Back when Dave Smart was first laying the groundwork that would grow Ottawa’s Carleton University into Canada’s leading men’s basketball program, he set his sights on recruiting the top student talent he could scour from the Eastern Ontario area.
As success started to fall Carleton’s way, and the school’s reputation as the country’s finest university basketball factory began to spread, the rich only got richer.
Word spread quickly that Carleton was the place to be and, much to the chagrin of the institution’s competitors, who were struggling to keep up, the university has maintained its supremacy by expanding its reach across the country for the leading high-school players.
“It was one thing when he [Smart] was doing it with his own guys,” groused Peter Campbell, the men’s coach at Wilfrid Laurier University, who has been coaching at the Canadian Interuniversity Sport level for 28 years. “But now he’s getting everybody else’s guys.”
Carleton’s winning formula is evident once again this year as Canada’s No. 1-ranked outfit is led by the Scrubb brothers – Thomas and Philip – who have travelled halfway across the country from their hometown of Richmond, B.C., to study and hopefully make CIS basketball history with the Ravens this season.
What makes the Scrubbs’ odyssey even more interesting is that they turned their back on the alma mater of their father, Lloyd Scrubb, who played for the University of Victoria and coach Ken Shields during the 1980s when UVic won an unprecedented seven consecutive national championships.
“I liked Victoria but I certainly did not want to put any burden on my kids to go there just because I went there,” said Lloyd Scrubb, who played for Victoria’s national championship squad in 1985 and 1986.
The Ravens, who are 20-1 in conference play this season, will continue their quest for what could lead to a record ninth national banner as the prohibitive favourite in this weekend’s Ontario University Athletic’s Final Four championship in Toronto in the arena bowl at Ryerson’s Mattamy Athletic Centre.
The Ravens will play Lakehead (No. 7) in Friday’s opening game of the tournament. The second contest will pit Ottawa (No. 3) against Windsor (No. 6) – the only team to hand the Ravens a conference loss this season.
Both of the winners, who will play in the gold-medal game on Saturday night, will advance to the CIS Final 8, to be played in Ottawa the following weekend.
Since taking over as Carleton coach in 1999, Smart has transformed the Ravens into the country’s pre-eminent university basketball powerhouse, leading the Ravens to eight CIS titles, including five in a row from 2003 through 2007, and the last two years running.
It is a run that has not been witnessed since back in the 1980s when Victoria Vikings (now the Vikes) were the undisputed kings of the hardcourt, winning seven titles with Shields running the show.
Victoria also won another championship in 1997 with the late Guy Vetrie as coach.
Carleton and Victoria are both tied for the most CIS men’s basketball titles with eight apiece and the Ravens are pushing hard to own the record outright.
Smart is downplaying the chase.
“Frankly, that doesn’t mean anything to me,” Smart said. “I don’t think I’ve done nearly the job that Ken did. I’ve fallen into a good situation and I’ve been fortunate a few times.
“But to me it will always be Ken’s record.”
That’s typical Smart, a dour sort who normally eschews the silver lining for the dark cloud.
That is a difficult task for a leader who has been chosen CIS coach of the year four times and has compiled a phenomenal .955 win percentage (213-10, conference and postseason), in those years he has won the CIS banner.
When Shields won his seven national titles, UVic’s winning percentage was .920 (127-11).
Thomas Scrubb, at 21 the older of the two brothers by one year, red-shirted his first season at Carleton in 2009-10 and was joined by his brother the following year.
Although younger, Philip was the more accomplished player, and although he once dreamed of heading to the National Collegiate Athletic Association to play basketball, he opted for Carleton and its winning program.
There was also a more personal aspect to his decision as his mother Diane – herself a former CIS basketball player at Bishop’s University – had been stricken with breast cancer.
“That probably helped Phil decide to go to Carleton as well,” Lloyd Scrubb said. “It was just a more comfortable setting for the boys to be in, together.”
Diane Scrubb died in December of 2010.
Philip Scrubb, a 6-foot-3 point guard, would go on to be chosen as the top CIS rookie and the following season was selected as CIS player of the year, the first time in CIS history a player has won both awards in consecutive years.
This year, Philip is averaging a team-high 18.6 points while Thomas, a 6-foot-5 forward, is the team’s leading rebounder with an average of 7.3 to go along with 12.2 points.