Colten Gryba, the men’s basketball coach, needs to replace the offensive and rebounding contributions that left Otterburne in cap and gown, and to do it he’s turned his attention to Winnipeg and a trio of high school stars: Braydon Ayotte, Cash Blanca and Daniel Dekleva.

“These are my first recruits from Winnipeg,” says Gryba, who has overseen the Pilots since 2013.

Last year’s squad included players from Australia, Alaska, Florida, Virginia and rural Manitoba, and while there will still be international flavour in the ranks for the 2015-16 campaign the Winnipeggers are likely to be front and centre when the season tips off in October.

Dekleva, for one, earned “honourable mention” in the Winnipeg Sun’s top-10 ranking of high school basketball players for 2014-15 and was voted Most Valuable Player at the 2015 Vincent Massey Tournament. A small forward out of Dakota Collegiate, he averaged 23 points per game and 13 rebounds during his Grade 12 year.

“He had a couple 20-rebound games,” says Gryba, who watched Dekleva put up 38 points against Steinbach. “We’re losing a good chunk of our scoring, and he replaces that. He’ll help in rebounding, too.”

As will Ayotte.

The 6’6” power forward, also from Dakota, claimed eight boards per game for the Lancers, to go along with 12 points.  “Both Ayotte and Dekleva averaged a high number of rebounds in high school, so hopefully that can translate to helping us,” says Gryba.

Blanca, meanwhile, will fill what Gryba insists is a “desperate need” for a back-up point guard.  “We didn’t have one last year,” he explains, adding that players often had to function out of position. “Blanca is a steady, steady point guard and might even play with Romeo KC, our starter.”

KC and Thomas Janzen will be co-captains going forward, and overall Gryba expects to have five returning players.

The recruiting process is still underway, but Gryba hopes this Saturday’s identification camp will give him a better idea of what he’s working with. He’ll run two or three drills, after which the players will, as he says, “just play.”  He adds: “It gives me a chance to watch the kids and see how they do in different situations.”

The upcoming season will likely end in late February or early March, but Gryba hopes Providence can extend their schedule an extra week—into a first ever National Christian College Athletic Association tournament.

No doubt his new recruits will help in making the push, but either way there will be a buzz around Pilots men’s basketball next term.

“They’ve committed to the program,” says Gryba. “They’re excited for the opportunity to play college basketball.”

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