It was 1990 when the Redeemer Royals men’s basketball team took the floor for the first time in an Ontario Colleges Athletic Association (OCAA) league game. The Royals’ inaugural contest pitted the newcomers against Northern College. The Royals won that match by the score of 62-59 and marked their first ever OCAA win.
Fast-forward 27 years to December 1, 2017. In one of the biggest games in Redeemer history, the Royals men’s basketball team knocked off the undefeated and defending OCAA champion Sheridan Bruins 96-78.
It has been a struggle for the men’s basketball program to remain competitive throughout the first 20 years in the OCAA, with the Royals never completing a season with more than four wins in conference play. But in 2012, everything seemed to change. With a new head coach in Jamie Girolametto and a new commitment of resources to the program, the Royals knocked off seven wins in the best season in the team’s 20-plus year history. Since then, it has taken the Royals less than five years to rack up 39 wins, surpassing the previous 22-year win total of 37.
The Royals entered unchartered territory in 2018 — at the end of the season, they found themselves tied for first place in the league and one of the top-ranked teams in the country with a final record of 19-1. In the process, they moved from their previous underdog role to one of the favourites competing for the OCAA championship.
One of the best players in the OCAA assisted in the team’s move from underdog to powerhouse. Last season, Redeemer star Rayvon (Ray) Higdon was named OCAA player of the year, scoring champion and Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) all-Canadian. He led the team to a fifth place finish in a first ever appearance at an OCAA championship. On January 19, 2018, Higdon’s strength, speed and ability to score led to a new all-time career points record — Higdon is the first player in Royals program history to score 1,014 total points.
This season, the team’s depth made the difference. With the addition of former Ontario University Athletics (OUA) rookie of the year and defensive specialist Zack Angus, as well as the return of top scoring threats Nick Green and Spencer Kerssies, the Royals are no longer relying on just one or two players to carry the team. Add in the play of second-year guard Foster Brown and rookie Elijah Lostracco and it is easy to see why opponents can’t stop the Royals.
Read up on the men’s basketball team’s progress and follow the rest of Redeemer’s teams at RedeemerRoyals.ca.