Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – If ever there was a season where the process is more important than wins, this is it for the MacEwan Griffins men's basketball team.
While there's no doubt the team will be trying for a 'W' every night, they are essentially spending the 2021-22 season preparing for one game.
Due to regional scheduling, every team makes it to a Canada West playoff tournament Feb. 25-27 where participants will need to win single-elimination matches to advance through each round until a champion is declared.
"Our expectations are to win the last game because all the other games don't matter," said Griffins head coach Mike Connolly. "We have process goals about doing little things because we're learning and growing.
"Some of the things we're trying to do as a program is speed up the growth and learning of this group. The sooner we can do that, the quicker we (can improve)."
Connolly's squad opens the 2021-22 regular season with a weekend visit to Calgary to take on Mount Royal University (Friday at 8 p.m.; Saturday at 6 p.m., both Canada West TV presented by Co-op).
While some key veterans return since the last time the Griffins played a regular season match – way back on Feb. 8, 2020 – the squad will be entering the new campaign with eight newcomers. Back-to-back solid recruiting classes have the team long on talent, if short on experience.
Highlighting the crop of fresh faces are three international players: Joshua Edwards, a transfer out of NCAA Div. III Colby Community College in Kansas, and two Spanish products – Eric Lopez and Marco Correas.
"Josh Edwards from the U.K. will definitely make an impact," said Connolly. "The Spanish kids, they're starting, they're playing, they have a ton of potential. They're going to be good, but they're still learning, so they'll have some ups and downs.
"Then I really like our other young guys – led by Job Janda and Milan Jaksic. They're all doing really well, competing and they're physically able to play at this level, so we're really happy with those guys. We really have nine or 10 guys that we can play."
"Alex is doing well. He's worked hard in the off-season," said Connolly. "Jesse Trussler has worked on the point guard position mentally and physically. Luke Harold's put on weight and has worked on his shot so he's one of our better three-point shooters. All those guys in the off-season – Colton (Halbersma) and Tylar (Dobish) – they've gained weight, they've worked on their skills through COVID. So they are improved coming in, which is very nice."
The clear goal has to become a grittier team that's tougher to play against than they've been in the past.
"Our young guys are grittier kids," said Connolly. "They work hard and compete. When you have a group of kids like that, you're going to grow and learn. We're going to see a huge growth from the beginning of the year until the end of the year and even through until next year. It's pretty exciting."
MacEwan's home opener is set for Nov. 12 vs. Calgary (8 p.m., David Atkinson Gym, Canada West TV presented by Co-op).