Golden Hawks men’s basketball enters final stretch of season with ‘real pressure’

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

Photo by Andreas Patsiaouros

It hasn’t exactly been the easiest of weeks for the Wilfrid Laurier men’s basketball team.

At the beginning of the semester, the department of athletics and recreation released the news that head coach Peter Campbell would be retiring at the end of the season. Along with that news came a plethora of media attention and excessive formalities. And a lot of distractions.

To add to that, the Hawks are coming off a rough few weeks. Despite a formidable performance from Owen Coulthard, who scored 27 points and missed only two shots against the Guelph Gryphons on Feb. 12 in a 102-91 victory, Laurier went on to lose their next three games, two of which were against two of the top teams in the country — the No. 1 nationally-ranked Carleton Ravens and the No. 2 Ottawa Gee-Gees.

Throw in a few graduating players at the end of this season, including Will Coulthard, who became just the third player in Laurier history to eclipse 1,500 points, and Garrison Thomas, who’s given a good four years to the program, and the pressure is on for the Hawks to make a bold statement in the next couple weeks.

And the pressure is very, very real.

“I say to them all the time, you’re doing this for Will [Coulthard], who is in his fifth year, you’re doing this for Garrison [Thomas], who is in his fourth year and they’re playing their last games,” said Campbell amidst preparing for Laurier’s final game of the regular season. “Those are the guys you’re playing for. Well now, they’re thinking ‘are we supposed to be winning this for coach Campbell?’ I’ve been doing this for 31 years … Will’s got one fifth year. I figure I’ve got six and a half fifth years. Garrison’s going to get one fourth year. They’re who you’re playing for.”

Dealing with the pressure is a main focus of Campbell’s as Laurier prepares for a date with the Waterloo Warriors Saturday to end their season. After such a tough few weeks, it’s about refocusing and recovering from travel, bumps and bruises and going into the playoffs off of a win.

“[The playoffs] becomes a whole new tournament,” said the bench boss. “Last year, we lost to Western I think by a gazillion on one Wednesday and we went back the next Wednesday and beat them by 10 points. It’s all about how you focus and reset.”

Laurier currently sits 7-12 on the season. With RPI determining seeding for the playoffs, this week will go down to the wire to figure out who the Hawks’ first-round date will be with. The only thing that is confirmed is it’ll be on the road, possibly against the McMaster Marauders, Brock Badgers or Windsor Lancers. It’s about shooting well, focusing on the Laurier game and matching intensity.

And what’s most important is playing for those who have made the program what it is.

“Anytime you have a player play for five years, you know the sacrifices they’ve made,” Campbell said. “The growth of Will as a person and as a player and a student has been amazing. I can remember a day when we were concerned academically, and a year ago he was the academic athlete for Laurier. What he’s accomplished in his five years is amazing. And hitting the 1,500-point milestone and being only the third player to do it in Laurier history, I think that’s terrific.

“I hope we can finish this the way he’d like to finish this.”

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