Raso looks ahead to next season
Victor Raso wishes he wouldn’t have been so prophetic when talking about the Canadian Elite Basketball League’s championship last weekend in Saskatoon.
The head coach and general manager of the first-place Niagara River Lions predicted the fourth-place Hamilton Honey Badgers and their stars, Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Ricky Tarrant Jr., would be a handful and he was proven right. Hamilton ended Niagara’s season in the semifinals with a 104-103 victory.
“The Hamilton team was crazy talented and I said last week that I was concerned about Xavier Rathan-Mayes and Ricky Tarrant and how well they could score and they did,” he said. “They made tough shot after tough shot and we had our opportunities at the end.
“We scored enough points and we got whatever we wanted on offence, but at the end of the day we couldn’t stop those guys.”
The loss definitely stung a River Lions squad that had championship aspirations from Day 1.
“It was tough that night, it was tough yesterday (Sunday) for the guys because we did accomplish so much this year; winning the regular season and building a culture that guys really enjoyed and wanted to be a part of,” Raso said. “We felt like we deserved a little bit more, but that is kind of how the game goes.
“On that day and in that moment, we got beat.”
Things have gotten better as time has passed since Saturday.
“I am very happy with the season, what we accomplished and how much the guys enjoyed the experience.”
Raso learned plenty in his first season as a pro basketball head coach and general manager.
“I will do a lot of the same things over again and I will try and get similar types of people; guys who will buy into what we were trying to do over the summer,” he said. “There will be a couple of areas that we need to bolster up a little bit in terms of basketball skills, but I will follow a similar path to the way I put the team together this year.
“It’s tough to predict what will happen in a one-game elimination at the end.”
He felt he made a number of improvements as a head coach in terms of game management, understanding how to approach players and prepare them for games, and making in-game adjustments.
“I became a lot more in-tune with our guys, what worked for us and how to communicate with them throughout the game.”
Raso isn’t exactly sure what the CEBL’s rules are for player retention, but it is his understanding that Niagara has the right of first refusal for any players it had under contract this season.
“You never know because some guys’ seasons may go longer and there may be injuries,” he said. “For the most part, all of these guys want to be back and I want to keep as much of this core group around as possible.”
And while his players scatter across the globe to pursue other pro opportunities, Raso returns to his ‘day job’ in the commercial credit department at Meridian Credit Union.
“Assuming all goes well, I will be back with the Niagara River Lions next year,” he said.
He plans to work on his professional development as a coach and would love to land an invite to an NBA training camp or a NBA G League training camp.