HIGH ACHIEVERS: Stay-Safe Edition
Keeping Local Sport Spirit High During the Pandemic
By Martin Cleary
If you were to assemble a roster for a new pro basketball team, one of the players worth recruiting would be former University of Ottawa Gee-Gees’ guard Caleb Agada. He’s a complete player.
Playing in his fourth year in Europe, Agada has been one of the stars for Hapoel Altshuler Shaham Be’er Sheva (6-5, seventh place) in the Winner League, the top men’s circuit in Israel. His stats package is rather impressive.
The 26-year-old is the league’s leading scorer with a 25.0 points-per-game average and also ranks No. 1 in steals per game at 3.0. In the first three weeks of the season, he was twice named player of the week for his all-around play.
When he’s not stealing the ball or finding the bottom of the basket, the shooting guard is averaging 6.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 28 minutes per game. He signed with H. Be’er Sheva last May after three seasons in Spain.
Two months later, he exercised his option to stay for H. Be’er Sheva and has significantly improved on his game-average numbers from his short stay in 2020 (15 points, 6.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals).
Posting consistently good numbers is nothing new for Agada, who was born in Burlington, ON. During his U Sports career with the Gee-Gees, he was a two-time OUA and U Sports defensive player of the year (2016 and 2017).
He was a major contributor as the Gee-Gees won the OUA title in 2014, were second in 2013 and third in 2015 and 2016. In four U Sports Final 8 championships, he earned two silver and one bronze medals.
During his time, the Gee-Gees had an overall 159-42 win-loss record, including 86-13 in OUA play. His OUA regular-season stats were steady at 23.2 minutes and 12.5 points a game as well as 209 assists and 188 steals.
Meanwhile, Carleton University Ravens’ alumni Phil and Thomas Scrubb and Gee-Gees’ Johnny Berhanemeskel continue to switch teams, but the 2020-21 season finds them playing in France’s top Jeep Elite Pro A division.
In the first Scrubb Showdown, Phil’s CSP Elite Limoges team edged Thomas’s JL Bourg side 74-72 in late December. Their next meeting is April 17. Phil hit seven of nine field goals and had 21 points, while Thomas notched seven rebounds and seven points.
For the season, Phil has a team-leading 4.4 assists per game and averages 11.4 points, while Thomas averages 8.5 points, 4.4 rebounds and 1.5 assists per game. Berhanemeskel is a reserve for Nanterre with a 4.4-point average.
Centre Rashida Timbilla of Ottawa is one of the key players for CS Universitatea Cluj Napoca in Romania’s women’s elite Liga Nationala. She is fifth in the league in assists at 4.2 per game, and leads her team in assists, steals (3.5) and field-goal shooting (60.4%).
Ottawa’s Kim Pierre Louis is a standout player for Basket Club Saint Paul Reze in the LFB2, which is France’s second women’s pro division. She is averaging 30.4 minutes, 16.6 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Former Carleton Ravens’ Guillaume Payen-Boucard of Montreal has found success in the NM1, which is France’s third pro division. Playing for Mulhouse Basket Agglomeration, he averages a team-best 16.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 37.1 minutes per game.
Nordic skier, swimmer & speed skaters shine abroad
Meanwhile in cross-country skiing, Nakkertok Nordic’s Katherine Stewart-Jones of Chelsea had her best World Cup weekend ever in Falun with 3 PBs: 17th, classic mass start; 30th, classic sprints; and 36th, 10-kilometre skate-ski race.
“My goal (for the mass start) was to get myself in a good group right away and not let go no matter how much it hurt,” said Stewart-Jones, who was fighting for 13th with 600 metres left and was 36 seconds behind the winner.
In swimming, freshman David Quirie of Ottawa helped No. 15 Florida State University to a perfect regular-season record (6-0) for the first time since 1997. Quirie, a long-distance freestyler, recorded two firsts, two seconds and three thirds in his individual races.
In speed skating, Gloucester Concordes products Ivanie Blondin and Isabelle Weidemann set a new track record alongside Valérie Maltais on the famed Heerenveen Oval in The Netherlands this past Friday to win their second consecutive women’s team pursuit gold medal on the World Cup circuit.
A day later, Blondin earned her second straight World Cup silver medal in the women’s mass start event. Last season’s mass start world champion was leading down the home stretch, but stumbled in the last few strides and was edged to the finish line by Dutch skater Irene Schouten.
“I think if that would not have happened, I could have beat [Irene] Schouten at the line because I had much more speed, but those things happen,” said Blondin, who hadn’t been able to train on long-track ice prior to the competitions due to mechanical issues at the Calgary Olympic Oval.
“I’m still getting use to skating at speed again – it’s taken me a little longer to get the feel of going fast back – but I’m happy with the silver and being on the podium again is more that I thought I could do,” added Blondin via Speed Skating Canada.
The speed skating World Championships will be Feb. 11-14 at Heerenveen.
Martin Cleary has written about amateur sports for 48 years. A past Canadian sportswriter of the year and Ottawa Sports Awards Lifetime Achievement in Sport Media honouree, Martin retired from full-time work at the Ottawa Citizen in 2012, but continued to write a bi-weekly “High Achievers” column for the Citizen/Sun.
When the pandemic struck, Martin created the “Stay-Safe Edition” to provide some positive news during tough times, via his Twitter account at first and now here at OttawaSportsPages.ca.
Martin can be reached by e-mail at email@example.com and on Twitter @martincleary.