Basketball fans spend much of March and April putting together brackets and dreaming up who’ll win the NCAA basketball championship.
For Rowan Barrett Jr., fantasy basketball is dreaming of being a member of the Duke Blue Devils — and the road to that might have made a stop at Humber College’s gym.
The small forward from St. Marcellinus Secondary School in Mississauga said he supported Duke going into the final. He smiled when asked whether he sees his future playing basketball at the North Carolina university.
After a Canada Basketball skills camp, held at Humber over Easter weekend, Barrett was one of 12 boys selected to represent Canada at the U16 Fiba Americas in Argentina this June.
“It’s always exciting to have Canada Basketball host camps at Humber, we have a longstanding partnership with the organization,” said James DePoe, varsity coordinator of Humber Athletics and manager of the national men’s Under-19 team.
The camp had prospects practice shooting, offensive and defensive situations, with coaches keeping track of leaders in statistics like rebounds and shot percentages.
“This camp allowed us to evaluate kids we weren’t familiar with as well as re-evaluate kids we’ve seen a lot of,” said James Derouin, assistant coach of the Cadet team.
With the camp being the last chance to make an impression on coaches, players put their all into what Barrett and teammate Danilo Djuricic of the St. Michael’s Blue Raiders called a “long and hard” weekend.
“These kids were competing for jobs, they’re elite athletes and this exposes them to what’s part of the path to their bigger goals,” said Derouin.
The pressures of performing well throughout the weekend could have isolated prospects and focus on their own game, but it became an opportunity to grow along with their peers.
“The weekend was tiring, but it was great to be with my teammates,” said Djuricic.
“There was a lot of competition and a lot of stuff to remember, but it helps bring us together and develop a chemistry,” said Simi Shittu from Corpus Christi Secondary School in Burlington.
Derouin cited benefits of the practices and Canada’s young men’s players building a rapport.
“Some of these boys have been playing together for at least two years through Canada Basketball’s junior academy, they know how to play with each other and discipline one another which makes it easier to coach.”
The camp sent a clear message that the future is bright for basketball in Canada.
“There’s definitely been a boom, but I think we’re past hype and there is legitimate growth,” said DePoe.
Canada’s coaches have a clear objective for what the newly selected team should aim for in Argentina.
“We’d like to come back with a medal, but we definitely want to be in the gold medal game,” said Derouin.
But to continue on the path to a successful campaign at the U16 FIBA Americas, there has to be a greater goal.
Shittu mentioned University of Michigan, Duke and Kentucky as teams whose style of play he enjoys, and he hopes the work he puts in now with Basketball Canada will help him reach that.
“Becoming a NCAA Division I player is probably everyone’s goal in our group and us working hard at camps and practices motivates us to keep going,” he said.