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‘One’s good, but it’s not enough’: Hurricanes men’s basketball aims at national gold

January 16, 2014

By Thomas Becker

Jan. 15, 2014

_MG_6729They were known as the Cinderella team.

In 2012-13 a group of strangers led by coach George Morrison walked on to the gym floor at Holland College and captured the hearts of the school, and the province.

They were the Hurricanes men’s basketball team.

Entering the postseason as the top-ranked team, many believed their 14-1 record was an anomaly, but the Hurricanes had other plans.

After a miraculous semifinal win against the Mount Saint Vincent Mystics, featuring two clutch three-pointers, the Hurricanes defeated the hometown St. Thomas Tommies 70-61 to capture its first Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association (ACAA) men’s basketball championship.

Celebration aside, the team realized there was more at stake, this time on the national stage. The team relished the underdog label, feeding into its drive for victory.

Ranking fifth at the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) championship, the Hurricanes opened some eyes defeating Champlain St-Lambert Cavaliers and top-seeded Langara Falcons en route to a finals showdown against Vancouver Island University Mariners.

Eight points separated the Hurricanes from national glory that day as they lost to the Mariners 77-70.

“It was a crazy ride. We had lots of ups and downs. When the playoffs came we just clicked, catapulting us to the silver medal,” said second-year player Chase Bowden.

Despite the recent success, each member of that squad acknowledges they have some unfinished business yet to accomplish.

Fast-forward to the 2013-14 season and the reigning silver medalists have one goal in sight – a national championship.

“We’re working toward our main goal – winning two gold medals. One’s good, but it’s not enough,” Bowden said.

With high expectations come new challenges, including maintaining a winning culture despite eight new players and a new coach.

“We’re trying to go out and do it again while getting everyone on the same page,” said coach Josh Whitty, who replaces Morrison after five years of working alongside him as an assistant coach.

From Day 1 a new mindset had to be established and Whitty instilled that right away in training camp.

“Last year was last year and if we continue to dwell on things that happened in the past, nothing will happen in the future. We’re a different team and we’re trying accomplish what we did last year.”

A leader by example, Bowden told his teammates the name on the front of the jerseys is what matters most on the court.

“If you have an ego, check it at the door. Come in, figure out what you have to do to help the team and work toward that goal.”

Averaging almost 93 points per game, the Hurricanes high-paced offence and athletic play has them ranked seventh in the country, which has also put a large target on their back.

“The talent level right across the board is improving. The competition is tough. The league is as good as it’s ever been,” Whitty said.

Bowden said the ACAA is a rapidly improving league with strong competition and the opportunity to repeat as champions will be challenging.

“Teams are treating games against us like a championship game.”

As far as the league goes, they’re starting to make their mark nationally as well, with two teams in the top 10, Crandall University – ranked fourth – being the other.

“I really do believe it’s come a long way and it’s certainly getting a lot more respect,” Whitty said.

Transfer student Orlando Palmer also has an eye on that championship. Having played for a number of schools, that one goal has eluded him far too many times.

“I came here for a championship. That’s the only goal I have. You could have the greatest scoring year, you could have a greatest rebounding year, but none of it amounts to a championship.”

Palmer, from the Greater Toronto Area, saw an opportunity to take part in a winning culture in the small city of Charlottetown and grabbed it. Recruited from the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA), Palmer’s work ethic and hustle caught the attention of Whitty.

“I didn’t mind coming into a winning atmosphere, that’s what attracted me to come here,” Palmer said.

Palmer’s biggest concern was whether he would fit in and help the team progress.

“I tried not to take anything away from what they had. Now, I find them actually encouraging me to take more shots if anything. Like anything though, trust has to be established,” Palmer said.

Win and they will come – a common saying sports fans may recognize – has merit. Early in the year, the Hurricanes didn’t warrant any recognition, but that slowly changed. Charlottetown fell in love with its Cinderella team.

“To see the amount of fans in the stands continue to grow as we continue to make noise, the radio ads and the newspaper articles is crazy,” Bowden said.

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Daniel Cudmore

Athletics Development and Communications Coordinator

Department of Athletics and Recreation

Holland College

(902) 894-6870

140 Weymouth Street  •  Charlottetown, PE  •  Canada  •  C1A 4Z1  •  info@hollandcollege.com  •  1-800-446-5265