Dwayne Harvey looked around practice last Thursday and saw a lot of unfamiliar faces.
The Lakehead Thunderwolves guard is one of just five returnees this summer to a men’s basketball team fresh off its fourth straight national championship weekend appearance, most recently making it all the way to the final where they were easily handled by the all-but-unstoppable Carleton Ravens.
This year will be different, the Hamilton native acknowledged.
Gone are Yoosrie Salhia, Ben Johnson, Brendan King, Matt Schmidt Greg Carter and Joseph Jones. So too goes rookie guard Joe Hart, considered a cornerstone in coach Scott Morrison’s rebuilding effort. Add in the knee injury that will sideline potential all-Canadian sharpshooter Ryan Thomson and it’s an entirely different – and short on experience – team that will take to the court later this year.
“I feel like our team is young, but I feel like we’re really good this year,” said the optimistic Harvey, looking around the gym at a Thunderwolves team that has certainly gotten a lot bigger over the summer, adding a pair of seven-footers in Australian Brent Wallace and American Andrew McCarthy.
“We’ll compete. We definitely don’t have the same core as last year and the past couple of years, but we’re trying to rebuild and trying to get stronger.”
For now it’s all about picking up on the nuances of everyone else’s game; and, of course, there’s learning a different style of play.
For the past few years the Wolves have been built on speed and the three-point shot, often sacrificing size for speed.
It’s a formula that worked well, but one that might need a slight adjustment in 2013-14 – though not as much as one might think, Harvey said.
“Last year we were kind of small in the front court with me, Greg Carter and Ben Johnson. It’s kind of tough matching up against the Carletons, when they’re six-three and up,” he said. “This year I think we match up well,” Harvey said.
“We’ll probably still be one of the fastest teams in the league. We’re really fast this year and getting two seven-footers, you can’t really ask for much more.”
McCarthy, who said his grades got him into trouble at the University of Massachusetts, says just because the Wolves got bigger, doesn’t mean they’ll plod along when competition starts.
“I don’t think it’s going to be that big a difference for the style of play, because I definitely like to run the floor and it looks like Brent does too. We’re definitely mobile for big guys,” said McCarthy, who arrives with three years of eligibility remaining after spending last season at a U.S. community college.
“Justin (Bell), he looks like the athletic types who should be able to run with the guards. Other than that, the size is just a bonus. We should be able to put in a bunch of work and bully other teams.”
Returning forward Anthony McIntosh, said the arrival of Wallace, McCarthy, Bell and 6-foot-7 forward Srdjan Pejicic should ease the pressure on him and fellow returnee Joey Nitychoruk, who broke an ankle in practice and will be sidelined for at least a month.
“It brings two towers in,” he said. “It’s going to be a good year. Everybody still has to develop a little more. But we have the right coaching staff, so I think we’ll be in good shape.”
Beyond the arc: The Thunderwolves will host Brandon, Winnipeg and Algoma in a three-day pre-season tournament starting Oct. 3. They’ll also play road games against Winnipeg and Carleton, a rematch of last year’s one-sided championship game.
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