With a new year, new roster and new challenges the Carleton Ravens are working hard to prepare for the start of the 2022-23 season. Coming off their 16th U SPORTS championship the Ravens aren't ready to rest on their past success, instead, the team will emphasize defence as they look to return to the top.
To fans, this summer's CAN-AM Shootout already feels like it was months ago. Since their four games against NCAA competition, the Ravens have played a full preseason scheduling including tests against 2022 U SPORTS Final 8 teams from the University of Victoria and McGill. "We've had some good tests," admits Ravens head coach Taffe Charles. "It's been a good preseason, but we've had some ups and downs on the defensive end of things."
Having lost the likes of Alain Louis, Biniam Ghebrekidan and Lloyd Pandi among others, the Ravens enter a unique season where younger players will be asked to step into key roles. For coach Charles and the group the focus will continue to be on the process.
"We just keep plugging away and trying to get better on the defensive side of things. We have a better idea of where the issues are and we've just to try and solve them as best we possibly can."
The challenges of the preseason, which included highly competitive overtime games in the House-Laughton final and last Saturday against McGill will only help the Ravens pursuit of a seventeenth championship.
Charles is quick to credit the value of those preseason games in helping to prepare his team for the season ahead. "They did a good job of exposing some of the things we need to do better. It's always good to be challenged and that you have a good feel for what the issues are - it's going to help us in the long run."
The Ravens squad includes a number of rookies and newcomers who will need to adjust to the level of U SPORTS basketball as they prepare for the challenges ahead. Youngsters like Reginald Jean Seraphin, Ben Riley and Marjok Okado have already been asked to step into key roles in the preseason. For Seraphin and Okado, while they gained experience training with the Ravens last season, they are just now getting their first taste of game action with the team.
Despite the youth movement at Carleton, coach Charles recognizes a lot of the attention will remain on the team's veterans Aidan Warnholtz, Connor Vreeken and Grant Shephard. "At the end of the day, it is about the leaders. They've got to practice and games each and every day and set the right example."
For Charles, that example isn't just set in games, but it's about the countless hours the players spend preparing for each weekend, the time spent watching tape, practicing and taking care of their bodies.
"They've been around long enough to know, from the history of our program and the people in the past, exactly what it means to win a championship."