The school year may have only just begun, but the University of Winnipeg men’s basketball team has already been practicing for weeks.
Generally, university basketball teams hold tryouts and training camp in late August or early September, beginning their first pre-season games about one month later.
However, since Mike Raimbault took over as head coach of the men’s team in 2010, things have been a little different for the Wesmen.
This year, the men’s basketball team kicked off their 2011-2012 pre-season in late August.
Raimbault decided to start the pre-season early because he didn’t want to miss out on the opportunity to play against an NCAA team.
On Saturday, Aug. 20, they played the North Dakota State University Bisons, who rolled over the Wesmen 89-40.
Despite the loss, Raimbault thinks the game experience was good for his young team.
“We have a lot of new guys again,” he said. “So, the extra practice is really important for us.”
Raimbault took over for the Wesmen after they had a rough 2009-2010 season under head coach Dave Crook, during which they won only one regular season game. After that season, the majority of the team quit, and only four of the players – Nick Lother, Pawel Gacon, Justin Phillips and Bradyon Duff – returned for the 2010-2011 season.
Of the four, only Gacon and Duff are back for the 2011-2012 season. Lother graduated and Phillips did not return.
However, after taking the 2010-2011 season off, James Horaska and Eric Zimmerman, two Wesmen veterans, have decided to return for the 2010-2011 season.
“I feel like it is a fresh start for me even as a fifth-year player,” Horaska said. “The program has a different feel to it now and I think that it’s going in a good direction. The new guys are hard workers that want to win. That’s going to pay off.”
Point guard Nolan Gooding, who is returning to the team for his second year with the Wesmen, said that Horaska and Zimmerman are fitting in well with the team.
“Everyone’s getting along pretty great,” he said. “Practice is a lot more intense than it was last year.”
Raimbault is also pleased with Horaska and Zimmerman’s return.
“Everything is new to them the same as it would be for a first-year guy. From terminology to strategy, things might be different for them.”
At the same time, Raimbault knows that as senior players, both athletes will add a new dimension to the team.
“They’re also veteran guys who have experience in our conference,” he said. “They add to the depth and toughness of our team for sure.”
Published in Volume 66, Number 3 of The Uniter (September 15, 2011)