Ryerson Rams Looking to Keep Foot on the Gas in the Second Half

Rana, Roy
Head coach Roy Rana and the Ryerson Rams enter the second half of the season with a perfect 10-0 record, and they will be looking to keep their foot squarely on the gas pedal as they look to get back to the U Sports National Championship. (Source: Ryerson Rams Men’s Basketball) (Header: Ryerson Rams Men’s Basketball)

by Libaan Osman

TORONTO, Ontario — The Ryerson Rams men’s basketball is gearing up for the second half of the season and are looking to keep their foot on the gas pedal after an impressive 10-0 start to the year.

After losing in a nail-biting finish against the Calgary Dinos in the national championship game last March, the Rams are on a redemption tour like none other.

Currently ranking second in the country and tied for first in the OUA, if you asked many on this Rams team if they expected this kind of start to the year, they would certainly tell you that they did.

“I knew that we had the talent, we have an unbelievable coaching staff that pushes us every day, so the sky is the limit for us,” Rams guard Yusuf Ali said. “I think that we haven’t reached our potential yet and we’re getting better every day.”

Through 10 games, Ryerson ranks first in rebounds (45.1), blocks (6.6), opponents’ field
goal percentage (28.9) while coming second in points per game (90.6), steals (11) and 3PT
Pct (34.9).

Defensively this might just be the best Rams team ever, with Ali, Myles Charvis and Jean-Victor Mukama ranking in the top eight in steals, and sophomore centre Tanor Ngom leading the league in blocks, averaging 3.5 a game.

It’s hard to find a glaring issue with this Rams team, but turnovers seem to be the biggest
concern, ranking 14th in the OUA, coughing up the ball 15 times per game.

Knowing when to push the pace and when to slow things down seems to be a major
emphasis for the Rams, as they look to play fast but with purpose.

“It can be an issue and it can be a good thing at the same time,” Rams guard Jayden
Frederick said.

“We’re trying to push the ball in transition, so sometimes we’ll go a little bit too quick or we’ll make bad decisions in transition, but I mean for the most part it’s a privilege because we have such athletes on our team.”

The wingspan and length of this Rams team have given opponents so many problems,
managing to hold two teams to under 50 points. Last season that didn’t happen once, as the Rams are hovering around allowing 55 points per game.

Losing U SPORTS first-team All-Canadian Ammanuel Diressa and key rotation players in
Roshane Roberts and Adam Voll, the Rams surprisingly haven’t taken a step back
offensively. Ryerson has five players averaging at least 10 points, compared to last year
where there were only three players scoring in double-digits.

With weapons all around, the Rams are harder to scout more than ever.

“On different nights, it’s different guys,” lead assistant coach Borko Popic said. “It’s a luxury to have for us and certainly, I assume a challenge for other teams because they really have to focus in on 9-10 guys that they really have to be wary of that they can go off on any given night.”

Rams MBB
(Source: Alex D’Addese – Ryerson Rams)

Leading the way for the Rams in scoring is Mukama, who’s taken his game to new heights. Improving in almost every single statistical category, averaging 19.9 points, 7.9 rebounds, 3.8 assists and shooting 53.6 per cent from the field and 38.9 per cent from three.

In his fifth and final year at Ryerson, Mukama has scored in double-digits in every single
Rams game thus far, ranking him fourth in the OUA in scoring and eighth in rebounding.

Playing the best basketball of his career, Mukama has been the engine to this Rams team
that will continue to rely on him to make his presence felt on both ends of the floor.

“He’s had a pretty consistent first half of the year,” Popic said. “He’s a contributor in
essentially every statistical category but also in every category that we’re focused on and
we’re charting, he’s right there near the top. His contributions in all aspects have been tremendous.”

According to Barry Hayes of Hoopstar Canada, Mukama ranks first in the country in total win shares at 2.90.

Along with Mukama, Charvis has taken his point guard duties to the next level. Averaging 14.3 points and 5.3 assists on 52 per cent shooting, Charvis ranks fourth in assists, third in steals and sixth in assist to turnover ratio.

In two of the Rams largest margin of victory, they’ve started Charvis in the back court
alongside Ali, a transfer from Seneca College, who’s playing his final year at Ryerson and
couldn’t picture a better place to end off.

Ali, Yusuf
(Source: Trung Ho – OnPoint Basketball)

“This is my last year playing collegiate basketball and it’s probably the best year I’ve had,” Ali said. “Unbelievable teammates who have welcomed me, the coaching staff, they treat me like I’ve been here for five years. It’s been an unbelievable experience, hopefully, I finish off with a title.”

What first lies ahead for the Rams is a meeting with the Carleton Ravens to kick off the
second half of the season. A heavyweight battle that last saw these two teams square off in the semi-finals of the U SPORTS Final 8 tournament in Halifax last March, where Ryerson knocked off the Ravens 84-76.

The Ravens swept the regular season series last year, but with both teams currently
undefeated and tied for first in the OUA, everyone will have their eyes glued to this rivalry.

“I’m not even gonna lie and say it’s not going to be the most interesting game,” Frederick
said.

“I’m looking forward to it, I’m excited to play that type of competition. I’ve been looking at their stats and they’re comparable to our team, so it should be great to see how we match up against them.”

After such a phenomenal start to the season, this Ryerson team is focused on getting better every single day and with five seniors on the roster, there’s no time for relaxing and feeling content with where they’re at.

“We have more to prove, we haven’t really done much yet,” Frederick said.

The goal is to get back to Halifax for the fifth straight year, and more importantly win their first ever national championship. And with the veteran personnel on this roster, the Rams should definitely be considered one of the favourites come March.

– Libaan Osman, Ryerson Journalism

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