Following spring exams, many members of the McMaster community vacate the campus for the summer, forgetting about university responsibilities until after Labour Day. That is not the case for everyone however, especially for the Marauders men’s basketball coach, Patrick Tatham.
While it may technically be the offseason for Ontario University Athletics basketball, recruiting season is in full swing for the maroon and grey, with coach Tatham already adding several prospects to the roster.
Since the end of the spring semester, Tatham has added three key prospects to help out the Marauders next season. This includes Sefa Otchere, who is ranked 39th in Canadian basketball prospects by NorthpoleHoops, Tristan Lindo, a 6’3” shooting guard ranked at 45th in Canada, and most recently, Southwest Academy’s Joshua Massela, a 6’4” swingman who boasts a 7’ wingspan.
For Tatham, and after talking with his connections in the National Collegiate Athletics Association, there’s no special secret to recruiting. Yet, it goes deeper than statistics and raw talent.
“You want to recruit a lot of talent, but you also want to recruit kids that have great character or are willing to work hard, and are just good students overall,” Tatham said. “In our program we talk about having ‘our kind of guy’. For us, our kind of guy looks like a guy that has heart, he is willing to play hard, he’s willing to play through pain — he’s just mentally tough. We’re looking for guys that can fill certain areas, and the areas we really want to fill are athleticism, hard workers, high character kids, and guys that aren’t afraid to get down and dirty.”
Tatham certainly is enjoying his opportunity this year to start building the Marauders team he envisions as his first truly full offseason. As a coach coming to a new team, Tatham found the toughest part to be deciding which players would form his lineup as he inherited a pre-made roster.
“It’s always tough because you come into a situation where you’re not really coaching the kids that you’ve recruited, you’re coaching the team that’s already been here,” said Tatham. “I want to give everyone a fair kick at the can, but at the same time, during the season you build up a great relationship with the guys that it makes it hard to say ‘this is the end of the road for you’ because you’ve developed more than just a basketball relationship with them.”
That transition from the old guard to a new coach and system is not easy, which is likely the reason Marauders fans witnessed a Jekyll-and-Hyde-like season from the Mac men in 2017-2018. The team that faced Laurier in the OUA playoffs by the season’s end was markedly different from the team that tipped off the season in October.
“It was interesting, a lot of ups and downs,” Tatham said of last season. “I always say it was a tale of two seasons. One season was from essentially September to December, the guys are trying to figure me out, I’m trying to figure the guys out. But in the second half, everything starts to click and the guys start to really understand their roles and what’s expected of them. I start to get comfortable with them and they’re getting comfortable with me. So then we finished off the season on a nine out of 10 game winning streak.”
While there is still a long way to go before the 2018-2019 season tips off on Oct. 24 against the Waterloo Warriors, Tatham does not have too many big goals in mind for the remaining months.
“It was just a down year this year, at least for me,” Tatham said. “I’m literally just trying to get my feet wet still and hopefully in the coming offseasons we have a few International trips and a few NCAA games. But I think this year is a good year for us to kind of lay low and just really chip away at getting better at our skills, getting better individually and also getting better as a team.”
While the news from the Marauders’ camp may be relatively quiet in the coming months, it certainly does not mean that there is not work being done. The Marauders will be aiming for a much stronger start than they got off to last season, and that does not come easily.
“It’s going to be interesting because as much as I think we finished on a pretty high note last year, I think 2018-2019 brings its own set of hurdles,” Tatham explained. “Because I’ve gone out and recruited a few kids, still adding a few more kids, they’re all going to be new to this level. So can they pick up things as quickly as possible? Can we pick up where we left off last year? Or are we going to take a step back because now I’ve got to reteach all the young guys especially where we were last January through March? It will be a fine balancing act but I think if the guys are willing to work hard and they’re willing to understand their roles and really buy into being a star in their roles, then I think we’ll start off on a better note then we did my first year.”
Already off to a strong start this summer, whatever the coming months hold for Tatham and the Marauders, the Fall will likely reveal a different team in Burridge Gym than before. A squad that promises to be the building block for Tatham’s Marauders, with their eyes squarely set on a successful season for the boys in maroon and grey.