Making the grade
Paul Gareau has become a quick study for the University of Regina Cougars men’s basketball team – both on and off the court.
The third-year post was suspended from the team for academic reasons during the 2008-09 season. He had spent the two previous seasons with the team. Now that he is back with the Cougars, Gareau has quickly learned how to be a key contributor to the team.
The Regina product leads the team with 14.5 points per game and is second with 5.7 rebounds per game. His stellar play has helped Regina jump out to a record of 4-2, which places them fifth in Canada West. They are right in the hunt, however.
“Sitting out for the last couple of years has given me time to work out and work on my game,” noted Gareau. “I’ve done a lot of training in the gym. I think it’s finally paying off. Plus, I’m getting a chance to play more minutes than I expected. My teammates are getting me the ball in good spots to score. I’ve just been able to finish.”
“We knew [Paul] was a good player when he was with us three years ago,” Cougars head coach James Hillis explained. “He’s an athlete and has got a knack for finishing and putting the ball in the hoop.”
For Gareau, perhaps the most important thing he has learned is how to produce off the court in the classroom.
“When I took Math 101 the first time, I got a 24 per cent,” said Gareau. “I took it last semester and got an 83. I’ve realized the amount of work it takes to exceed academically. I’ve done my homework and studied for tests a lot more than I used to do. I’m proving to people that I can do it. It just takes some work.”
One subject that Gareau has clearly excelled in is chemistry – with his teammates, of course.
“I hadn’t lost touch with the players completely, but they’ve been very accepting,” explained Gareau. “They’ve welcomed me back with open arms. It’s helped a lot.”
The bond Gareau and his teammates share has translated to the court. While Gareau has led the Cougars on the score sheet, it has been the collective effort of a number of players that has helped Regina excel this season. Kris Heshka has been a force under the net, averaging 11 ppg and a team-leading 6.7 rpg. Guards Sterling Nostedt (9 ppg) and Jeff Lukomski (8.3 ppg) have stepped up as well.
“The way we play as a team, we’re not individual players,” offered Gareau. “We’re well-rounded. We’ve got a lot of good players who don’t have egos. It is a team-first mentality.”
Heading into the season, the Cougars were not pegged to do very well. Regina finished 10-10 last season, losing to the Simon Fraser University Clan in a conference quarterfinal. Throw in the loss of Jamal Williams and Paul Schubach to graduation, and the critics were not optimistic about Regina’s chances this season. With four wins in their first six games, the Cougars have proven more than a few doubters wrong.
“We were predicted to get around eight wins and we’re halfway there,” noted Gareau. “We’re surprising some teams and hopefully that keeps up.”
“We’re happy with the position we’re in now,” said Hillis.
So far, Gareau likes his hustle and rebounding. However, he feels like he could still work on his shooting and protecting the ball. As for the team’s success, the season is still young and things could change. Whatever happens, Gareau will just enjoy playing.
“I’m very happy I got that second chance,” he said.
For results from the Cougars games last weekend against Trinity Western, see U of R sports roundup.