HALIFAX, N.S. — Back for its 11th installment, the Dyrick McDermott Invitational is set to take place over the January 4-5, 2020 weekend.
Over the years, some of the best teams and players from the East Coast have brought their talents to the campus of Mount Saint Vincent University (MSVU) to play in the event. With an influx of talent each year and high-caliber basketball, the focus of the event still remains the same.
The Invitational was established back in 2010 in memory and honour of past MSVU Mystics Women’s Basketball Head Coach Dyrick McDermott, and it was his vision to fill the tournament with high-caliber competition.
McDermott served as the Head Coach of the Women’s Basketball program from 2001 through to 2009, amassing a win-loss record of 160-17 over his tenure. In 2008, he helped guide the Mystics to a Silver Medal at the CCAA Women’s Basketball National Championship.
The two-day event will feature four men’s teams and four women’s teams. On the Men’s side of the tournament, the host Mystics will be joined by the UKC Blue Devils, St. Thomas Tommies, and the Atlantic Spurs.
MSVU will be joined by St. Thomas, a collection of former ACAA All-Stars, and a collection of AUS All-Stars.
Below, you’ll find a full schedule of the weekend’s events, and a look at all of the teams involved in the Invitational.
Here’s a look at the schedule of events for the two-day Invitational.
Saturday, January 4th, 2020
2:00pm: UKC vs. Atlantic Spurs (MBB)
4:00pm: St. Thomas vs. AUS All-Stars (WBB)
6:00pm: MSVU vs. St. Thomas (MBB)
8:00pm: MSVU vs. ACAA All-Stars (WBB)
Sunday, January 5th, 2020
11:00am: ACAA All-Stars vs. St. Thomas (WBB)
1:00pm: St. Thomas vs. UKC (MBB)
3:00pm: Atlantic Spurs vs. MSVU (MBB)
5:00pm: AUS All-Stars vs. MSVU (WBB)
On the Men’s side, three teams from the ACAA will take part in this year’s event, plus the Atlantic Spurs.
The Spurs are made up of past players from both the ACAA and AUS, plus one from the OUA, and will be coached by Kenneth Reardon and Todd Williams. Former Carleton Ravens forward Elliot Thompson is the lone representative from outside of the East Coast conferences, but the Fredericton, NB native won’t be far from home.
Three former Mystics players will take to the floor at their alma mater, as Jack Gallinaugh, Sean Boulay, and Derek Norris will be back on campus for the event.
UKC Blue Devils (2-4)
Chad Wadden and the UKC Blue Devils will be looking to build some momentum ahead of the second half of the ACAA season. The Blue Devils come into the event having won two of their last three league games before the break, one of which came against the Tommies back on November 17th, 78-74.
The Blue Devils are led by fourth-year guard Jayden Nordin (Halifax, NS). Through the Blue Devils’ first six games, Nordin is averaging 20.2 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest, all while shooting 42.7% from the field and 81.8% from the free throw line. He has scored in double-figures five times, and has topped the 30-point mark twice.
Back on November 16th in an 87-76 loss against the Crandall Chargers, Nordin went for 41 points, going 10-for-21 from the field and 15-of-21 from the free throw line.
Collectively, the Blue Devils are a young team. A total of 11 players on their roster are in their first year of eligibility in 2019-20. First year guard Reese Zororgole (Halifax, NS) is having himself a strong start to his collegiate career, averaging 10.8 points and 4.8 rebounds per game through six contests.
With a win over St. Thomas already under their belts this season, UKC will look to use that to their advantage when the teams square off Sunday afternoon.
St. Thomas Tommies (4-2)
The Tommies had some ups and downs in John Hickey’s first season as Head Coach. Having dealt with some injuries to key players among other obstacles, the Tommies will be looking to use the Dyrick McDermott Invitational as a way to get everyone on the same page ahead of the ACAA stretch run. St. Thomas enters the event with a 4-2 record in league play, and are in a three-way tie for second place with eight points.
Second year forward Daemen Hemphill (Grand Falls, NB) has been a key addition to the mix for the Tommies after transferring from the Acadia Axemen. Hemphill is one of three players to have started all six games for St. Thomas this season, and he currently ranks third on the team in scoring with an average of 12.2 points per contest. Hemphill is also tied for third on the team with 6.3 rebounds per contest.
Hemphill is entering the tournament playing his best basketball of the season. In the Tommies’ final game before the break, an 85-76 win over the Holland Hurricanes, Hemphill went for a season-high 21 points on 9-of-19 (47.4%) shooting from the field. He now has four games in double-figures on the year.
Both Almin Dervisevic (Ottawa, Ont.) and Geoffrey Lavoie (Ottawa, Ont.) have missed the last two games ahead of the break. St. Thomas went 1-1 over those two games, splitting with the Hurricanes. Getting one, or both, players back for the tournament will allow for the team to operate at full strength before league play resumes on January 11th.
Lavioe ranks first in the ACAA in three-point shooting percentage (54.5) and second in overall field goal percentage (57.8).
After a 3-0 start to their ACAA season, the Tommies will look to build off their win last time out and build a head of steam as they look to separate themselves from the pack in the standings come league play.
MSVU Mystics (2-4)
Ian MacRae and the host Mystics come into the Dyrick McDermott Invitational in a similar situation to that of the Blue Devils. The Mystics will be looking to build some positive momentum that they can ride into the second half of league play and make an early move up the standings. At 2-4, the Mystics are tied with UKC for 5th place in the league standings. MSVU is coming off a road loss to the Mount Allison Mounties in their last game before the holidays, 83-69.
A pair of veterans have been leading the way for the Mystics this season. Fourth year guard Brody Blakney (Riverview, NB) and fifth-year guard Liam Mitchell (Halifax, NS) have been at the forefront of the Mystics’ offense in 2019-20. Blakney leads the Mystics with 15.3 points per game on 48.6% shooting from the floor, while Mitchell ranks second on the team with an average of 13.0 points per game.
Blakney enters the event riding a four-game streak in which he’s recorded double-digit points. Last time out against the Mounties, Blakney went for a season-high 20 points while shooting 50% or better from the floor for the third time. As for Mitchell, his streak of five straight games in double-figures ended against Mount Allison, as he was held to just seven points in the loss.
Up front, second-year forward Tario Sands (Eleuthera, Bahamas) ranks second in the ACAA with 9.3 rebounds per game. He has one double-double to his name this season, and that was a 27-point, 20-rebound showing against UKC back on November 20th.
Playing on their home floor should give the Mystics an added boost of momentum over the two-day event, one that they will look to use to their advantage.
On the Women’s side of the Invitational, two teams from the ACAA plus a pair of All-Star teams make up the four-team field. Both the Mystics and Tommies will play each of the All-Star teams, and will not play one another until the regular begins mid-January.
The AUS All-Star team is comprised of nine former student-athletes from the U Sports level. Eight of the nine players are from the East Coast, with former Acadia forward Abbey Duinker (Cambridge, Ont.) being the lone player from elsewhere in Canada.
Ellen Hatt (Fall River, NS) played with the Axewomen last season. She averaged 8.7 points and 3.3 rebounds per game for the AUS Champions. The AUS All-Star roster will have an Acadia flare to it, as Chanel Smith (Halifax, NS), Katie Ross (Bedford, NS), Jasmine Parent (Aylesford, NS) and Duinker join Hatt as Axewomen alum on the team.
The ACAA All-Star team is made up of 11 former student-athletes, 10 of which played in the ACAA. Lindsay Whittaker (Moncton, NB) played her collegiate basketball with the Algonquin College Thunder in the OCAA, but will take part in this year’s event.
Seven of the 10 players from the ACAA suited up for the Mystics at one point in their collegiate career. The likes of Madison Doucet (Bathurst, NB), Jocelyn Moore (Sydney, NS), and Christina Brien (Bedford, NS) are among those who will be back on the court this weekend.
St. Thomas Tommies (5-1)
Fred Connors and the St. Thomas Tommies come into the Dyrick McDermott Invitational as the 9th-ranked team in all of Canada, and they will be looking to build on their strong start to the season and keep their momentum going into the second half. St. Thomas begins the second half of their ACAA schedule with six of their first seven games on the road, so a strong showing against the AUS All-Stars and ACAA All-Stars would give them an added boost ahead of a tough stretch.
Second year guard Vanessa Soffee (Fredericton, NB) is one of the top two-way guards in the country. Through six games this season, Soffee is averaging 11.7 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.7 assists, and 3.7 steals per contest. She has an assist-to-turnover ratio of 2.0, showcasing her ability to get her teammates involved while taking care of the ball.
Offensively, fourth-year guard Bridget Frazee (Sussex, NB) leads the team with an average of 13.7 points per contest. Frazee has five games in double-figures thus far, including a 23-point outing against the Mystics back on November 16th.
The Tommies have a heavy rotation of players that Connors can roll out to give his team a different look and keep their opponents on their toes. A total of nine players have seen the floor in all six games, and all nine of those players are averaging at least 11.8 minutes per contest. Their depth has been a key factor in their 5-1 start to the season.
MSVU Mystics (5-1)
Head Coach Mark Forward and the reigning ACAA Champions enter the 11th edition of the Dyrick McDermott Invitational as the 6th-ranked team in the nation after their 5-1 start to the year. The Mystics won the event last season, and MSVU have a roster that can contend for the National Championship once more.
The Mystics have four players averaging double-digit points this season through six games, three of which are veterans with the team. Fifth year guard Julia Kokonis (Guelph, Ont.) leads the team with an average of 14.7 points per contest on 41.0% shooting from the floor. She is one of the top free throw shooters in the country, as she’s shooting 96.8% (30-of-31) from the line.
Third-year guard Nikki Arsenault (Summerside, PEI) ranks second on the Mystics in scoring, averaging 12.2 points per contest. Kelsey McGrath (Torbay, NL; 10.2 ppg) and Tahlia Jones (Fall River, NS; 10.0 ppg) round out the group of double-digit scorers for the Mystics.
Much like St. Thomas, the Mystics have a deep roster in 2019-20. Nine players have seen the floor in all six games for MSVU, and of those nine players, seven of them are averaging at least 12.3 minutes per contest. Their depth has carried them to a 5-1 start, and they will look to build more momentum on their home floor and defend their Dyrick McDermott Invitational title from last season.
Mystics Head Coach Mark Forward is excited about the challenge of his team facing off against a pair of all-star rosters over the two-day event.
“They give us as good a challenge as any team in the country would,” said Forward. “Experience is an asset that you can really see when playing the older former players.”
“They make it look easy.”
The 11th installment of the Dyrick McDermott Invitational promises to be an exciting two days filled with high-caliber basketball. From unique match-ups and former stars returning to the court, and teams looking to exact some revenge from regular season losses, the two-day event will be one that you won’t want to miss.
Action gets underway at 2:00 pm on Saturday afternoon and wraps up Sunday evening.
– T. Bennett