Young Lions bringing back the basketball buzz

Coach James Grant observes from the sideline as Tyvell Peters (15), of the Lambton Lions fires off a shot against the Mohawk College Mountaineers on Jan. 14. Despite their youth and inexperience, the Lions have been climbing the OCAA standings. Bruce Smith, special to The Journal

Troy Shantz

When the Lambton Lions basketball team upset Humber in Toronto recently the game broadcasters said the crowd excitement made it sound as though it was being played in Sarnia.

“I don’t think we’ve seen that before in the OCAA,” Lions coach James Grant said with a laugh.

The Lambton Lions are indeed giving Sarnia basketball fans something to cheer about again.

Including tournaments, the team is 14 – 6 record, has climbed into fourth place in the West Division and is on cloud nine after downing Humber 103 – 97 on Jan. 19. It was the first time Lambton had ever defeated the Toronto school and perennial league powerhouse.

Guards Journee Joseph (7) and Jaquan Barrett-Smith (2) are showing exceptional strength and maturity for first-year players, Grant said, noting Barrett-Smith is “one of the elite defenders we’ve ever had, for sure.

“Even though he’s young and it’s his first year of college, we put him out there against Humber’s best players.”

Branden Padgett (4), one of the few club veterans, leads the league in points with 330.

“He’s pretty well the best guard in Ontario,” Grant said of the Detroit native, who averages 25.5 points per game and is second in the league with 37 steals.

The team is comprised largely of rookies this season after it searched far and wide to rebuild the roster.

Grant and two other recruiters pored over game tapes and met prospective players from Toronto, London, Windsor and Detroit.

Those with potential were eligible for an $800 bursary, but the benefits of studying and playing in Sarnia speak for themselves, Grant said.

“Lambton kind of has that reputation in the GTA as a school outside the city where people really care,” he said.

“I’m actually getting coaches calling me up these days saying, ‘I have a student who really needs to get out of the big city and to focus more on their studies.’”