REGINA, Sask. — 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 Regina Cougars men’s basketball program.
2018-19 in Review
Last season, the Cougars were knocking on the door in the Canada West standings. In 2019-20, they will be looking to kick the door down and make their way into the Top Four and put themselves in a better position to contend for a conference championship.
The Cougars finished the year with a record of 14-6 in the regular season, narrowly missing out on a spot in the Top Four and earning a bye into the Canada West Quarter-Finals. Instead, as the fifth-seed, the Cougars found themselves having to host a play-in game to keep their season alive.
In their play-in game, the Cougars squared off against the 12-seed Mount Royal Cougars. Regina and Mount Royal didn’t meet during the regular season, but both were looking to put together a strong showing to keep their seasons alive.
Mount Royal came out strong on the road, taking a 27-20 lead after the opening quarter. Their lead was short-lived, as the Cougars found their legs in the second quarter and kicked things into another gear. Regina outscored Mount Royal by a 36-16 margin in the second quarter to take a 13-point lead into the break. Regina built on their lead over the course of the half, ultimately cruising to the 106-83 win to advance to the Canada West quarter-finals.
Regina was matched up with the Saskatchewan Huskies in the quarter-finals. The two teams were familiar with one another, having met twice to close the regular season. Saskatchewan and Regina split the two games, with both contests being decided by eight points or less.
This time around, it was a different story. The Huskies came out on fire and put the Cougars behind the eight-ball early on. Saskatchewan picked up a 99-68 win in the first game of their three-game set, and they completed the two-game sweep the next night with a 97-77 decision.
With the losses, Regina’s season came to an end. Overall, they posted a record of 15-8.
Fast forward to the new season that’s just beyond the horizon, and the Cougars will be looking to take the next step towards a Canada West title. With a veteran roster in tow for the new campaign, the Cougars will be looking to claw their way to a top-four finish and the post-season benefits that come with regular season success.
At year’s end, the Cougars honoured their graduating seniors ahead of the regular season home finale against the Saskatchewan Huskies. Unfortunately, a pair of guards also won’t be back with the team this season. However, their roster should remain mostly intact heading into 2019-20.
The lone player to graduate at the end of the 2018-19 season was Kornel Tokolyi (Budapest, Hungary). Tokolyi was the lone fifth-year player on the Cougars’ roster last season, and the 6’7’’ forward will be a key loss in terms of size and overall depth on the roster.
Over the 2018-19 season, Tokolyi posted an average of 2.5 points and 1.7 rebounds per contest over 15 appearances. He shot 34.9% from the field and 85.7% from the free throw line. Tokolyi went for a season-best seven points in 14 minutes of action on November 2nd against the Trinity Western Spartans. Tokolyi recorded four or more points on six occasions throughout the year.
Guard Myles Hamilton (Berea, Ohio) came to the Cougars after a stint with the Cleveland State Vikings in the Horizon League in the NCAA. Hamilton was a welcome addition to the rotation, and he gave Head Coach Steve Burrows a go-to option on the offensive end of the floor. Last season, Hamilton led the Cougars in scoring, averaging 14.4 points per game on 49.8% shooting from the floor and 78.9% from the free throw line.
He was one of the more consistent scorers in the Canada West throughout the season. Over a 12-game span from November 30th through to February 8th, Hamilton recorded double-digit points in each game. In addition to his offensive production, Hamilton averaged 5.2 rebounds, 2.5 assists, and 1.4 steals per game while recording two double-doubles over the year.
Guard Kameron Vales (Stockton, Calif.) reportedly isn’t back with the team this season. Last year as a first-year athlete with the Cougars, Vales averaged 7.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, and 3.3 assists per game on 36.1% shooting from the field.
With Tokolyi being the only graduating player at the end of last season, plus the losses of Hamilton and Vales, the Cougars should have a veteran roster back in 2019-20. Equipped with their share of talent, the Cougars will be looking to climb up the standings in the Canada West and benefit from other top programs losing key players from last year’s rotation.
While their 2019-20 roster has yet to be finalized, given the fact that only Tokolyi was honoured as a graduating senior at the end of last season, we are going to speculate that the rest of the group is back for another run at the title. The list of returnees includes a slew of veterans, and four players who averaged double-digit points per game a year ago.
Transfer guard Greishe Clerjuste (Montreal, Que.) had himself an impressive 2018-19 season, and he made sure to close it out with his best stretch of the year. The 6’2’’ transfer guard from the UQAM Citadins in the RSEQ finished second on the Cougars in soring last season, trailing only Hamilton with an average of 13.1 points per contest. He shot 47.4% from the field and 80.8% from the free throw line.
While he posted double-digit points on 15 occasions in the regular season, it was his closing stretch that grabbed headlines. Over the Cougars’ final seven contests, a stretch in which they went 5-2, Clerjuste put together six games with double-digit points. He averaged 15.3 points per game over that seven-game stretch.
Joining Clerjuste in the back court once again is 6’5’’ guard Samuel Hillis (Regina, Sask.). Not only does the hometown guard bring size to the back court rotation, he also gives Regina a strong shooting option from long range. Last season, Hillis posted 11.6 points per game while shooting 46.3% from the field and 36.1% from three-point range.
Hillis posted six double-doubles over the regular season, four of which came consecutively over a four-game stretch from November 3rd to 16th. His best all-around game of the year came back on November 9th against the Brandon Bobcats. Hillis posted 17 points, 13 rebounds, six assists, and five steals in an impressive showing on both ends of the floor.
Rounding out the Cougars’ contingent of double-digit scorers back in the mix this season is forward Carter Millar (Regina, Sask.). The 6’4’’, 240-pound forward gives the Cougars a big body who’s tough to move out of the paint and away from the basket. In just his second season in 2018-19, Millar recorded 11.5 points and 7.9 rebounds per game, leading the Cougars on the glass.
Millar had four double-doubles to his name, and he recorded nine games with double-digit points in the second half of the season alone. As the year moved along, Millar became a more consistent player on offense, and he will be looking to continue that trajectory in 2019-20.
As if their roster isn’t deep enough already with the aforementioned four players, they return more depth with four more players who played key roles with the program a year ago. Nick Barnard (Regina, Sask.) was named to the Canada West All-Rookie Team after posting 7.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, and 1.7 assists per game over his 15 regular season appearances.
Brayden Kuski (Regina, Sask.), Benjamin Hillis (Regina, Sask.), and Matt Barnard (Regina, Sask.) add even more depth to an already talented back court rotation. All three players averaged 4.3 points per game or higher while shooting better than 38% from the floor. The trio bring a veteran presence to the roster while also giving the Cougars significant contributions on both ends of the floor.
With some of the other top teams in the Canada West losing key members of their rotation from last year, the Cougars have a veteran roster that will be looking to do some damage in 2019-20. Add in a pair of recruits that add more depth to the roster, and things are looking promising for the Cougars thus far, at least on paper.
In addition to their strong returning core group of players, the Cougars have added a pair of players who will add more depth to the roster and will bring their share of talent and experience to the table. One player comes to the Cougars from Europe, while the other is making his return to Canada after a stint in the Great American Conference.
Guard Josiah Thomas (Edmonton, Alta.) is making the move back to Canada after playing south of the border last season. The 6’2” guard was a member of the Arkansas Tech Wonder Boys last season in the Great American Conference. In 24 games last season as a junior, Thomas averaged 4.0 points, 1.8 rebounds, and 1.4 assists per game while appearing in 24 games, 15 of which were starts.
Thomas will add a wealth of experience to the mix for the Cougars this season, and he will look to compete for minutes early on in the loaded guard rotation for the Cougars.
Also joining the Cougars this season is forward Arinze Emeka-Anyakwo (England). The European forward stands at 6’5”, and will give the Cougars some more size in the front court. Emeka-Anyakwo, who played most recently with the Reading Rockets, will bring a ton of length to the lineup with his 6’10” wingspan.
Their recruiting class may consist of just two players, but the Cougars have added a pair of intriguing pieces who will look to contribute right away in 2019-20.
The Regina Cougars have high expectations surrounding the program this season, and they find themselves in a favourable position in the Canada West.
Several of the top teams will lose key contributors from last year’s rosters, whereas the Cougars return their key producers on both ends of the floor. Regina has a strong combination of both experience and talent, and that should bode well for them as the season progresses.
Regina will be looking to build off last year’s fifth-place finish in the regular season standings and secure a top-four spot at year’s end. Once in the post-season, the Cougars will be looking to secure their spot at Nationals with a lengthy playoff run, one that they hope will take place on their home court.
Be sure to bookmark our 2019-20 Season Previews page to keep up with the previews as they are released online.
– T. Bennett