WATERLOO, Ont. — The Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks men’s basketball program is coming off their second straight OUA Semifinal appearance and hope the five new additions to the 2020-21 roster can help them take the next step.
Golden Hawks head coach Justin Serresse is entering his fifth season as Laurier’s bench boss and is looking forward to adding these young players to an experienced Hawks squad. “We are very excited about our 2020 recruiting class; we believe this class is a very talented one. They will bring speed, athleticism, shooting and basketball IQ.”
With one out of province recruit and two local talents returning after leaving the city for prep school programs, Serresse has had to overcome and adapt his recruiting plans due to the COVID-19 pandemic. “COVID created challenges for every coach and school to be able to attract players from different provinces and cities so the fact that we were able to attract such a variety of players is a testimony to the work we have put in the last couple of years.”
Hard work that has begun to pay off.
The 2019-20 season had its challenges, but the Golden Hawks battled their way back to the OUA Semifinals for a second straight year and have continued to remind teams that they are a force that will only continue to get stronger and they have done just that with this seasons recruiting class.
Among the additions are two local student-athletes, who left Waterloo to attend prep schools but have returned home to attend Laurier.
Ethan Passley was the 2017-18 co-MVP of the local District 8 Athletic Association after he helped lead the St. Mary’s Eagles to the D8 title. The 6-0 point guard then attended GTA Prep in Brampton for the 2018-19 season. Serresse describes Passley as “a very dynamic PG, his speed and abilities to get to the rim is unmatched, he will have a great opportunity to learn from Ali but also push him every practice, which is going to be important for us to get the best out of our PG.”
The second local product returning home is Damien Nath who most recently played for Athlete Institute of the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA). The 6-0 shooting guard was a second team All-Star in the local D8 high school division when he attended Resurrection C.S.S. in 2018-19. Serresse was expecting to have to wait another year to add Nath to the roster, but he decided to reclassify for the 2020 season. “We are excited to have the chance to work with Damien one year earlier then expected. His strength as a rookie is very impressive. He is a lefty guard who can also play multiple positions.”
Nath has goals that he believes coach Serresse and the Golden Hawks can help him achieve. “It has always been my dream to play basketball professionally. This step with Laurier, along with my passion and dedication to excel, will help me to fulfill this dream.”
The next two additions to the purple and gold are Lydell Husbands-Browne and Ismael Sow, who both have connections to two current Hawks.
Husbands-Browne, a native of Halifax, N.S., attended the same high school as current Golden Hawk Ben Stevens (Halifax Grammar School) and was a 2020 BioSteel All-Canadian nominee. The 6-2 small-forward spent time with the Basketball Nova Scotia program and coach Serresse knows he will add depth to the roster with his versatility. “He is a very athletic wing player who can play multiple position. His passing abilities and toughness stand out as a rookie.”
Husbands-Browne is looking forward to joining the Golden Hawk family and a big reason why is the culture that Serresse and the players have built. “The reason I choose Laurier was off the fact of how genuine the coaching staff and players were during my time visiting campus, they made me feel as if I was apart of the team when it was the first time they met me.”
Ismael Sow will be joining his brother, OUA All-Star Ali Sow, in the purple and gold. “Ali’s brother coming to Laurier is so exciting for us, he is different from his brother coming out of high school.” Coach Serresse believes the younger Sow has what it takes to make an impact right away. “We think he would be a great defender as a rookie but will also bring his versatility on offense. As a guard Ismael can do a bit of everything on offense which makes him very dangerous.” The 6-2 Ottawa native helped lead the Ottawa Next Level (ONL) U19 boys team to a Division 1 Ontario Cup Championship in 2018 and was poised to do it again this season before the pandemic cut the season short.
Rounding out the 2020 recruiting class is 6-7 Ryan Benn.
Benn, a native of Mississauga, Ont. joins the Golden Hawks from the George Harris Preparatory Academy (GHP). Coach Serresse knows the young forward has a great opportunity to develop with this veteran team. “Ryan is a young PF who was under the radar. His work ethic and length is something we are excited about and we are looking forward to getting him to develop along side our bigs.”
Benn also spoke to the culture the team has built, echoing Husbands-Browne’s comments on the family atmosphere. “The team has a family feel rather than just guys playing together. Seemed like the best place to develop both athletically and academically.”
Across all five additions the Golden Hawks have brought in student-athletes with strong skill sets who are ready to work hard to help this team take the next step.
But when that next step will be taken is still unclear. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic all OUA fall sports have been cancelled until December 31, 2020. The OUA continues to evaluate if return to sport is possible for the winter term and will announce any updates on their website, OUA.ca.
– T. Bennett
Information from the Laurier Golden Hawks contributed to this post.