Colts’ basketball team shooting for the top

Centennial College men’s basketball team will look to improve its record from last year with a new facility in tow.

After finishing 7-13 and missing out on the playoffs a year ago, the Colts have begun tryouts in search of a group of players that will provide a winning recipe for the upcoming season.

While the squad will only have a few returning players, head coach Jim Barclay will rely heavily on new faces, a challenge that the third-year bench boss is looking forward to.

“We have some very good players this year,” Barclay told the Toronto Observer. “Our talent level is much higher than it’s been in the last couple of years.”

Among those new faces is Theon Reefer, who Barclay says could be one of the top players in the league.

Reefer attended a prep school in North Carolina, but because of his academic ineligibility was unable to go straight to a Division I school in the NCAA.

He joined the Colts not only to improve his grades but also to improve his game and despite what may be a short stay with the team, he has already bought into the Barclay’s system.

“I want to work on my ball handling and shooting,” he said. “As long as we gel as a team and get as far as we can, [I] can’t ask for more.”

What may affect this year’s squad more than anything is the Colt’s new building.

The college’s Athletic and Wellness Centre located at the Progress campus is a state of the art facility that will save the team from having to travel long distances to get to practice and games.

Returning player Kurlanie George is excited about what the new facility will do for team chemistry and the overall product on the court.

“We had no gym,” George said. “We had to practise at Ashtonbee [campus] all the time or at this church on Sheppard [Ave.]

“Now that we have a home gym, we can establish a team. More of a family thing.”

His coach echoes his sentiment.

“Having a gym to practise in and have games in where we don’t have to travel all over the place is going to be outstanding,” Barclay said.

Perhaps that is the reason why the coach exudes confidence when discussing the expectations for his team this year, even with the lack of familiarity.

“If things come together with the talent we have, we should be fighting for the championship,” he said. “I really believe that.

“Anything short of a real deep run in the playoffs would be a real disappointment.”

The team also has the support of a young Pickering, Ont., native with some fairly deep basketball connections.

Cory Joseph, first-round draft pick of the San Antonio Spurs, was at the Colts’ tryouts — his father David is an assistant coach with the team and Cory played for Barclay in high school — and took the time to talk about the players he has competed both with and against.

“They’re going to be good,” he said. “They’re going to work hard and I think they’re going to get better.

“The main thing is to get better and try to focus.”

With the coach singing his club’s praises and an endorsement from an NBA draft-pick, this year’s team may be a dark horse for the OCAA season.

Tryouts conclude this week and the Colts open their season at home Nov. 2 against Durham College.