In a season in which there were many up and downs, and possibly more downs than ups, it is still important to reflect on the ways in which the Clan improved in their second season under head coach Steve Hanson. It is also important to acknowledge some incredible individual achievements from senior N’Kosi Kedar Salam, who may have just had one of the best seasons in SFU basketball history.
Here is our 2017–18 men’s basketball season review:
The Clan’s record, for one thing, was a notable improvement over a season ago, as they won 10 games in the 2017–18 season, compared to just four in the prior campaign. Admittedly, four of these wins came in exhibition games against neighbouring schools such as Capilano University, Quest University, Douglas College, and Langara College. Given that this is the most wins that SFU men’s basketball has had since the 2014–15 season, however, it has to be taken as a positive sign of improvement. While the team went 6–2 in exhibition games this year, they still struggled mightily within conference play, finishing the season with a 4–16 conference record. To be fair to the team, the Clan did lose five conference games within five points this season, so a few lucky bounces here and there may have allowed that record to be a lot better.
Coach Hanson said at the beginning of the season that the goal was to make the playoffs. Obviously, this did not happen this year, as the Clan finished only above the one-win Concordia Cavaliers, who got their only win against SFU in the last week of the regular season. The team did not fare well when crossing the border, going 0–11 in away games during the campaign. That being said, if the team finished off a couple of their close games, and didn’t struggle with injuries so heavily down the stretch, we may be talking about a team that was in the thick of things towards the end of the season. Senior Iziah Sherman-Newsome missed the last eight games of the season after suffering a wrist injury in practice, while senior JJ Pankratz was never fully fit down the stretch run of the season either.
Perhaps the most exciting thing to happen for SFU men’s basketball this year, was the play of starting guard Salam. He finished as the only player in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference (GNAC) with over 20 points per game, leading the way with a 21.8 average in conference play. Perhaps more impressive, however, was the efficiency with which he did it. In 28 overall games — fourteen of which he had 20+ points — he shot .488 from the field, .414 from three, and .738 from the free throw line. These numbers earned him SFU’s first-ever placement as an unanimous First Team All-GNAC selection. His role on the team will certainly be missed in the upcoming seasons for the Clan.
One of the players who may benefit from his absence is shooting guard Othniel Spence, who enjoyed a solid campaign in his second season in a SFU uniform. Operating primarily as the team’s sixth man, Spence averaged 9.5 points per game in 25 minutes a night. Look for his role to continue to grow in his junior and senior seasons, as he looks poised to take on a bigger offensive role in the future.
Overall, the 2017–18 season was an improvement over prior years, and the Clan look like they are taking a step in the right direction. While there were stretches of the season in which the team looked disappointing, the play of guards Michael Provenzano and Spence should give SFU fans some excitement over the next few seasons. Playing 40 minutes of consistent basketball was a struggle all season for the relatively young squad, but as coach Hanson and the rest of the coaching staff continue to improve along with their pla
yers, the future is a lot brighter for SFU basketball than in years past.