There are never before seen opportunities for Canadian kids playing basketball and perhaps it should go without saying, it’s the kids that work hard who are making the most of it. The same can be said of every sport, academics, career and life in general and it’s the lessons kids learn playing sports that can be applied later in life whether or not they go on to a career as a professional athlete.
“Right now kids have enormous opportunities that kids didn’t have growing up in the 70s, 80s and even the 90s in Toronto,” Nicolas Davis told Pro Bball Report at a recent CIA Bounce event in Brampton. “I started coaching basketball in 1987. I don’t ever remember seeing a (US College) coach coming to a gym until 1994 or 95 when (now former NBA All-Star) Jamaal Magloire played for our club team. At those times there wasn’t even any rules, so (coaches) would just show up. Jamaal was a special case, a 6’10 kid, really athletic and wasn’t until three or years years after that that I saw (US college coaches) showing up again.
“When we were coaching Magloire, it wasn’t really about trying to get kids scholarships. It was about trying to get kids to do stuff, get off the street and so we coached in tough neighborhoods. We coached some tough kids giving them something to do other than just hanging around the mall. Now kids look at it as an opportunity to get an education, to maybe get a job and find work as a professional basketball player.”
One of Canada’s rising stars Jaylen Llewellyn was at the CIA Bounce event and his father Bobby Llewellyn talked about the CIA Bounce program and how things have changed for young Canadian basketball players.
“It’s a great environment to learn, a competitive environment to be in, traveling to the United States on the AAU circuit and other tournament throughout the US,” Llewellyn said. “There is far more exposure (now). The kids are playing against top competition in the States and they are competing or exceeding expectations. Once (Americans) realized Canadians are putting out a product in a greater volume, now their coaches are coming here to our backyard.”
Nicolas Davis, assistant basketball coach at Sheridan College for 22 years, Canadian National Men’s Cadet Team assistant coach and CIA Bounce coach for the 17U team, takes pride in helping Canadian kids work hard and becoming successful wherever life takes them after he’s done coaching them.
“Hopefully we are teaching them life skills because not everyone is going to become a professional basketball player,” Davis said “Not everyone is going to get a (US College) Division 1 scholarship and not everyone is going to play post secondary school basketball.
“When I coached a team of kids in the 90s, we were the North York Champions and went undefeated and not one kid on that team played post secondary school basketball. So, what you are hoping kids get out of it is they learn some life skills and some life lessons that will actually help them outside of basketball like how to be a respectful person. How do I address adults. How you address coaches is the same thing. Hopefully they take that outside (of basketball).
“The discipline to do your work, to stay focused. How to respond when things aren’t going your way. How do you respond when something negative happens because you are not going to make every shot and sometimes you are going to turn the ball over and sometimes you are going to give up an easy basket. So, how do you respond to those things? That’s the same as in life. If you are in school and something bad happens like you don’t get a good mark, you can say you aren’t good in that subject or you can respond differently. You can say I’m going to study harder. I’m going to do what I need to do to pass that subject.
“The other thing is how to get along with people. How do you interact with people you may not have much in common with other than you are trying to win a championship. You may have different goals or you may not like someone, but you are on the same team together. How do we work well together? How do we make this work? I tell kids all the time, you are going to get a job and you are going to be working with people you don’t like, but you have to make it work or you are not going to have a job. I don’t like everybody I work with, but I’m respectful to everybody I work with, I treat them with dignity and I hope they give it back to me in return. It’s the whole team dynamics and personal skills as well.
“The other thing is hopefully I will give them confidence. You are trying to help kids be confident and find their voice on the basketball court and hopefully they find it outside of basketball too.”
CIA Bounce asks parents and kids to stay respectful, stay committed and as Llewellyn emphasized, “Trust the process.” This is an proven elite program with a growing list of alumni who have been drafted by NBA and playing for Davis’ 17U team is the goal players here are striving for. So what does this very experienced coach look for in the kids who want to play for him?
“We look for kids who get after it,” Davis said. “Kids who work really hard. They don’t necessarily have to be the best player, but kids who work really hard, they really get after it. We look for good character kids as well. We want kids that when we sub off they are happy for the next guy coming in. They support their teammates, they cheer for their teammates. You are also looking for kids that do have the skill set to play at a high level of basketball and you want to see kids who compete. When they are in the games, they are actually competing regardless of the score, regardless of the situation, they are going to compete.
“Hopefully he is a good student as well because the way AAU basketball is now, you can’t really go after kids who aren’t good students as well because (college) coaches won’t come to see them because they’ll never get them because they won’t be qualified.
“When you get them when they are young, you have to stress as a program that you need to do well in school. We ask our kids to bring their report cards so we can see them. If you are not doing well, we say you might not be able to play this spring because there isn’t any point in playing if you are not going to be qualified. So you might as well take the time off to get your marks (up) and your school work (done).
“If you don’t do well in school, you can’t play basketball. That’s just the way it’s going now. This is not the 70s and the 80s when I grew up where you could do seven years of high school and no one would say anything. You could flunk out of every class and still be eligible to play, that doesn’t exist anymore. That pressure to do well in school so you can play basketball will serve you well outside of basketball.”
CIA Bounce is now just one of many places to play basketball in the greater Toronto area and more players means more competition, more reasons for scouts to follow Canadian kids and more opportunities to play after high school.
“At an event like (CIA Bounce) we had 41 Division 1 coaches here and we just came back from Peach Jam with our 17U team and there had to be 200 Division 1 coaches watching,” Davis said. “It’s overwhelming sometimes for the kids.
“With that comes pressure and kids put a lot of pressure on themselves and programs put pressure on themselves to develop kids who are going to be seen by these (Division 1) coaches. There is some status that comes that’s not necessarily a good or a bad thing, but it’s there when your program has put 75 kids on Division 1 scholarships and four guys were drafted in the NBA.
“There’s an industry of all the other clubs that have opened up. When I started coaching in Brampton, there was Brampton, Mississauga, Hamilton, there was probably seven or eight (clubs). There is probably 50 teams now in the GTA. That’s how much it’s exploded. Brampton alone has five or six clubs. Mississauga has six or seven clubs alone. There is just so much more.”
There is more. More kids playing basketball at a high level in Canada and more opportunities to turn basketball into a college scholarship or even a professional career, but when you listen closely to what coach Davis is saying, those are not the most important aspects of playing his sport. He takes his greatest pride in the kids who fought through adversity to stay in school and used basketball as a motivator to achieve in life and that’s the real measure of success for all these programs.
Ball On My Mind is holding a Hold Your Own Showcase Event August 26 – 28, 2016 for high school age basketball players in Brampton with Chris Hemphill, scout with NC Preps in association with Rivals.com (One of the largest American Scouting Services in the US).
Spaces are limited. Registrations after August 12th will be accepted based on availability.