MBB Season Preview: Striking a Balance
After two seasons languishing in play-off purgatory, the CBU men's basketball team bounced back last year with a memorable post-season run under their, now permanent head coach, Matt Skinn. With the new season now underway and boasting both the 2018 league leader in points per game and AUS defensive player of the year, the Capers are primed and ready to mount another challenge for the conference title.
Prior to his return as interim head coach last year, Matt Skinn spent a season as assistant coach of the 2018 national championship-winning Calgary Dinos. After his successful stint on the West Coast, the CBU alumnus and AUS championship winner says he is pleased to be returning as permanent head coach of the Capers.
"It's great. When John (Ryan) and I talked about my return, we tried to make the transition as smooth as possible, so to have it be confirmed that I would be on full-time it's obviously what I wanted and why I came back. It's the job that I've always wanted, so it's exciting, I love working for CBU."
Skinn believes that his time as assistant coach of the Dinos served as perfect preparation for his return to the AUS, with the success he experienced in Calgary allowed a new level of confidence to materialise. Success on another team might not always translate to a different league and style of play but the Capers head coach is certain that the lessons he learned on the West Coast will serve him well on his return to the East.
"I think the most important part of that experience was just getting out there and having the confidence to know that what I'm doing as a coach can be successful. I felt that coming back last year, was the most prepared I've ever been to be a head coach. I think you get that confidence when you've experienced success at that level. I think the comfort in my own skin, returning to CBU, and knowing that I wanted to be here, those are the things that give me confidence moving forward."
Capers guard and 2018 AUS points per game leader Osman 'Ozzy' Omar credits the return of Coach Skinn for an increased discipline and focus within the squad, a focus that ultimately lead to last season's return to playoff basketball.
"He's definitely a player's coach. He went to school here, he played here so he knows a lot of people in the community. I think it all comes down to coaching and the players we have coming into the program. Within the coaching, there is a different system and I feel like we are more of a team now. He's also won a national championship so he's bringing that mentality to this program."
Having enjoyed a stellar 2018 season under Coach Skinn, Omar's focus during this off-season was developing a more rounded game. By continuing to strengthen his defensive abilities, Omar believes his Caper teammates will ultimately be presented with more attacking opportunities in the opponent's half.
"I've been told to focus on being more of a passer because he (Skinn) knows that a lot of teams will be focusing on me offensively. So trying to get my team involved in attacks is definitely one of the key components. Also, pressuring the ball, my on-ball defense, those are two of the main things."
With Osman leading the league in points per game last season and guard/forward Paul Watson picking up AUS defensive player of the year, the Capers boast a strong platform founded on balance and consistency. This kind of equilibrium is rare in any squad and judging by the individual statistics of last year, when Oman and Watson combine, not many teams in the AUS can live with them. It's this sense of balance within the team that Watson believes can drive the Capers as they look towards the 2019/20 season.
"This year I feel we have multiple great defenders, I feel like we are a great defensive team and I also feel like we have a lot of scorers too. So, I think we have a really good balance. I don't feel like it's just one player offensively or one player defensively. It's about our team as a whole buying into playing defense and finding the best shot we can possibly get. It's really about all-around balance, letting our defense dictate our offense. Getting those stops really fuels our offense."
Having successfully utilised this dual-pronged approach in the Capers return to post-season basketball last year, Head Coach Matt Skinn is now firmly focused on what the program needs to improve on in order to challenge for an AUS banner in 2019.
"I think the first thing we needed was depth and we addressed that issue in the off-season. We're not necessarily a veteran team but we have a lot of positive depth so I'm excited about that. I think we need to understand that every time we take the floor we can win. Playing with that confidence but also knowing that it's not just going to happen. It sounds really easy, but if we can hit some three's this year we're going to be pretty tough. We're a very athletic team so I think if we are able to hit some three's it's going to put us in a really good position."
With their last conference title coming under Skinn in 2013, there is now a real sense of expectation surrounding the CBU men's basketball team and their returning coach is eager to convert that pressure into points.
"We've been joking a little bit because of how successful all the teams are CBU and how it's almost expected that the teams win and compete for AUS and national championships every year. I love that, I love that pressure, I love that that's what is expected of us."
With that rallying cry from the head coach, the next question has to be; what can CBU achieve this season? Capers guard/forward Paul Watson is confident that his side has the talent to go all the way in 2019.
"Honestly, I feel that the sky's the limit. I obviously don't want to jinx anything but I definitely think we could win the AUS and make it to that national stage. I feel like this could be a great year for us to take that step in becoming contenders and putting it all on the line. The culture is good, the team is moving in the right direction and I feel this could be a very successful year in the AUS and hopefully, we'll be able to put it all together this time."
If you want to cheer the CBU men's basketball towards their goal of an AUS title this season make sure you check out www.gocapersgo.ca for all schedule, roster and ticket news.