By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
The school year is now in full swing, and with it comes the first season of basketball for Ontario Tech University.
The men’s team is being coached by Greg Francis, and the women’s team by Christa Eniojukan, who was recently awarded the Canadian Coaches Association of Ontario Susan Kitchen Trailblazer Award.
While both coaches feel positive heading into the season, they both admit there is some uncertainty.
“The idea of being fully prepared year one, you can’t really,” says Eniojukan. “You’re kind of thrown into the fire of it. But, the girls are growing and learning, and we’re getting better every single day. They’ll be ready to compete.”
She says she can’t predict how well the team will do this year as they have yet to play a game, but she is expecting to set the team’s culture this season.
“Whenever you’re building a new team, or a new program, you have to make sure that everyone’s buying into the same philosophies,” she explains.
She also notes the team has good chemistry.
“The team is jelling really well,” says Eniojukan. “The girls really get along exceptionally well.”
She notes there are five players from Quebec, and the English-speaking players are helping them to better learn their English.
“They’re working well together on and off the court.”
Her goal as a coach is to help the players grow, and become better communicators on and off the court.
To Eniojukan, academics are extremely important.
“I actually was a teacher, I taught for 14 years, so academics are huge,” she says.
She believes the team has a few standout players so far, but it’s difficult to say who the “go to” player on the court will be.
For Francis, he says the most difficult thing for his team will be a lack of experience.
“It’s hard because at a lot of our practices, there’s so much teaching, there’s very little playing, so it’s hard for us to build our toughness,” says Francis.
Francis’ squad has put an emphasis on scoring from the three-point line.
“We’re looking to move the ball more,” he says. “That’s where the strategy comes in with so much teaching to move the ball, because sometimes they want to penetrate and kick, and they just want to hold it… we’re sort of in that zone where we are getting better at deciding what’s a good shot, and a great shot. We’re in between that.”
He says the team doesn’t take great shots, but they don’t take terrible shots.
Francis believes the team is jelling well, but can tell there are players who haven’t been playing university level ball for multiple years.
He thinks the team will be okay as the season goes along, noting there are two more seasoned players who have leadership roles.
The coach doesn’t like losing, but Francis explains it is important for the players to understand what it is like to lose in order to better understand winning.
“I don’t like it because you have to lose games to learn, but that’s how the boys learn,” he says.
Both coaches have said the support from the school has been great.
“The Ridgeback community, they’re used to building new programs, so there’s a lot of people that have done it from scratch before,” says Eniojukan.
With the program being so new, Francis says he’s realized how much work goes into building it.
“It’s hard for us to keep up because everything is new, but the support from the school has been great so far,” he says.
Both Francis and Eniojukan are hoping for a big turnout from the Ontario Tech community for their first home games.
“I was talking to some people around the basketball community, and I think there’s a lot of excitement for our programs,” says Francis. “They want to see what we can do.”
Both teams’ first games are on Oct. 25 against the Laurentian Voyageurs in Sudbury, and the first home games are on Nov. 11 at 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. against the Queen’s Gaels.