HAMILTON, Ont. — If you’re reading this, it’s not too late.
The 2019-20 basketball season is right around the corner, and we’re here to help you get set for what will surely be an incredible journey.
While we’re still looking back on an incredible 2018-19 season, one that saw two teams win their first-ever National Championships in school history, it’s also the perfect time to look ahead. The 2019-20 season promises to deliver a heightened level of excitement, and we can’t wait to see what’s in store for the new campaign.
To get fans across the country ready for the new season, we’ve taken on a challenge that hasn’t been done before. In the coming weeks, we will preview every team from coast to coast ahead of the 2019-20 season.
That’s 111 different programs, if you’re keeping a tally.
From August 8th through to October 6th, every team will be previewed in some capacity. For institutions that have both men’s and women’s basketball, a separate preview piece will be done for each team.
Rosters will be dissected and a look back at the year that was will help us determine what the team looks like this time around as every team begins with a blank slate in the standings.
Without further adieu, here is today’s preview on the men’s basketball program for the Redeemer Royals.
2018-19 in Review
The 2018-19 campaign was a bit of a roller coaster for the Redeemer Royals throughout both the regular season and playoffs. While they earned themselves a spot at the 2019 OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, the team still feels like it left something on the table.
“The reflective side of me is very proud in terms of what we have accomplished in the last few years, including last year,” said Royals Head Coach Jamie Girolametto. “But the competitive side in me feels like we can still achieve more.”
“We did feel like we underachieved, both in league play and in the OCAA Tournament.”
Redeemer finished the 2018-19 regular season in a tie for fourth-place in the ultra-competitive OCAA West Division with the Fanshawe Falcons at 13-7. They had impressive wins over the likes of the Sheridan Bruins, who were ranked #1 in the CCAA rankings at the time, and the Humber Hawks, who were ranked #2 in the CCAA rankings when the Royals knocked them off.
While they had wins over some of the nation’s top teams, they also lost games that left some scratching their heads. Redeemer lost both regular season meetings to the Niagara College Knights, one of which was the Royals’ only loss at home. They also blew a double-digit lead on the road against the Lambton Lions, falling 103-100 in one of the more exciting games of the season.
Despite some up-and-down play in the regular season, the Royals still earned themselves a spot at the 2019 OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship. Their gold medal dreams came to an end in the quarter-finals after an 83-51 loss at the hands of the defending national champion Seneca Sting.
Still, the Royals had their sights set on performing well to close the year. A 111-81 win over Fanshawe propelled the Royals into the Consolation Final against the host Georgian Grizzlies. In a low scoring affair, the Grizzlies got past Redeemer, 72-65, to win the Consolation Final on their home court.
Looking ahead to the 2019-20 season, the Royals have one of the more experienced rosters in all of Canada. Equipped with arguably the best home-court advantage in the CCAA, Redeemer will look to their veterans to lead them on their quest for provincial and national glory in what is shaping up to be a season with high expectations surrounding Redeemer.
This will be short and sweet, because there’s a one-word answer when asked about who the Royals lost from last season.
From last year’s team that went 13-7 in OCAA play and picked up wins over the likes of Humber and Sheridan, the Royals return everyone. They didn’t honour any graduating seniors at their last home game a year ago, which bodes well for their future this season.
With a veteran squad back this season, a group that includes three fifth-year starters, Redeemer will look to contend atop the OCAA West Division and challenge for a spot at Nationals.
As you read above, the whole gang is back together this season for the Royals after not losing anyone from last year’s team. A group that includes three fifth-year starters and a two-time OCAA Defensive Player of the Year will lead the way, while one of the league’s top guards will look to be fully healthy in 2019-20 after being hampered by a hamstring injury throughout 2018-19. Mix in depth pieces on the bench, and it’s easy to see why there’s a ton of excitement surrounding the Royals program this year.
“To have everyone back from last year’s squad allows us to continue to build upon everything that we have done,” added Girolametto. “It gives us great continuity, while at the same time allowing us to integrate some new faces fairly quickly.”
Leading the way is the first of three fifth-year starters, hometown forward Spencer Kerssies (Hamilton, Ont.). The 6’10” big man is one of the top forwards in the CCAA, let alone the OCAA, and he had his talents on full display throughout the regular season. Kerssies averaged team-highs in both points, rebounds, and blocks a year ago. He posted 18.3 points, 13.4 rebounds, and 1.9 blocks per contest while also dishing out 1.5 assists and picking up 1.1 steals on the defensive end.
During the regular season, Kerssies posted 14 double-double performances throughout the year. With his combination of size and shooting ability (30.3% from three-point range), Kerssies gives the Royals lineup a ton of versatility. He can finish in the paint, but he’s more than comfortable playing out to the three-point line and hitting shots from beyond the arc.
At the 2019 OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, Kerssies was held to a combined 15 points over the Royals’ three games. With that fresh in his mind, expect Kerssies to come back with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and make up for lost time in 2019-20 as he closes out his career.
Fifth-year guard Nick Green (Ridgeville, Ont.) is one of the more underrated scorers in the league, and down the stretch in 2018-19, he showed what he can do on a consistent basis on the offensive end of the floor. Green posted seven straight games with double-digit points to close the regular season, putting his offensive talents on display as the Royals built momentum heading towards the post-season. He posted 12.3 points per game last season while shooting 36.9% from the field and 35.2% from three-point range.
The Royals’ final fifth-year starter is guard Justin Lenters (Hamilton, Ont.). The hometown guard was apart of a three-player rotation for the fifth spot in the starting rotation last season, making seven starts over the course of the year. Lenters posted 5.2 points and 3.4 rebounds per game last season, primarily off the bench.
“Having 5th year returning starters in Spencer Kerssies, Nick Green and Justin Lenters is a major advantage,” continued Girolametto. “Our seniors are great in terms of coaching while on the court, and helping to get everyone on the same page.”
Elijah Lostracco (Oakville, Ont.) is coming off a 2018-19 season in which he was hampered by a hamstring injury throughout. Never quite 100%, Lostracco still posted impressive numbers for the Royals over his 17 appearances. 15 of which were starts. He finished second on the team in scoring, averaging 16.2 points to go along with 3.1 rebounds and 4.5 assists per game. Lostracco can score at all three levels, evident by his 47.6% shooting from the field, 41.0% from long range, and 83.6% from the free throw line from last year.
Over the year, Lostracco showed that he’s a guard who can go off at any given moment on offense. He posted three games with at least 30 points, and now that he’s healthy ahead of the 2019-20 season, he will look to do more damage.
Simply put, Foster Brown (Stoney Creek, Ont.) is a high-energy guard who gets the job done on both ends of the floor. The two-time OCAA Defensive Player of the Year is a game-changer whenever he’s on the floor. He grabs headlines for his play on the defensive end of the floor. Brown averaged 6.8 rebounds and 1.7 steals per contest last season, keeping opposing offensive units on their toes and forcing them into uncomfortable situations.
However, he possesses a strong game on offense, as well. Last season, he posted 12.8 points and 4.2 assists per game while shooting 48.4% from the field. Those numbers are strong in their own right, but Coach Girolametto said that Brown “is really improving on the offensive side of the court.” Add an improved offensive game to an already stellar defensive presence, and Brown could very well be OCAA Player of the Year at year’s end.
On the bench, the Royals have a slew of depth players back who make the team even more talented. The pair of Jacobus Vanderpol (Hamilton, Ont.) and Armeen Fazelipour (Richmond Hill, Ont.) both saw time in the starting five last season. Vanderpol made nine starts, while appearing in 19 games overall, and he posted 9.3 points and 4.5 rebounds per game. Fazelipour made five starts over the year, posting 6.6 points and 4.1 rebounds per contest.
Both Vanderpol and Fazelipour have shown that they are capable of being starters with the team, and alongside Lenters, they give the Royals flexibility with their starting five.
When you add in the likes of Woods Brown (Stoney Creek, Ont.) and Adam Pavlik (Grimsby, Ont.) off the bench, the roster for the Royals is one of the deepest in the country. That doesn’t take into account their five-man recruiting class, three of which have post-secondary experience from the OCAA and OUA.
As if the roster for the Royals wasn’t deep enough with their returning players, Girolametto and his staff went out and added more talent and experience to the roster on the recruiting trail. In total, four recruits have been announced for the program this season, two of which have some sort of post-secondary experience.
Leading the way is Goran Veselinovic (Hamilton, Ont.), who comes to the Royals after a brief stint in the OUA with the Laurier Golden Hawks. Back in 2017-18 with the Golden Hawks, his first with the program, he Veselinovic saw his season cut short after just two games due to injury. After sitting out the 2018-19 season, Veselinovic made the decision to return home to continue his education at Redeemer while also suiting up for their men’s basketball program. The 6’2’’ guard adds more talent and experience to an already loaded back court rotation.
In terms of OCAA transfers, the Royals picked up a player who suited up for the St. Clair Saints in the past. William Lara-Caston (Windsor, Ont.) brings a wealth of OCAA experience with him to the Royals program. Lara-Caston was on the cusp of being an OCAA All-Star during his time with the Saints, and he will be yet another talented piece of the back court rotation who will compete for minutes right away.
In terms of high school recruits, the Royals have added two pieces that they will look to develop for the future of the program. Guard Kian Durno (Georgetown, Ont.) gives Redeemer its point guard of the future, and he will have the opportunity to learn from some of the top guards in the league. On the wing, Will Dykstra (Langley, BC) brings a championship pedigree to the team after leading his 4th-seed high school team to a 1A Silver Medal at the BC Provincial Championships this past season.
The Royals have added players that will help them both now and into the future with their 2019-20 recruiting class. Adding experience will help them on their quest for OCAA and CCAA medals, while their first-year players will help ensure that the program stays competitive in the tough OCAA West Division for years to come.
In short, there are high expectations surrounding the Redeemer Royals in 2019-20. With their entire roster back from last year’s team, a group that includes one of the top forwards in Canada and a two-time OCAA Defensive Player of the Year, the Royals have high aspirations this season.
After a disappointing OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship appearance last season, the Royals will be looking to get back into the field of eight teams and make another run at a spot at Nationals.
Look for the Royals to be among the top teams in Canada throughout the season, and if they make their way into the eight-team field at the OCAA Men’s Basketball Championship, the Royals could very well advance to Nationals.
As we all know, experience wins in collegiate basketball, and the Redeemer Royals have that in spades.
Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.
– T. Bennett