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Preview: men’s basketball to host OUA playoff game Wednesday

| Basketball (M), News

A 1-4 start to OUA play might have been a cause for alarm for many people, but not for Lakehead men’s basketball head coach Ryan Thomson.

“After a short preseason we started out with as difficult a schedule as anyone in the country, with McMaster, Brock, Laurier, and Western,” the Thunderwolves bench boss says. “We had some good moments even in the losses that we were able to build on.”

Thomson is a quiet but steady speaker, an attentive man with an eye for detail lurking behind his calm demeanor. It’s a cool composure that works for him—be it sitting behind the desk in his office, directing at center court during practice, or keenly surveying live games from the end of the bench, he leads with the certainty of measured guidance, never taking more space than he means or wants to.

Under his leadership, the squad’s win percentage has improved every year since he assumed head coach duties during the 2017-18 winter holiday break. Two years ago the team finished 20-8, that season culminating in a four-point OUA playoff quarterfinal loss.

But this year’s team—like many others across the country—has undergone a number of changes since, with student-athletes graduating and otherwise moving on during the season lost to the pandemic. Like a true wolf pack, however, the team rallied together—faces old and new, movements self-assertive and deliberate.

Since the 1-4 start this season, the team has gone 10-1, with the sole loss coming prior to the holiday break in December. In games outside of the 1-4 start, the Thunderwolves have averaged 86.5 points for and 78.5 points against, more than a 17-point swing.

“Credit to our guys for continuing to believe in what we were doing day in and day out and staying together through a tough start to the year,” Thomson says. “I think it goes to show the strength of our leadership—particularly Chume Nwigwe, Laoui Msambya and Alston Harris—keeping everyone together and focused on our goals.”

That swing propelled the Thunderwolves men’s basketball team to third in the OUA West, earning the right to host a playoff game in the process. On Wednesday, Lakehead will host the OUA West’s 6th-ranked team, the Windsor Lancers.

They may appear a familiar foe for the Thunderwolves, who faced and swept the Lancers in their final home games of the regular season, but Windsor was without guard Shakael Pryce that weekend.

“Getting Shak Pryce back in the mix changes the dynamic of their offense and their overall energy,” Thomson notes. “He’s able to push the pace and generate easy looks for both shooters and bigs at the rim.”

Pryce, a 6’2 guard, averages 14.7 points and 4 rebounds a game so far this year in USPORTS play, numbers eclipsed only by senior guard Telloy Simon and the indomitable Thomas Kennedy.

“Windsor is a tough team,” the Thunderwolves head coach adds, “and they have one of the best players in the country in Thomas Kennedy.”

Kennedy came away from the teams’ two previous games this year with a combined 41 points and 38 rebounds, including a career-high 23 boards in the second of those two matches.

But the Thunderwolves are not without stars of their own. Newcomer wing Michael Okafor finished regular-season play 9th in Canada in points per game. Guard Laoui Msambya finished 5th in the country in assists per game, and Dylan Morrison led all players nationally in blocks per game.

Add in the dynamic Eric Gonzalez, sharp-shooting Jared Kreiner, and heady guards Alston Harris and Chris Sagl, and the Lakehead pack features a number of wolves ready to pounce.

Regardless, Thomson remains quiet, deliberate, meticulous—as someone who led Lakehead to a national silver medal as a first-team OUA All-Star as a player and has since guided the program to a 49-30 record in his full seasons as head coach, he knows what it takes to succeed.

“It’s going to take 40 minutes of discipline and execution to get a win Wednesday,” Thomson notes, his voice firm and steady, understated yet fearless.

“It’s going to take 40 minutes of Thunderwolves basketball.”

Lakehead’s men’s basketball team will host the Windsor Lancers on Wednesday, March 16th for the OUA first round playoff match. The game tips at 7:00pm and will be available via Tickets can be purchased at or in person at the Thunderdome.


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