CALGARY, Alta. — Pandemic aside, the 2020-21 season is shaping up to be a special one for Head Coach Marty Birky and the SAIT Trojans Men’s Basketball Program.
While the status of the 2020-21 season still hangs in the balance due to the COVID-19 Pandemic and the regulations surrounding it, the Trojans are gearing up for yet another run in the ACAC. With four straight ACAC Championships to their name, the Trojans have their sights set on bigger things this time around.
They have their spot secured at the 2021 CCAA Men’s Basketball National Championship as hosts, but they will want to head in as the five-time defending ACAC Champions.
In terms of player personnel, the Trojans are loading up their roster as they look to make a run at a National Championship on their home floor. With former VIU Mariners forward Jake Cowley (Langley, B.C.) in the mix already, the Trojans have added another four names to their 2020-21 recruiting class.
Guards Derian Valdes (Calgary, Alta.) and Shol Ayach (Calgary, Alta.), along with forwards Nikola Ivanovic (Belgrade, Serbia) and Filip Ivanovic (Belgrade, Serbia) have all committed to the Trojans for the upcoming season.
Valdes comes to the Trojans after previous stints with three other programs. Last season with the UNB Reds, the third-year guard averaged 8.4 points and 3.4 rebounds per game while shooting 35.7% from the field. From November 3rd through 16th, Valdes had a string of five consecutive games in double-figures, capped off by a 24-point outing against the Cape Breton Capers on the 16th.
Prior to joining the Reds, Valdes was also part of the Red Deer College Kings and Okanagan College Coyotes programs, spending a season with each.
Nikola Ivanovic should be a name that ring some bells for SAIT fans, as the 6’6″ forward played seven games with the program back in the 2016-17 season. In limited action, Ivanovic averaged 1.4 points and 3.1 rebounds per game.
Following his time at SAIT, Ivanovic committed to the Ambrose Lions for the 2017-18 season, where he excelled on both ends of the floor in the second half of the year. Over his 13 appearances, Ivanovic averaged 14.5 points and 7.5 rebounds per game while shooting 46.0% from the field.
In his half season with the Lions, Ivanovic recorded 10 games with double-digit points, three of which saw him go for at least 20 points.
Nikola will be joined on the 2020-21 Trojans’ roster by his brother, Filip Ivanovic. The pair will look to give the Trojans a boost inside on both ends of the floor.
Rounding out the four newest additions for the Trojans is Ayach, another hometown guard who will resume his collegiate career after sitting out the 2019-20 season. Back in 2018-19, Ayach played for Head Coach Barnaby Craddock and the Alberta Golden Bears, appearing in 17 games as a first-year player.
Ayach averaged 2.4 points and 1.6 rebounds per game two years ago. He went for a season-high eight points (3-of-5 FG) against the Thompson Rivers Wolfpack on November 30th, 2018.
In addition to their five-man recruiting class, the Trojans are expected to return the vast majority of their 2019-20 roster, a group that includes Charlie Conner, Gemie Muya, and Taliik Ross, among others. Birky and the Trojans are gearing up for yet another run at the ACAC Championship and beyond, and they’ve added a slew of veterans to an already experienced and talented group.
Now, the only thing left to question is whether or not the 2020-21 season will actually happen. Here’s to hoping!
– T. Bennett