Holland College squad looking to defend its ACAA men’s basketball crown this season
© Guardian Photo by Jason Malloy
Jon Hovingh goes in for a dunk during Holland College practice Thursday in Charlottetown. Hovingh is a six-foot-seven forward from Hampton.
There are new players and coaches, but the expectations haven’t changed for the Holland College Hurricanes men’s basketball team.
A year after going 14-2 and winning the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) title and finishing second at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship, the Hurricanes tip off the pre-season at home tonight. They are hosting a five-team men’s tournament through Sunday.
“With our success last year, and returning the calibre of players we are, and having added some of the players that we think are pretty good, I think the expectation right off the bat is to go back out and defend the championship we won last year,” said first-year coach Josh Whitty, who succeeded George Morrison after serving as his assistant the past five years. “Once you get to nationals anything can happen.”
He likes what he sees in his 12-man roster, which included key returnees like point guard Alvin Park and forwards Steve Hardy and Chase Bowden.Gone from last year’s team are forwards Leo Morris, a former conference MVP, and Michael Hardy, who was a second-team all-star at last year’s nationals.
“Hopefully, those guys we brought in can help replace some of what we lost in those two guys,” Whitty said.
The team’s success, he said, drives the returning players to get back to nationals, but they know it won’t be easy.
“The underdog status, that we may have in the past, is gone,” Whitty said.
Joining Whitty as an assistant will be Ryan Laughlin, who has recently coached at Bluefield, Three Oaks and Morell.
Whitty said the Hurricanes are a deep, talented and competitive bunch with good leadership. After a month of training camp, the team is ready for game time.
“We just want to get out and play,” Whitty said.
Also competing this weekend will be Lee Academy, a prep school from Maine, Crandall University, UNB Saint John and UPEI.
Lee has had strong teams in recent years at the tournament, while both Crandall and UNBSJ are expected to be better this season.
The Panthers will only play one game during the tournament — Saturday against Lee.
The Hurricanes open the ACAA season Nov. 2 in Bible Hill, N.S., against the Dalhousie Agricultural College Rams. Their first home game is Nov. 16 against the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics at 6 p.m.
The women Hurricanes are eager to hit the court and see how the off-season additions fit in.
The new Hurricanes include three players from Ontario and one from Moncton, Halifax and the Bahamas.
“We’re really excited about our team this year,” said third-year coach Mike Connolly, who added this has been his best recruiting class. “We have some exciting players in camp and we’re just getting to know each other a fair bit now. I think in time we’ll be a very good basketball team.”
The addition of Toronto point guard Jazlin Barker enables Steph Hiltz, who ran the point last year, to slide back to her natural position as a shooting guard. Hiltz is one of five returnees from last year’s team that went 10-6 and lost in the conference quarter-finals.
Expected to join Barker and Hiltz in the backcourt this weekend is Menny Smith, who played on the Nova Scotia high school champion Citadel Phoenix last season.
“She is a very strong defender, very strong taking it to the basket . . . and very athletic,” Connolly said.
Katiesha Brissett, from Pickering, Ont., and Ashley Moss, from the Bahamas, are expected to have a big impact from the frontcourt.
“She is a big, strong post presence, who can catch and finish,” the coach said of Brissett. “It’s an element we didn’t have in previous years.”
Moss, a cousin to former Hurricane and current UPEI Panther Donnie Moss, is learning the North American game.
“She is a tremendous athlete, shot blocker and rebounder. Once she gets comfortable with the Canadian game, she is really going to be an impact player in the league,” Connolly said.
The Hurricanes will see a pair of ACAA foes (UNBSJ and Crandall) during the weekend.
“We want to send a message that we’re here and we’re going to challenge for a championship this year,” Connolly said.
They open the regular season on the road against Dalhousie Agricultural College on
Nov. 2 at 3 p.m. and have their home opener Nov. 16 at 4 p.m. when the Mystics come to town.
All tournament games will take place at the Holland College Centre for Community Engagement in Charlottetown.
Admission is $5 for adults while students and kids are free. A tournament pass is available for $20.
The Holland College men’s and women’s basketball teams are hosting a tournament starting tonight in Charlottetown. The following is the schedule:
7 p.m. – Holland College women vs. P.E.I. senior women’s team
9 p.m. – Holland College men vs. Lee Academy
9 a.m. – UPEI men vs. Lee Academy
11 a.m. – Crandall women vs. P.E.I. senior women’s team
1 p.m. – UNBSJ men vs. Crandall men
3 p.m. – UNBSJ women vs. Crandall women
5 p.m. – Lee Academy vs. Crandall men
7 p.m. – Holland College women vs. UNBSJ women
9 p.m. – Holland College men vs. UNBSJ men
9 a.m. – Lee Academy vs. UNBSJ men
11 a.m. – UNBSJ women vs. P.E.I. senior women’s team
1 p.m. – Holland College women vs. Crandall women
3 p.m. – Holland College men vs. Crandall men