Humber Hawks Enter the Omar Miles Era Looking to Make up for Lost Time in 2020-21

Mohamoud, Fowzi
Fowzi Mohamoud and the Humber Hawks will be looking to make up for lost time in 2020-21 after their 2019-20 season was cut short due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Source: Humber Hawks) (Header: Humber Hawks)

ETOBICOKE, Ont. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.

While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2019-20 season, one that had no shortage of excitement across both U Sports and the CCAA, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead.

The 2020-21 season is going to be one for the history books. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the start of the season has been pushed back until at least January 2021 for most leagues, with Quebec as the exception. The RSEQ has yet to make a decision on whether or not to delay sports until the Winter semester.

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 2020-21 season.

That’s 112 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally at home.

We are attempting to preview each and every team from coast to coast ahead of the new season. Challenges have emerged in each of the last two seasons as we’ve attempted this feat before, but we’re going to give it another run.

As they say, third time’s the charm. Right?

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 Humber Hawks men’s basketball program.

2019-20 in Review

It’s hard not to feel for the Humber Hawks, especially given how the 2019-20 season unexpectedly came to a close so quickly.

The Hawks came into the 2019-20 season with a ton of hype surrounding the program. They were set to host the 2020 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship inside the Humber Athletic Centre, and they came into the season ranked 10th in the first CCAA Top 15 rankings of the season.

One could have made a case for them to be even higher.

Morgan, Jaylan
Despite a slow start to the season, Jaylan Morgan and the Hawks found their groove, going 15-1 over the final 16 games of the regular season. (Source: Humber Hawks)

Even with the hype surrounding the program coming into the season, it took the Hawks some time to get things rolling. Humber lost its first four games of the regular season, falling to 0-4 and dropping out of the National Rankings after just one week.

All four losses were by seven points or less, so the team was still competitive, but couldn’t find a way to come away with that elusive first win.

A home date against the Canadore Panthers on November 9th, a 69-54 decision for the Hawks, got them back on the right track. From that point on, the Hawks were one of the best teams in all of Canada.

Starting with their win over Canadore, the Hawks went 15-1 the rest of the way after their four-game skid to open the season. Their lone loss during that stretch came on February 15th, an 84-82 defeat at the hands of the Lambton Lions on a buzzer-beater from forward Darrius Canty (Detroit, Mich.).

With a record of 15-5, the Hawks finished tied atop the OCAA West Division standings with the Redeemer Royals. Humber secured the division title by way of a tiebreaker, giving them the top-seed in the West Division heading into the post-season.

Riding a big wave of momentum with their play in the second half of the season, the Hawks rolled into the 2020 OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship after a convincing 119-71 win over the St. Lawrence Vikings (now the St. Lawrence Surge) in their OCAA Crossover Game.

Even though the Hawks were guaranteed a berth at the 2020 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship by way of hosting, they wanted to earn their spot and come away with a conference title.

In the quarterfinals, the Hawks were matched up with the Georgian Grizzlies. Humber took a 29-15 lead after the first quarter and never looked back. They had six players record at least six points, and they held Georgian all-star forward Tyler Vanessen (Whitby, Ont.) to just five points on 1-of-12 shooting from the field, en route to securing their spot in the semifinals.

The semifinals saw the Hawks matched up with the Seneca Sting, who were coming off a strong shooting performance in their 102-73 win over the St. Clair Saints in their quarter-final match-up. Seneca came out of the gates strong once more, shooting their way to a 23-15 lead after the first quarter. Humber chipped away at the lead as the game moved along, and when the dust settled, the Hawks had punched their ticket to the Gold Medal game with a 78-73 victory over the Sting.

In the Championship Game, it was a battle of the top team from each division during the regular season. The Hawks had the tall order of slowing down the George Brown Huskies, a team that was playing with a ton of confidence and were looking to end their 44-year Championship drought.

Humber came out of the gates strong, racing to an early 9-2 lead. The Huskies wouldn’t back down, and they eventually overtook the Hawks and controlled most of the first half. The Hawks would regain a three-point lead early in the third quarter, but George Brown would once again overtake Humber, only this time they wouldn’t look back.

The Huskies ended their lengthy championship drought, securing the OCAA Championship with a 78-65 win over the Hawks.

Still, both teams were off to Nationals. The Hawks still had the opportunity to defend their home court against the top teams from across Canada. Everything was shaping up to be a fantastic event, then the unthinkable happened.

The 2020 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship, among many other sporting events across North America and the World, was cancelled.

Due to the global pandemic with COVID-19, the Championship was cancelled due to the safety of players, coaches, fans, and everyone else involved. With the situation surrounding the pandemic still very new and changing at a rapid pace at the time, it was the best decision that could have been made.

Still, it doesn’t take the sting away from it all. All eight teams ready to take to the floor at the event had worked all season long for a chance to compete for a National Championship, and it all came to an end in a way nobody could have predicted.

Except, maybe The Simpson’s.

Now, the 2020-21 season is still up in the air with the situation surrounding the pandemic still changing with each passing day. However, the Hawks have some unfinished business that they’d like to tend to whenever they can return to the court safely.

With a new Head Coach leading the way, and a significant number of returnees expected back, the Hawks look to be in prime position for another run at not only an OCAA Championship, but a shot at the National title when, and if, the time comes.

Who’s Gone?

With the ever-changing situation surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic, and its effect on school enrollment for the Fall semester and beyond, speculating what the 2020-21 roster could look like for the Hawks is about the best we can do at this point.

What we do know for sure is that the Hawks will be without five familiar faces from last year’s roster, a group that includes a First Team All-Star selection. Three players graduated from last year’s team, one transferred to the OUA ranks, and the fifth and final player is no longer with the program.

Forward Jaylan Morgan (Brampton, Ont.) will arguably be the toughest player to replace for the Hawks moving forward. Morgan capped off his career with an OCAA West Division All-Star First Team selection, and he was named to the OCAA Championship All-Star Team after averaging 18.7 points and 6.3 rebounds per game over the three-day tournament.

For the year, Morgan averaged a team-best 18.8 points per game to go along with 6.8 rebounds and 2.6 assists. He shot 51.5% from the field, 34.1% from three-point range, and 77.9% from the free throw line in 19 regular season appearances.

With his combination of size, quickness, athleticism, and shooting ability, Morgan was a tough match-up for anyone on a nightly basis. His ability to impact the game from so many different aspects is what made him such a problem, especially on the offensive end of the floor.

Also graduating from the program are forward Khalid Adam (Doha, Qatar) and guard Micqueel Martin. In 17 games last season, Adam averaged 2.5 points and 2.4 rebounds per contest while shooting 43.9% from the floor. Martin saw the floor in eight games, averaging 2.6 points and 1.6 rebounds per game on 42.9% shooting.

First year guard Shae Phillips (Toronto, Ont.) is also no longer with the program. Phillips posted 2.4 points and 1.8 rebounds per game over five regular season appearances.

The fifth and final confirmed departure from last year’s Humber program is guard Khalid Ismail (Toronto, Ont.). The 6’3” wing averaged 10.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, and 0.7 assists per game while shooting 46.4% from the field and 76.0% from the free throw line.

Ismail, Khalid
Guard Khalid Ismail has made the jump to the OUA rankings, committing to Head Coach Chris O’Rourke and the Guelph Gryphons. (Source: Humber Hawks)

From November 14th through to December 5th, a span of six games, Ismail recorded double-digit points in each game, topping the 20-point mark in three of those games. He averaged 17.5 points per contest over the six-game span, showing he has the ability to carry the offense when called upon.

Ismail has committed to the Guelph Gryphons in the OUA, adding to their back court depth for the 2020-21 season, and beyond.

While Morgan and Ismail are the biggest losses in terms of on-court production and minutes played, losing three fifth-year players to graduation deals a blow to the roster’s level of experience heading into the 2020-21 season that may rely more heavily on experience given the uncertainty of the year itself.

With that said, the Hawks are expected to have their share of talent back for the 2020-21 season, specifically in the back court, that will look to shoulder the load and guide the team back to the OCAA Championship game.

Who’s Back?

Like most schools and programs all across Canada, Humber is awaiting the start of the school year to confirm who will be back and who may be taking a year off given the remote learning offering as opposed to in-person classes. Despite losing five players from last year’s OCAA Silver Medal team, the Hawks have an intriguing group back in the mix, led by a pair of impact guards in the back court.

The Hawks had 11 players average at least 5.0 points per game last season, and nine of them are expected to be back in the fold for 2020-21. Leading the way is guard DeQuon Cascart (North York, Ont.), who is the team’s top returning scorer after averaging 13.7 points per game last season. The high-energy guard recorded double-digit points in 13 games last season, and topped the 20-point mark on five separate occasions.

Cascart, DeQuon
DeQuon Cascart is one of six projected returnees in the Humber back court for the 2020-21 season. (Source: Humber Hawks)

In addition to his offensive production, Cascart chipped in 4.2 rebounds and 1.1 assists per game. He shot 44.5% from the floor and 35.7% from three-point range.

Over the weekend of November 23rd and 24th, Cascart went for a combined 43 points, on 13-of-23 shooting from the field, in back-to-back wins for the Hawks over Lambton and St. Clair. With the departure of Morgan, Cascart will take on more of a leadership role in terms of offensive production as the Hawks look to make up for the loss of close to 19 points per contest.

Also expected to return in the back court is Fowzi Mohamoud (Rexdale, Ont.). The third-year guard averaged 13.1 points, 3.8 rebounds, and 3.1 assists per game over 20 regular season appearances. Mohamoud shot 36.7% from the field and 34.4% from three-point range for the year.

Known for his three point shooting prowess, Mohamoud connected on at least three jumpers from beyond the arc on 11 occasions during the 2019-20 season, some of which he made look all too easy and effortless. Mohamoud started to season by reaching double-figures in 10 of the Hawks’ first 11 contests, getting his own season off to a strong start.

For Humber, one big plus heading into the 2020-21 season is that they have the potential to be operating at full strength from the outset. Last year, the group of Alex Petronis (Toronto, Ont.), Jordon Francis (Brampton, Ont.), and Keith Laryea (Rexdale, Ont.) didn’t suit up until the second half of the season.

Petronis (7.4 ppg, 3.2 rpg), Laryea (10.6 ppg, 4.9 rpg), and Francis (8.4 ppg, 2.7 apg) all saw action in just nine regular season games ahead of the post-season, all of which came after the Christmas break.

Laryea started to find his stride as the second half moved along. He was named to the OCAA Championship All-Star Team after averaging 12.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per contest over the three-day tournament.

Kevin Otoo (Toronto, Ont.) is also expected to return in the back court for the Hawks, adding even more depth to the rotation. In 19 regular season games last season, Otoo averaged 10.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game, shooting 44.5% from the field and 35.2% from three-point range along the way.

Otoo is the fourth double-digit scorer expected to return in Humber’s back court mix next season, a group that features its share of offensive wherewithal needed to get the team back to the OCAA Championship game.

Up front is where some of the question marks reside. With Morgan and Adam both on their way out, the Hawks will lean more heavily on forward Cy Samuels (North York, Ont.), who is the only other player listed as a Forward on Humber’s website. Samuels saw the floor in all 20 games last season, making 17 starts and averaging just over 25 minutes per outing. He posted 5.0 points and a team-best 9.8 rebounds per contest.

The Hawks have Petronis and Laryea (6’5”) on their roster who can play the wing or a power forward spot with Samuels as the five in a smaller lineup, but will look to their incoming recruits for some added depth up front.

Again, with the situation always changing surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, there could be more roster movement than what we’ve speculated above with who’s gone and who’s back. Time will tell how things shake down as we get closer to September.

Incoming Talent

In terms of on-court talent, the Hawks have announced two confirmed additions to the program for the 2020-21 season, and beyond. Their biggest announcement, however, resides behind the bench.

On April 29th, it was announced that Omar Miles had been named the 13th Head Coach in program history after spending the previous four seasons as an Assistant Coach. Miles joined the staff back in June 2016, and the Hawks have picked up four OCAA medals and put together a record of 76-23 during that span.

Miles is a FIBA certified and NCCP Train to Compete (Level 3) certified coach. He will look to help guide the Hawks back to the OCAA Championship Game once more, one that they hope will yield a slightly better result than last season.

Miles, Omar
Omar Miles was named the 13th Head Coach in program history back on April 29th, 2020. (Source: Humber Hawks)

In terms of on-court personnel, the Hawks have added two pieces to the puzzle, both of which have post-secondary experience at the CCAA level. Humber has added forward Rahsaan Chambers (Toronto, Ont.) and guard Sydney Kabongo (Toronto, Ont.) to the roster for the 2020-21 season.

Chambers returns to Ontario after a stint in the ACAC with the SAIT Trojans. The 6’6” forward averaged 8.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game over 21 regular season appearances during the 2018-19 campaign. Chambers did not play in the 2019-20 season.

With the departure of Morgan in the front court, Chambers could be looked upon to replace some of the production lost while giving the Hawks another big body in the front court.

In the back court, Kabongo comes to the Hawks by way of the Conestoga Condors. Kabongo appeared in three games during the 2019-20 season, averaging 14.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 2.0 assists per game on 40.9% shooting from the field.

The addition of Kabongo to an already talented back court rotation for the Hawks gives them yet another offensive weapon at their disposal. The biggest challenge may very well be finding everyone minutes night in and night out.

That’s not necessarily a bad problem to have.

After having their 2019-20 season cut unexpectedly short and being robbed of the chance to contend for a National Championship on their home floor, the Humber Hawks will be looking to make up for lost time when(ever) the 2020-21 season officially gets underway.

Equipped with a new Head Coach leading the way, the Hawks have their share of talent projected to return for the new season, especially in the back court. Some question marks remain surrounding the front court depth, questions that likely won’t be answered until at least September when enrollment numbers are confirmed and the recruiting classes have sorted themselves out.

One thing remains certain – the Hawks are ready to finish what they started last season. Humber will look to get themselves back to the OCAA Championship game, avenge last season’s loss, and make another run at a National Championship (assuming they take place as planned).

Be sure to bookmark our 2020-21 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.

– T. Bennett

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