The early season success of the Toronto Raptors has been a boon to basketball’s popularity in Ontario, including at Lambton College.
The head coach of the men’s team at the London Road campus says interest in the sport is the highest he has seen.
“We’ve had a lot more fans than we’ve had in the past,” said James Grant, now in his eighth season with the program.
The smallest gymnasium of all the OCAA member schools is “busting at the seams” with loud, enthusiastic crowds, he said.
“The place has been packed for games here. The atmosphere is great and I think the players are liking that a lot.”
The Lions are on exam and holiday hiatus this month and will resume the conference schedule again in mid-January following a holiday tournament at Loyalist College in Belleville early in 2015.
Lambton is in a logjam with Redeemer, Niagara and Windsor-St. Clair for the fifth-through-eighth playoff spots in the Western Conference. All three schools visit Lambton in the second half of the season.
“I think we are a little ahead of where we thought we would be at this point in the season,” said Grant.
At press time, Lambton had three players in the top twenty in scoring in the province, including veterans Mike Lucier and Shawn Hill along with rookie Brandon Padgett. The latter is a Michigander who played NCAA Division II ball in the U.S. last season. He is averaging nearly 19 points a game.
Lucier and Hill are averaging just under 24 and 17 points respectively.
Lucier is fourth in scoring in Ontario.
Hill was named OCAA Athlete of the Week late last month for a 29-point performance in the Lions 89-80 victory over defending champion Sheridan College at Lambton. In the same game, Lucier had 25 points and 21 boards, while Padgett racked up 21 points.
“Our play at home has been superb,” said Grant.
The head coach is always on the lookout for more talent, visiting high school tournaments as part of his recruiting responsibilities.
It can be frustrating recruiting against larger schools in the GTA, Hamilton and London, but Grant says he’ll continue to extol the merits of Lambton to any and all who will listen.
“I’ll talk to about 200 kids this season in hopes of getting four commitments,” he said.