Students officially return to class next week but some are already on campus at Ontario Tech University.
That’s because they’re preparing to be part of the school’s inaugural basketball teams and both the men and women know they have a big challenge ahead of them.
“It’s great to get started,” said Greg Francis, Ridgebacks men’s basketball head coach.
Francis was named the men’s basketball head coach last year and he says he can finally see his hard work paying off on the court.
But starting a program from scratch, he knows his Ridgebacks have a long way to go this season.
“We don’t have a culture yet, so that’s the first thing we’re looking to build but we had to get people to believe in our vision. So I think we have some athletes that are bought in that way totally but it’s taken awhile,” Francis said.
Christa Eniojukan, Ridgebacks women’s basketball head coach, is in the same boat. Her team was also on the court for the first time Friday.
“Our expectation is to be able to compete. Compete in as many games as possible, with that – if we do the best that we can do – we should be able to get some wins and you never know if we’ll be able to make playoffs year one,” Eniojukan said.
The players on both sides are buying in. They understand there are going to be some growing pains.
“It’s going to be hard because we’re a new team, so we’re going to have to go through and go as we learn,” said Ridgebacks Small Forward Dalyssa Fleurgin.
“It’s really about team bonding, really about trying to get to know each other and it’s really just about setting the example for the people who are going to come after us,” said Ridgebacks Point Guard Graddy Kanku.
It might only be day one and there’s sure to be a lot of ups and downs, but measuring this years success won’t come in the win column.
“At this point we’re not talking about wins or blah blah blah, but if we can build that culture I think we’ll be ok in this first year,” Francis said.
Both teams will have the next two months to gel. They open the season on the road, before returning to campus the first weekend of November for their home openers against Queens.