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PREVIEW: Mix of leadership and youth the recipe as Knights open season

PREVIEW: Mix of leadership and youth the recipe as Knights open season

After finishing up their exhibition schedule with a 5-3 record, the Niagara Knights men's basketball program are set to welcome the Redeemer Royals to Welland on October 19th when they kick off their regular season. 

The team will be led by a new coach, as Phil Mosley takes over the reins after being hired as the 12th head coach in program history. Mosley most recently spent the past season as the lead assistant coach for the men's team, and also has some previous experience at Niagara when he spent two seasons as the head coach of the women's program between 2004 and 2006. On top of his time with the Knights, Mosley has spent over 30 years coaching basketball and will look to share his experience with the players. 

The Knights will look to continue their upwards trend that they have had recently, as the team has put up a combined 36-18 record over the past three seasons. A year ago, the Knights secured a playoff berth with a 13-7 record in the OCAA West. 

There will be many familiar faces in front of the home crowd on Friday night as the team welcomes back many players from a year ago. Included in that is Van Hutchinson Jr (Nassau, Bahamas) who returns for his third year with the team. The high flying guard, who Mosley has named team captain for the 2018-19 year, has averaged 16.0 points, 10.5 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.8 assists per game over his first two seasons in a Knights uniform.

Joining Hutchinson Jr are Dave Morrison (Scarborough) and Alex Elliott (Welland) who both return to the program after one-year hiatuses from the team.

Also returning are guards Johnnie Richardson (Niagara Falls), Danny Lokole (Welland), and Tahir Mirza (Milton) as well as forwards Kevin Cooper (Nassau, Bahamas) and Jordon McDonald (Mississauaga). McDonald enters his fourth season with the team and was a solid contributor last year after making the transition from the bench to the starting five, averaging 13.3 points and 9.8 rebounds per game. 

New this year will be top recruits from this past summer Braiden Moore (Welland) and Rahim Bardi (St. Catharines). Moore, a six-foot-four forward who was a Notre Dame High School standout, spent time playing for both the Welland Warriors as well as the Southern Ontario selects team. Bardi, who is also a forward listed at six-foot-four, comes over from Governor Simcoe Secondary School and the Niagara North AAU program. 

The talented recruits are not alone in being welcomed this year, as Niagara has also added an onslaught of talented new faces that includes Jon Ravn (Cambridge), a six-foot-five athletic forward that is a former OUA football player with the York Lions. Keveshan Padachey (Markham) also will don the Knights uniform for the first time, as the talented five-foot-eleven guard already flashed an impressive offensive performance in the preseason with a 16-point game against the St. Lawrence Vikings where he shot four of five from long-range. 

The talented incoming class is rounded out by guard Jose Ramos (Mississauga) and forwards Tyreke Walters (Brampton), Livingston Bromwell (Nassau, Bahamas) and Stephone Augustine (Nassau, Bahamas).

Niagara will look to improve upon their impressive statistics from a season ago when they averaged 82.6 points for per game and 75.7 points against per game. Both averages placed them inside the top-10 of the OCAA. If they can even slightly improve upon those numbers, they could find themselves as a top-five offensive and defensive team across Ontario.

Their opening matchup against the Redeemer Royals will be an extremely tough matchup from the get-go as the Royals dominated the OCAA West last year on route to a 19-1 regular season record. Other key home matchups will be against the Humber Hawks on November 1st and the Sheridan Bruins on December 6th, who won OCAA Silver and Bronze medals respectively a year ago.

"We hope to build on past successes and remain in the hunt for a provincial title this year as we compete in a tough OCAA West Division," said Mosley. "This year's team has a nice blend of experience and youth which will allow us to continue to build."

The Knights will compete hard all-season long for their chance to win their first OCAA Championship medal since 2008-09 when they won bronze. They are still in search of their first OCAA Championship Gold Medal.

"It is our goal to bring a level of competitiveness and hard work which will allow us to compete," said Mosley. "Ultimately, we will be playing our best basketball by the end of the season as we prepare for playoffs and reaching our ultimate goal."

The Niagara Knights kick off their regular season against the Redeemer Royals on Friday, October 19th at 8:00pm. The game will be played at the Welland Campus Athletic Centre immediately following the season opener for the women's program. Admission is free for all students, which admission for the public is $5. The game will be broadcast live at www.goknights.ca/watchlive.