Written by Jeff Morris
Photo by Valerie Wutti
While talent is an important part of building a winning team, it is only a piece of the puzzle. Suppose the Carleton Ravens have proved anything throughout their dynasty. In that case, hard work, discipline, putting the team first, character and leadership are all needed to build a winning program.
The leaders of a team can’t be appointed. They must emerge. The Ravens have been blessed with some great on-court leaders who played a massive role in the team’s success through the past two decades.
As the Ravens opened their training camp in September, head coach Taffe Charles looked forward to seeing some of his players grow as leaders.
“A player becomes a leader on a team by what he does, not by what he says,” Charles said.
Some of the younger Ravens who were part of the last national championship team are now veterans two years older. Two of them, Lloyd Pandi and Alain Louis, got a taste of professional basketball in the Canadian Elite Basketball League. Charles will be expecting them to step into more of a leadership role.
“With Lloyd, it’s hard to believe that this is his fourth year at Carleton, and he has only played one season of basketball with us,” Charles said. “He has played in two CEBL seasons and only one U Sports season.”
While CEBL teams each have U Sports players on their rosters as part of a developmental program, Pandi has emerged as a premier player in the league. He was named the CEBL’s U Sports Developmental Player of the Year in each of the last two seasons.
“We were playing with guys and basketball was their profession, it’s what they do for a living,” Pandi said in an interview earlier this year. “The physicality was different. Mentally, the way the guys think the game is a lot different. It was a big jump, but the coaches got me ready.”
In his two years in the CEBL, Pandi played for two head coaches who were both national champions with the Ravens. In 2020, he played for the Ottawa Blackjacks and Osvaldo Jeanty. This year, Pandi played for the Niagara River Lions and head coach Victor Raso.
“Lloyd is a phenomenal player and a phenomenal young man,” Raso said. “He works hard, he wants to learn, and he wants to help his teammates. Even though he is a U Sports player, he leads by example.”
Pandi helped the River Lions reach the CEBL finals playing out of position. While he is a versatile player who showed he could play a number of positions on the floor during his rookie season at Carleton, Raso had Pandi playing point guard. He had been a one since his days playing high school basketball.
“He stepped in and did a great job,” Raso said.
Pandi was not the only Raven in the CEBL. The runner-up for the U Sports Developmental Player of the Year was guard Alain Louis, who played for the Ottawa Blackjacks.
“Alain is a very talented player with a lot of potential, said BlackJacks General Manager Jevohn Shepherd, who selected the 6’1” Montreal native in the CEBL Draft. “He has a winning mindset and is a great competitor.”
Shepherd said Louis would have the opportunity to learn from experienced pros, which will help him get to the next level. As the season went on, Louis showed improvement and gained confidence.
When Louis talks about his favourite players, he mentions veteran point guard Chris Paul of the Phoenix Suns.
“He is a floor general and a leader,” Louis said. “He makes everyone else on his team a better player. Those are the things I would like to do.”
The Ravens open up their regular season at home Nov. 5-6 with a pair of games against the Nipissing Lakers.