Jefferson Hagen, MacEwan Athletics
EDMONTON – Just two years after first coming to MacEwan as a fresh-faced rookie – buried on the depth chart behind five seniors – Jake Notice is suddenly one of the key leaders on the Griffins men's basketball team.
My, how quickly times have changed.
When the lid lifts on the 2018-19 Canada West season this week vs. Alberta (Thursday, 8 p.m. Saville Centre and Saturday, 2 p.m., Atkinson Gym), Notice will be one of just three Griffins remaining from the active 2016-17 roster.
"It's pretty weird, actually," said the native of Bath, U.K. "My first year, we had like five fifth-years. I was definitely one of the youngest guys. Now, two years later, I'm one of the veterans on the team.
"It's a different role now – more of a leadership position – to show some of the younger guys who haven't been here before the way we do things at MacEwan. It's interesting and fun."
By all indications, he'll be more than just the pied piper for a Griffins team with nine players in their first or second years of university athletic eligibility. Notice will be one of the players the Griffins will rely on the most to fill the bucket.
In a preseason game against Nipissing earlier this month in Saskatoon, he scored 30 points, so it's clear he can fill some offensive shoes after leading scorer Ali Raza didn't return from last season.
"Jake's just been someone who's continually grown and improved over his three seasons here," said MacEwan head coach Eric Magdanz. "He's adapted since coming in and rounded out his game to the point where he's a really dynamic shooter. He can shoot it from the outside, he has good creation off the dribble and he has a post-up game, so once you have those three levels, you're a difficult player to guard."
Added Notice: "I'm just playing to my strengths really. I'm a good three-point shooter. I try to get that going early in the game if I can and I just go from there. If the defence gets out on the three-point line, I can get to the rim easier and start to get everybody else involved a lot easier."
A product of the British Basketball League where he played for the Bristol Flyers before coming to MacEwan, Notice was able to get home over the summer and work out with some of his former teammates.
"It's always good to go back and learn from more experienced guys," he said.
"The men's league, that's professional – a lot of (NCAA) Div. 1 guys. I wasn't playing a lot of minutes, but I was getting on the court when I could."
Magdanz notices the difference in his game, though, after a solid off-season of work.
"He's put more work into his body," he said. "He came in here as a typical slender 18-year-old and he did great work between his first and second year getting stronger.
"He spent this past off-season working on his explosiveness. Now he strong and he's explosive. It gives him the ability to get on the court wherever he wants to go. Then he's rounded out his game from a skills perspective as well where we've put him more on ball now and it allows him to be a more focal part of our offence."
MacEwan will be a young squad again this season, but there are a few key returning players. Besides Notice, solid scorer Deonte Doslov-Doctor is back for his fourth season of eligibility (not including a third-year redshirt season), while veteran post players Atlas St. Paul-Butler and Harrison Lane lead the charge from the inside. There will also be increased opportunities for 2017-18 additions Dustin Gatzki, Liban Yousef and Abdullah Shittu.
"We're a younger team this year, but we have the bonus of a number of players coming off a red-shirt season for us where they come in as first years, but they come in with a level of understanding and experience from having a year of practice," noted Magdanz of Ben Niles and Luke Harold, who red-shirted last season.
"We have a number of players who have had experience watching and getting minimal minutes and that's a valuable part of learning and growing as a player."
Rookies Abiel Tabufor, Alex Jap, Jesse Trussler and Griffin Lorenz form the core of a very strong recruiting class, so the future is bright for a MacEwan team aiming to get back to the Canada West post-season for the first time since 2015-16.
"Making playoffs is definitely our goal and I think that's an achievable one," said Notice. "We just have to make sure we close out games. I think last year we had a lot of games that went down to the wire and we didn't necessarily get away with the results.
"I think playoffs is definitely a goal we can achieve."