University coaches share 'life lessons'

Article Sidebar

Article content

The ‘next level’ of basketball was on display at St. Mary’s High School in Woodstock Saturday afternoon.

“We’re ecstatic to have this game here,” said Paul Cowan, vice-president of the Oxford Attack Basketball Club as the Toronto Varsity Blues and Guelph Gryphons prepared to begin their OUA pre-season exhibition men’s basketball game.

It was the second time the Attack and Oxford Officials co-hosted a university game in Woodstock. In 2016, Nino De Luca, president of the Oxford Officials Association, had approached the Oxford Attack suggesting a game, which resulted in the same two teams – Toronto and Guelph – coming to Oxford County.

Both teams have coaches with local roots, Cowan noted.

University of Toronto Varsity Blues’ head coach is John Campbell, a WCI grad, and Guelph Gryphons’ head coach Chris O’Rourke graduated from Glendale High School in Tillsonburg.

“This is really good that they’re coming back,” said Cowan, noting Saturday’s game was a ‘one-off,’ and both had played Friday.


Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

Guelph lost to Mount Royal Friday 98-80, and then on Sunday beat Cape Breton 86-79. Toronto defeated St. Francis Xavier 101-84 Friday night. On Saturday, it was Guelph edging Toronto 81-75.

“They’re here today as a favour to us,” said Cowan.

“Our club has been exponentially growing the last few years – basketball has really taken off in Woodstock. The elementary schools are getting better, the high schools are getting better – and we hope we’re a big part of that.

What better way, he said, to show the Attack players, their parents and their fans the next of level of basketball – the college and university game.

“Outside of professional this is the highest level of basketball in Ontario. This is some good stuff. And it’s attainable, we hope, for some of our players.”

Two recent Oxford County high school players have OUA connections. Jack Demaree, from Tillsonburg, is currently playing for the Laurier Golden Hawks, and Woodstock’s Jack Beatty, a WCI grad, wrapped up his OUA career in Guelph a couple years ago.

“It’s a big day for basketball in Oxford County,” said Cowan.

At halftime the youngest Oxford Attack team, the U10 novice boys, scrimmaged.

“These boys have never played a game before… the team was picked two weeks ago,” Cowan smiled. “The big university kids are going to come out at halftime and they’re going to high five them all. They’re going to give back because they were once that age too.”

Earlier in the day the university coaches ran a clinic for a number of the older Attack players.


Story continues below
This advertisement has not loaded yet, but your article continues below.

Article content continued

“They taught some skills and drills, but they also talked to them about how hard it is (to reach OUA and pro levels). They spoke about the talent level, the amount of practice, and the character people have to play a university sport.

“They kept saying that when you’re bored with the repetition of skills and drills, go back and do it again. They said, ‘you will not believe the repetition that these kids have to do in practice.’ So they gave them some life lessons. These are high character kids playing OUA sports. They’re committed, they’re dedicated, they’re athletes and they are students.”

Funds raised Saturday will in part go towards buying basketballs and uniforms.

“We keep our fees low with any profits we make from this,” said Cowan.

“The officials are helping us because we need to work with the officials. Half of our officials are coaches in the club… and some of our coaches are officials. It takes a community to grow a rep sport.”

Eventually, the club would also like to host a women’s university game.

“Our goal would be to host a women’s game some day. We’ve done two men’s games now and we’d like to do a university women’s game.”