OUA Player of the Year: Mike L’Africain-Ottawa Gee Gees
By Charles Vanegas for On Point Basketball
Ontario University Athletics (OUA) announced its major award winners and all-star teams Tuesday, naming Ottawa’s fifth-year point guard Michael L’Africain (Oakville, Ont.) as its Player of the Year.
Averaging 20.4 points (OUA-5th), 5.3 assists (3rd) and 1.9 steals (T-6th) per game, L’Africain led the Gee-Gees to a 17-2 record and a second straight North division title – despite having had fellow all-star Caleb Agada limited to just 14 games due to injury.
“My whole career, I’ve never been an all-star before. I’ve always felt like maybe I’d get something, and then I never get it, so I was more shocked that other people recognized me,” said L’Africain. “I went from nothing to getting that award, so it’s pretty cool.”
Not only was the Gee-Gees captain efficient – shooting 41.8% (5th) from beyond the arc and 85.9% (3rd) at the free-throw line – he was prolific, leading the Gee-Gees to several big game victories, including a 75-73 come-from-behind win over Carleton at the Raven’s Nest, in which he scored 17 points with five stitches in his shooting hand (after slicing it open 18 hours before the game).
“It was painful. Every dribble it was bleeding, throbbing. That was tough one… [but] I don’t sit out. My coach knows I’ll play through that.”
A bum ankle couldn’t keep Agada (Burlington, Ont.) from collecting hardware, as his 2.7 steals (3rd) and 8.6 rebounds (OUA-3rd) were enough to earn the fourth-year guard Defensive Player of the Year – ending Carleton’s seven-year run of having a player earn that distinction. (Note: Prior to last season, when the OUA split into four divisions from two, DPoY and PoY were named for the East and West divisions.)
OUA Coach of the Year: Patrick Tatham-Ryerson Rams
Ryerson interim head coach Patrick Tatham was named Coach of the Year after leading the Ryerson Rams to a 17-2 record and second straight OUA East division title after taking the reins from Roy Rana, who is taking a yearlong leave of absence.
“I was very grateful that he was trusting enough to leave me with the team. I tried to tell him that it was probably even better than last year’s team [that took bronze at nationals], and he said ‘well, you’re going to have to lead the ship this year.’ A lot of thanks goes out to Roy,” said Tatham, who was on Rana’s staff for five seasons prior to his interim appointment. “It’s been crazy. It’s been fun. It’s been a lot of learning. But it’s been so, so sweet.”
Tatham noted he was one of three head coaches at this week’s OUA Final Four who was filling in for a long-time successful coach, alongside Windsor’s Ryan Steer (filling in for Chris Oliver) and Carleton’s Rob Smart (filling in for his brother, Dave Smart), and gave credit to the players – especially incoming transfers – for believing in him as their coach.
“It’s always a little nerve-racking when you’re taking over as a new head coach. … I think you want continue to build off on the success of the coach taking the year off. It was definitely a bit of a worry for me, but the guys bought in and trusted me.”
The 2015-16 season saw the Rams finally beat Carleton – winners of 11 of the last 13 national championships – for the first time since 1999.
The Wilson Cup will be played at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre, but unlike the 2013 and ’14 OUA Final Fours and 2015 CIS Championship, the games will be played on Coca-Cola Court on the 2nd floor rather than moving up to the arena on the 3rd floor, which can accommodate more spectators.
“Based on us playing Ottawa, Carleton, Brock on the Coca-Cola Court – the [tight] atmosphere was amazing. …If you really break it down, Carleton, Ottawa and Windsor might have played as many games on the ice [having all appeared in all three of the aforementioned championships] or just as many as we have,” said Tatham. “We had a lot of comfort playing downstairs and I think it’s a little more of an advantage for us rather than playing with a different set up.”
OUA Major Award Winners
Player of the Year: Mike L’Africain (Ottawa Gee-Gees)
Defensive Player of the Year: Caleb Agada (Ottawa Gee-Gees)
Rookie of the Year: Isiah Osborne (Windsor Lancers)
Ken Shields Award: Sam Hirst (Laurentian Voyageurs)
Coach of the Year: Patrick Tatham (Ryerson Rams)
Officials Award of Merit: Paul Carter
OUA First-Team All-Stars
Mike L’Africain (Ottawa Gee-Gees)
Caleb Agada (Ottawa Gee-Gees)
Aaron Best (Ryerson Rams)
Adika Peter-McNeilly (Ryerson Rams)
Dani Elgadi (Brock Badgers)
Kaza Kajami-Keane (Carleton Ravens)
Leon Alexander (McMaster Marauders)
Sukpreet Singh (Queen’s Gaels)
Greg Morrow (Western Mustangs)
Alex Campbell (Windsor Lancers)
OUA Second-Team All-Stars
Guillaume Boucard (Carleton Ravens)
Connor Wood (Carleton Ravens)
Bacarius Dinkins (Lakehead Thunderwolves)
Henry Tan (Lakehead Thunderwolves)
Johneil Simpson (Brock Badgers)
Will Coulthard (Laurier Golden Hawks)
Troy Joseph (McMaster Marauders)
Nathan McCarthy (Ottawa Gee-Gees)
Ammanuel Diressa (Ryerson Rams)
Devin Johnson (Toronto Varsity Blues)
OUA All-Rookie Team
Marcus Anderson (Carleton Ravens)
Stanley Mayambo (Carleton Ravens)
Devon Williams (Toronto Varsity Blues)
Daniel Johansson (Toronto Varsity Blues)
Tyler Brown (Brock Badgers)
Anthony Iacoe (Laurentian Voyageurs)
Simon Mikre (Laurier Golden Hawks)
Kalil Langston (Nipissing Lakers)
Dylan Phillips (Waterloo Warriors)
Isiah Osborne (Windsor Lancers)
Photos Courtesy of Charles Vanegas
Edited by Drew Ebanks