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Top Five Players In The MCAC For The 2023-2024 Season

With the AAU/Club and Preparatory seasons now underway, it is becoming time for the CCAA and U Sports years to begin. Both levels have seen exhibition action only so far, but once November hits it will all be in full swing. For this piece, I will be speaking on who my top five players are in the Manitoba Colleges Athletic Conference. In the basketball division, there are currently three teams that participate. While it is a lower number than many of the other conferences apart of the CCAA, there are still quality players apart of these teams. None of these players are in a particular order.

Riley Paul – Providence University College

To me there is an argument to be had on who is the best player in this conference. Funny enough they each have differencing skill sets that sets them apart from one another, and they each impact the game in different ways. Paul’s skill set is what you would hope to get from a modern player. A six foot seven forward who can score at any level, whether that be inside or from beyond the arc, he is a danger to fill it up. Averaging over 15 points a game and over 50% from the field. A high and smooth release allows him to get his shot over anyone, and is a better pick and pop threat than a roller. The asset that goes underrated in his game is his ability to be a facilitator. The Pilots run most of their sets through the big man and it saw him lead the MCAC in assists with five. He even is comfortable with putting the ball on the ground some to create for his teammates. The part of his game that needs work is on the defensive end and at times rebounding against players around his skill level. I can see Paul being a bigger body wing shooter or a more mobile small ball stretch five at a U Sports school. Having played his first year of post-secondary at the University of Winnipeg and now three years at PUC, Paul could be a contributor for a season to a team that needs size and shooting.

Daniel Cameron – Canadian Mennonite University

Here is the other player that won co-Player of the Year in the MCAC for 2022-2023. Both Cameron and Paul were apart of the All-Conference team as well. While Paul is the more offensive player, Cameron impacts the game immensely on the defensive end. Leading the conference in blocks and rebounds at almost 15, he is a weapon when guarding opposing players. He is able to defend the paint and is also mobile enough to switch and defend a guard on the outside. Cameron even has quick enough hands or uses his length to get steals. On offence he is a clean up machine, can put the ball on the ground to get to the hoop, and is expanding his game to include some post touches. The underrated part of his game is his ability to grab a rebound, and push the pace up the floor. He is a danger in the open to go coast to coast. The biggest weakness for Cameron is the willingness to shoot from the outside. A jump shoot is not apart of his arsenal, nor will he take one even if he is open. With his current skillset I can see him being a bench energy, defensive player, that plays the wing or small ball four at the U Sports level. If he is able to add an outside shot, I can see Cameron being a very good contributor at a higher level.

via @danielcameron.4 on Instagram

Braeden Fernandez – Canadian Mennonite University

The more film I watch on Fernandez, the more I am impressed by his development this offseason. In the most recent exhibition game between CMU and PUC, he put his skillset on full display. Fernandez is a smooth and crafty ball handler that has no problem orchestrating the offence from the point guard position. He is fast in the open floor and quick on his feet. His greatest asset is his passing and distributing skills. He is always making the right decision, finding teammates, and giving them all touches. Being five foot eight, he needs to be creative in how he finishes around the rim and he does so well. Opposing length can be an issue at times for Fernandez, but he does his best to make adjustments. He has a swift release on his jump shot and gets good elevation off the ground. That elevation also helps him in his pull up mid range game in which he is prolific at. I have seen improvements from his shot beyond the arc, which will help him find more ways to score. Although, being a small guard is a disadvantage he has to accommodate for, Fernandez does a great job of not allowing that to stop him from being effective. On defence, he is really good with his hands to force turnovers on opposing ball handlers, or being quick enough to jump passing lanes. He rarely has issues with other guards around his size, normally being athletic enough to keep up. The only downside on the defensive end is if he is having to guard down low. Going into his second year at CMU, I can see Fernandez having a big sophomore jump and leading the Blazers backcourt. If he continues to improve the outside shot and increase the range, I can see him at a U Sports school being a very good floor general to a team in the need of a reliable ball handler.

Abba Abdirahman – Canadian Mennonite University

The other half of this seasons Blazers backcourt includes Abdirahman, who is a sharpshooting guard that can fill it up from beyond the arc. He has a compact and fluid release that has no issues getting off over defenders. Abdirahman has the ability to create off the bounce as well, using step backs, pull ups, or crosses to get open looks. He does have the ability to get to the rim and is an average finisher when there, but will only do so if that’s what is given. He is a capable ball handler, but does takes risk, which can result in more turnovers. Same goes for defence, with Abdirahman taking risks, it leads to either more steals or more fouls and defenders passed him. His passing ability is decent, using an array of different passes to get the ball to a roller inside. The athleticism that Abdirahman possesses also helps in recovery situations on defence, and in the open floor. Being five foot ten is also something that he needs to overcome, but like Fernandez, does a good job at minimizing that factor. With improved discipline on defence and improved finishing, I can see Abdirahman coming off the bench for a U Sports squad and being a sixth man teams would be afraid of. He currently has three years of eligibility remaining.

via Abba Abdirahman's YouTube channel

Emmanuel Oleko – Providence University College

Just like Fernandez, the more that I have seen from Oleko, the more I have been impressed. While this fifth player may not be the “best” in terms of talent right now, the potential he has is very high. I can see Oleko creeping into that top player conversation by the end of the year. In the most recent scrimmage against the Blazers, I saw him be in and around the rim grabbing rebounds and attacking the rim hard. While he did miss a couple difficult layups early, as the game went on more shots found the bottom of the net. The impressive part was many of his makes were with a defender draped all over him. His shot form has a little bit of a hitch in it, which seems to make it difficult for him to be consistent shooting. His free throw percentage should come up if he is to adjust his form. Oleko has also showed willingness to shoot from beyond the arc, and has even hit a couple. While it is not in big volumes, he has made it clear that if you leave him open enough, he will take it which is a good sign. Similar to Paul, Oleko runs sets for the Pilots at the three point line and doesn’t seem bother about putting the ball on the ground to drive to the rim or continue the offensive flow. He has also showed some potential as a passer and the vision to find teammates cutting to the hoop. Defensively, he uses his length to alter shots and get into the passing lanes. He seems to be better at getting steals on passes into the paint off of pick and rolls, rather than getting blocks at the rim. He is on the leaner side, which means that bigger forwards have their way in the post. While that may be an issue currently, he is more mobile than what you would expect at six foot seven for this level. If Oleko is able to fill out his frame, fine-tune his jump shot, and show more upside on defence, he could be a good player on a U Sports squad in a season or two. He currently is in his second year of eligibility.

Honourable Mentions

I wanted to add a couple names to the bottom of this list that are other players I am intrigued to watch throughout this year, and could crack this top five towards the end of the year.

Ezra Leano – Canadian Mennonite University

Isaiah Cole – Canadian Mennonite University

Marco Guaring – Canadian Mennonite University

Kevin Martinez – Providence University College

Raphael Rhys Maestre – Providence University College

Stay on the lookout for more content with all levels seasons ramping up shortly! I will be at the Dime Session the week of the 23rd of October, and will be starting up the weekend recaps for the university and college squads in November.

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