SFU Clan men's basketball player Sango Niang.

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Clan men’s basketball team adds six transfers, seeks improved record this season

October 28, 2014
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With a fresh roster and a new system of play prepared for the 2014-15 season, the Simon Fraser University Clan men’s basketball team is ready to showcase a new look in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference this year.

The Clan are ranked ninth in the GNAC preseason poll heading into their upcoming campaign, and despite having finished at the bottom of the conference in years past, are confident that this will be the year they make a new mark.

“The first word that comes to mind when comparing this year’s team to last year’s is intensity,” says James Blake, head coach. “With our new personnel, we will be able to play a style that is tougher and harder.”

The team wrapped up the 2013-14 season with a 10-15 overall record, but was the GNAC’s lowest performer with a 3-15 conference record. It was, however, an improvement on the previous year when SFU earned a single conference win.

Simon Fraser gained momentum in 2013 due in part to guards Sango Niang and Justin Cole, who transferred to the program together from California’s Chaffey Community College, bringing a spark and an intensity that the Clan had previously lacked.

In 2014 the pair aims to continue improving and help SFU break into the top of the GNAC standings for the first time in program history.

Niang has already received conference honours. The senior was named to the GNAC preseason all-conference team this week. He was voted in unanimously, earning the second-highest number of votes.

In 2013, the six-foot Niang was ranked seventh in conference scoring, averaging 16 points and five assists each game; a number he aims to improve this year.

The 6’-4” Cole averaged 13 points per game off the bench for SFU in 2013, and will serve as the Clan’s captain this season.

“In my role as a captain I will try to lead the team to as many wins as possible to make the playoffs,” says Cole. “We have a new team this year, including 12 freshmen, and we are ready to show what we have been working on.”

Cole also led the team in three-point shooting last season, which will be a crucial asset to Simon Fraser’s game-plan in 2014.

“Offensively, we’re shifting some focus to solidifying our three-point game,” adds Blake.

The Clan will add six transfer players to their roster of four returnees, which includes Cole, Niang, 6’-7” forward Gibran Sewani (Torrance, CA) and 6’ guard Daniel Deflorimonte (Toronto, ON), who last played in 2012-13. The Clan has also retained three red-shirt freshmen from the 2014 team.

Among the transfers are former Division I athletes Hide Vos (Barendrecht, Netherlands) and Michael Harper (Melbourne, Australia), who join the Clan from Cal State Fullerton and the University of Hawaii, respectively.

“One big key is that we have the personnel to play our new style,” said Blake. “During recruiting, we targeted guys that were athletic and had played in the same or similar systems. We also knew we had a strong backcourt returning so we looked to supplement our frontcourt.”

With a revamped system and a deeper roster, the team is ready for the challenges that will be presented in GNAC competition, and the Clan is poised to write a new path in a changing league.

“The biggest difficulty with the GNAC this year is that it is a whole new conference. In all, there are only four returning players who earned post-season awards so almost every team has a large number of new guys,” Blake said. “We are going to see a lot of the same systems as before, just with new personnel executing them.”

With the 2014-15 season just weeks away, the Clan is prepared for what lies ahead, and thanks to additions and alterations during the off-season, the team is ready.

The Clan begins its pre-season Oct. 31 in Moscow, Idaho against NCAA Division 1 Idaho Vandals. The team will play its first home games against Northwest Indian College (Nov. 14 and 15) and Douglas University (Nov. 18).

The Clan opens the GNAC conference schedule with Red Night on Dec. 6 at 7:30 pm in the West Gym against rival Western Washington University. Fans are encouraged to wear red in support of the Clan.