Assistant Sports Editor
Head coach Amos Connolly’s season may have ended Feb. 23, but that does not mean the bench boss took any time off.
The most important aspect of the early offseason is recruiting, and the Marauders go after the top recruits very hard. Connolly says he does not cast a wide net; he goes after a small number of blue-chip prospects. It’s a high-risk, high-reward strategy.
But for the second year in a row, that gamble has worked out. McMaster announced two major recruits over the past week: Hamid Nessek, a 6’ guard from Hamilton’s Academie Catholique Mere-Teresa (ACMT) and Trevon McNeil, a 6’ 1” guard out of Oakville’s Holy Trinity. Both recruits are ranked in the top of their class and received attention from a number of top programs.
Mac’s newest addition addresses a number of concerns for Connolly, on both sides of the ball.“This year proved that we need more ball handlers. We need guys, similar to Aaron Redpath, who can play the point and shooting guard,” Connolly said. “It gives us a combo guard option. Both of the guys are fantastic defenders, which lets us pressure and play up-tempo.”
Nessek received attention from a number of NCAA Division I schools, with a number of Ivy League schools pursuing the 2013 graduate. One of the most notable programs was the Princeton University Tigers, who appeared in the NCAA tournament in 2011. “The opportunity to get Hamid, who wants to be a doctor, that’s a no-brainer. He’s arguably the best player coming out of Hamilton this year,” said Connolly. McNeil was also rumoured to be on the radar of the Carleton Ravens, who are coming off their ninth national championship, before he committed to the Maroon and Grey.
The Mac coaching staff has being watching the Oakville product for two years and lauded the kind of teammate he is. McNeil brings a talented handle to the court in combination with an excellent mid-range game.
Both recruits come from winning programs. Nessek grabbed an OFSAA silver medal at the AA level and McNeil lost in the OFSAA AAAA bronze medal game. Having players who have experienced success is a huge asset in Connolly’s books.
“Players that come from winning programs have coaches who’ve prepared them differently and that’s a critical factor. They come [to university] and they are not overwhelmed,” explained Connolly.
Grabbing these two guards now puts Mac in a situation where their backcourt is competing with some of the strongest in the OUA. The Marauders’ head coach likened the guard rotation to that of Lakehead’s or Windsor’s.
McMaster is excited about the recent commitments, but the recruiting season is young and there will hopefully be more announcements in the near future.