the new season.

Incoming Talent

With their losses from last season, the Trojans needed to add some experience and talent to the mix for 2019-20. Thanks to their nine-man recruiting class, they’ve done just that. SAIT added players with collegiate experience who can help the team right away, and they’ve added younger players who can help the team into the future.

Here’s a look at who the Trojans have added to the mix for the new season.

Noah Lehto (Sylvan Lake, Alta.)
6’6” Forward from Edge School

Ben Kamba (Calgary, Alta.)
6’0” Guard from Bishop McNally High School

Calvin Chambers (Memphis, Tenn.)
5’9” Guard from Lincoln University

Davide Ciancio (Kelowna, BC)
5’10” Guard from Okanagan College

Kaleel Faiz (Toronto, Ont.)
6’3” Guard from Saint Mary’s University

Earnest MecDonald-Fernando (Toronto, Ont.)
6’6” Forward from Central Toronto Academy

Julian Apakoh (Regina, Sask.)
6’4” Guard from Briercrest College

Tyis Yellow Horn (Strathmore, Alta.)
6’5” Forward from Mount Royal University

Alex Serrano (Toronto, Ont.)
6’4” Forward from University of Wisconsin Platteville Baraboo

The Trojans have added a wealth of experience to the mix ahead of the 2019-20 season. Six of their additions have post-secondary experience while all nine players add a ton of talent and depth to the mix.

Apakoh brings ACAC experience with him from his time with the Briercrest College Clippers, while the addition of Ciancio gives the Trojans a legitimate three-point threat each time the ball is in his hands.

Adding the likes of Serrano and Yellow Horn to the mix gives the Trojans two more veteran forwards who can play the wing and help anchor down the front court. Factor in their three first-year players, and the Trojans have put themselves in a good position for yet another run at the ACAC Championship.

The ACAC Men’s Basketball Championship trophy has lived in Calgary for the past three seasons, and the Trojans have no plans of letting it move anytime soon. SAIT has its sights set squarely on a four-peat, but the road to the Championship won’t be an easy one.

With several new faces in the mix this season, and players taking on new roles with the team, the roster will take time to gel. It’s an inevitable situation that all teams go through on a yearly basis, but it’s more prominent when you have the level of turnover that the Trojans have this season.

Despite their high roster turnover from last year to this season, the Trojans are still the team to beat in the ACAC. With three straight titles to their name, they’ve earned that right, and until someone proves otherwise, the conference is theirs for the taking in 2019-20.

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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