PacWest Preview: Douglas College Royals

Andrew Baron leads a young group of Royals into 2013-14.  - Brian Jones Photo

Andrew Baron leads a young group of Royals into 2013-14. – Brian Jones Photo

Regular-season record: 8-13

Provincial tournament: 4th place

Key returning players:

  • Andrew Baron (3rd year)
  • Kristian Hildenbrandt (2nd year)
  • Ethan McKean (2nd year)
  • Tom Ghag (2nd year)
  • Mike Blaauw (2nd year)

Key losses:

  • Mark Dabrowski
  • Devan Haynes (Kwantlen)
  • Dustin Egelstad (Kwantlen)
  • Harpreet Randhawa
  • Daniel Kim (Langara)

Rookies:

  • Grant Campbell
  • Sylvester Appiah
  • Bradyn Norris
  • Akim Zongo
  • Jacob Juras
  • Harbir Phool
  • Karun Samra
  • Pavan Leeho

It’s not too hard to think back and reminisce about the year 2008.

Kanye West was beginning his affinity with auto-tune, Obama was beginning his first term as POTUS, the one kid in your school with an iPhone 3G was a king, and the Douglas College Royals had just finished putting together one of the most dominant seasons in CCAA history.

But in the fall of 2008, the Royals had lost all of its championship luster. Andrew Sturgeon had put his five years in, Billy McNutt and Bol Kong were of to greener pastures, head coach Jamie Oei was replaced by Gil Chueng, and from what I remember, things didn’t go as smoothly.

A lot of the same sentiment can be felt now in 2013. Douglas may not be coming off of a national championship, but they’ve lost four starters, and only return two players that saw significant court time.

“This year is a completely different philosophy,” said head coach Denis Beausoleil – entering his third year at the helm. “Losing those guys is a big loss – a very big loss. But we’re trying to replace them as best we can and as quickly as we can.”

Last year’s philosophy for the Royals revolved around pounding the ball inside and letting the giant duo of Devan Haynes and Mark Dabrowski go to work. Harpreet Randhawa offered the only consistent presence from the perimeter, and Andrew Baron was adjusting to his role as starting point guard – a role he hadn’t taken up since his grade-11 year in high school.

To everyone outside of the program, there isn’t the highest of hopes. But optimism and lofty goals still surround the squad.

“We believe in setting a stretch goal. This year, that stretch goal is making it to nationals. The guys’ goal is to be in the final game at provincials,” said Beausoleil. “I let the players pick the goal, and that’s what they came up with.”

The winning blueprint in the PacWest is centered around developing players and keeping them from year to year.  But since taking over, Beausoleil has encountered the exact opposite, forcing him to completely retool each season.

“We need to keep our guys together long term. We all individually have to get better and more skilled. We don’t have that top-end talent that we did last year, but if we play a different style, we may not lose as much in the end.

“Right now, we’re not even good enough to be better than we were last year.”

Yet this early in the preseason, the Royals are facing the harsh reality of building from the ground up.

“You have these great plans for the season, then you starting working on things and you realize it really is a brand-new season, and that you’re not good enough at anything really,” said Beausoleil.

Last season, Douglas got a very minimal amount of production from their bench.

Now their bench is their starting lineup.

Andrew Baron, the team’s floor general and de facto veteran, will have to shoulder a huge offensive load in the upcoming season. Fortunately he hit his stride during last year’s provincial tournament, scoring 14 points in the quarterfinal matchup against Capilano University, and then knocked down five threes en route to a 15-point performance in Douglas’ semifinal loss to the eventual champion – Langara College.

Apart from Baron, guards Kristian Hildebrant, Ethan McKean and Tom Ghag are all going to have to step up and produce for a team that’ll be desperately seeking an increased contribution wherever they can find it.

McKean is going to have to channel his inner Gator and rediscover a lethal three-point stroke that made him such a terror in the 2012 BC AAA Championships, while Hildebrandt’s work ethic could help him garner serious playing time.

“They all know that we’re not even close to where we need to be,” said Beausoleil. “Them setting that stretch goal of reaching nationals – they’re not delusional about how much they know they need to improve. We really need to get better – a lot better.

Essentially, there is nowhere to go but up.

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