THUNDER BAY – When the Christmas break arrived, guard Isaiah Traylor and the Lakehead Thunderwolves were not in a good place.
Mired in a seven-game losing streak and sitting at 2-8, the playoffs were the furthest thing from the team’s minds.
But that was then and this is now.
The Wolves, who hit the road this weekend to take on first-place Laurier, are a completely different team these days, one that had the audacity – and skill – to twice knock off No. 9 Western, and hit the final four games on their schedule on a five-game winning streak.
Last Saturday they put up 125 points against the Waterloo Warriors, a regular-season high in OUA men’s basketball, and are looking like a team that no one wants to take on when the post-season arrives.
The Thunderwolves, under the guidance of second-year coach Ryan Thomson, still have some work to do in order to qualify for the playoffs, but with a two-game advantage on the Windsor Lancers, and the tiebreaker in hand, it’s starting to look like a real possibility.
The resurgence can be credited to a number of factors, particularly the overall team defence of late, but if one was to point at a particular player, it would have to be NCAA transfer Isaiah Traylor.
Traylor, named the team’s player of the month for January, has topped the 20-point mark in four of those five straight wins and is averaging 15.8 points a night, placing him in the OUA’s top 15. He’s also one of the top three-point shooters in the league, averaging 2.8 per game.
A transfer from the University of North-Alabama, Traylor admitted he struggled to acclimate himself to the Canadian game, which is why he struggled during much of the first half.
“It’s just starting new in any field or anything that you do,” he said. “It takes time, especially when it’s a team sport and not a single sport. You have to get used to and adjust to everything around you. It takes hard work and eventually it’s paying off for me now.”
Thomson said Traylor was an easy choice, calling his play in the second half fantastic.
“In terms of taking better shots and his willingness and effort level on defence has been great,” Thomson said.
“He’s always eager to guard the other team’s best player and even in practice, he gets after it.”
Thomson said confidence has been key to the team’s turnaround, and not just Traylor’s.
“We had a lot of guys trying to make that adjustment. We also had a little bit of difficulty trying to figure out what worked for us best. We had some growing pains and slowly we grew together and figured out what works and what everybody’s best role is,” he said.
Traylor said all along he thought the bounces would come the Wolves way. It was just a matter of time, he said.
“Now, the ball is in our court. We’re working hard and everything is clicking. So we just hope to keep it going,” he said.
“This is about gelling and knowing your teammates and starting to click.”