With UNB set to host the annual Eric Garland Basketball Tournament, the Varsity Reds men’s basketball team is viewing the competition as an opportunity for growth ahead of the regular season.
The three day tournament takes place from Sept. 29 to Oct. 1 at the Currie Centre, and will see UNB play its first game against the same Saint Mary’s Huskies team that defeated them in the AUS semi-finals last season.
However, V-Reds head coach Brent Baker is not concerned with trying to make any kind of statement; in fact, he recognizes that the tournament results are secondary to the things the team will learn during the matches.
“I’ve been here ten years and I don’t think we’ve won all three games at our own tournament,” said Baker with a laugh. “Last year we started the season—including exhibition and our first two regular season games—one-and-eight, and we finished the regular season in second place.”
In Baker’s mind, the tournament’s true value comes from being able to test out his new players and tactics in live games rather than training camp practices.
“I think what it does for us is it gives us a chance to see what our strengths and weaknesses are and make an evaluation of what we need to work on, what we’ve got to stress, what we’ve got to keep doing correctly.”
“So, it is important—but it is more of an evaluation tool than anything,” he added.
The evaluation process is bound to be particularly important for the team this season, due to the large amount of roster turnover they faced in the offseason.
“We’ve got six to seven new faces so we’re trying to incorporate all that and get everybody on the same page and establish our blueprint for how we want to win games this season,” said Baker.
In addition to the new players, Baker says the V-Reds will also be adapting towards a faster style of play in the upcoming season.
“I think we’re going to be really guard heavy—perimeter heavy—so I think we’re going to be a pretty up-tempo and quick team; we’re going to get it up and down the floor,” said Baker. “I think we’re going to be pretty exciting to watch … Last year we were a little bit longer, a little bit bigger and we were able to play a bit of a different back-to-the-basket style.”
Baker believes the tactical adjustments will be made easier by the presence of several veterans on the roster who have played a similar style in prior seasons.
In addition to their opening game against St. Mary’s on Sept. 29th, UNB will play against UQAM on Saturday Sept. 30th before closing out the tournament against Cape Breton on Oct. 1.