EDMONTON – Mike Connolly would often sharpen his University of Lethbridge squads against NAIA competition in the U.S. when he previously coached the Pronghorns (2002-09).
"Good NAIA teams are just as good as U SPORTS teams," said the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball head coach. "When I was at Lethbridge we played NAIA teams all across the States. They're good."
So, when he heard Brampton, Ont. product Scottie Austin wanted to return to Canada after spending the 2021-22 season with NAIA Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wisc., he jumped at the chance to add him to the Griffins' roster.
When he joins the Griffins in 2022-23, he'll bring valuable experience to the team, along with a strong skill-set as a 6-foot-3 combo guard.
"I think he's going to be good in the open court for us," said Connolly. "I think he's going to help our transition game.
"He can shoot it, but I really think his ability to attack the rim in transition is going to help us play at a higher pace, get the ball up the floor and hopefully get some easier buckets."
Austin, who describes himself as a fast-paced player with the ability to score, admits he didn't get the opportunity he envisioned when he rode the bench in his first year at Viterbo.
"Coach Connolly heard about how I wasn't enjoying myself at Viterbo University and he gave me the opportunity to come back home and play in a great league with a great group of guys," he said.
"After my visit (to MacEwan), getting a chance to meet the guys and see where I'd be every day, it was definitely a no-brainer that I wanted to play for Coach Connolly and the Griffins."
Prior to joining Viterbo, the GTA Prep Academy product played a year of JUCO at Rhode Island's Northern Essex Community College in the NJCAA. It was there you get a true indication of his talent level as Austin averaged 17.6 points per game over 24 games, once scoring 37 points in a contest.
"I think he's athletic, he can play and he can shoot," said Connolly. "He's another lefty who has some experience scoring the ball. I think he can play some backup point guard for us, too.
"What he brings is some experience at this competition level, so he'll be better to help some of the younger guys. He's been around. He knows how hard you have to compete and what you have to do."