Leading a powerhouse
As recently as five years ago, Wilfrid Laurier’s men’s basketball team was hardly competitive and usually lost games more than they won.
Fast-forward to today and two of the biggest building blocks in totally changing the culture of the program are back for one last go at their ultimate goal, an Ontario University Athletics (OUA) championship.
Matthew Buckley and Kale Harrison both elected to return for a fifth year of university, and basketball was their main reason.
However, the duo did not return simply because they both love basketball, but because they want to finish what they started.
“It’s the potential we have this year,” said Harrison when prompted as to why he returned. “The idea of coming back and getting to play more basketball and finish it all off.”
Buckley reiterated Harrison’s message, showing how this team’s comradere can carry them to the next level.
“The biggest reason I decided to come back is that all my friends who I went through the last four years with, are back,” said the six-foot-six centre.
However, with coming back for a fifth year and having such lofty expectations comes the added pressure, especially considering the fact that this is likely the best team that Laurier has ever seen from their men’s basketball program.
“It’s do-or-die this year for sure,” said OUA all-star and Laurier’s alltime leading scorer Kale Harrison.
But championship or not, perhaps the biggest impact these two Laurier greats have had is that they have changed the culture surrounding Laurier basketball, something they are well aware of.
“Laurier was a football school,” said Buckley who is well aware of his generation’s impact on the program. “But now we have a team that people expect to do well and win games, and we want to fill those expectations.”
Along with a new attitude and winning culture comes confidence. It is a necessary component of every good team, and it is what makes the great athletes so great.
With so many wins combined, the two are surprisingly humble when factoring in all their previous success. They still speak of improving defensive play, and sticking to the task of playing within their roles on the team.
The strength of the team is depth, said Harrison. “We have nine or ten guys who can play and all contribute, which is huge.”
The Golden Hawks will start their quest at Ryerson University at Kerr Hall Gym on Nov. 11 at 8 p.m.