Q: What sports did you play growing up?
A: Lots...baseball, tennis, soccer, a little bit of hockey, football, badminton, then picked up basketball and I was terrible at them all. I was usually the last pick when teams were organized so I know all too well that pain and embarrassment
Q: What role do you feel sport played in your development from childhood through university?
A: It played a huge part in my development, I learned so much about life through sports, especially basketball. Working with others towards a goal, dealing with disappointment, failure, success, pain. I learned how to push myself when I couldn't take another step, to extend my physical and emotional limitations to try and get to where I needed to be, and dealing with the frustration of not getting there right away (I am very impatient). Developing a sense of humility and the importance of building others through positive support as they helped me in the same way, to understand that to get somewhere you just can't show up, or whine, and expect to get there, that it takes passion, work, time, effort and patience. And love, we don't use that word in sports enough, to love the sport I was learning, and the people I played with as they became part of my family, to have their backs as they had mine, to fight for what we believed in...and the value of trust, honour, and integrity. To back up what you say and to be there for a teammate, for a friend, for a family member. I have failed at times to be there and have been haunted by that but it made me learn how to be stronger, more giving of myself.
Q: What was it that drew you in about basketball?
A: My brother, my idol, introduced me to the game. I used to go to his games and was inspired by him to play this magnificent sport. I would play with him and of course, being so much better than I, he would destroy me but I learned from those experiences. I have tried to tell him what his influence has meant to me but I have never been successful in expressing the depth of how much he helped me. The friends I made along the way, a deep bond that I can't describe adequately, those who have played understand. Something about the game fascinated me; the teamwork, the skills, the athleticism (of which I had none), the thrill of motion, playing a chess game in person at high speed, the strategies. It was the action of it all; making a complex play work, pinning an opponent's shot to the backboard, hitting the winning shot, dunking over two people, an impossible pass, it's all those things and countless more experiences that drew me back time and time again. I would fall asleep thinking about the game. I would dream about the game and I still do.
Q: What are some of your fondest or proudest memories pre-university of basketball or sport in general?
A: Absolutely the best thing about basketball has been the relationships I have made. Even if I haven't seen a team mate for some time, when we do get in touch it is like we just finished practice even though it may have been years since I have seen them. There are teammates who have become brothers of mine who I see regularly, to play golf with, to visit with, to watch the Horns together. This has been the best thing by far, indescribable, magnificent! Of course, when we get together so many basketball stories erupt, so much laughter, so much love. Every time I see them I feel at peace, like the world is a better place.
Q: Recalling back to not making your grade 7 junior high team, what was your response to the disappointment? Do you feel that the experience was a significant moment in your basketball journey?
A: Not making that team was devastating for me, and a turning point in my life. When I was in grade 7 I fought through the crowd to see if my name was on that list up on the bulletin board and hearing my friends cheering with joy that they made the team, I was crushed that my name was not up there. I checked three times to make sure but sure enough, I was not good enough to make it. I went to find some privacy and I cried. So, when announcements were made during the last class of the day that the boys basketball team should leave class to catch the bus for the game I sat there, listening to the excitement in their voices, not hearing a word the teacher said for the rest of the class, dreaming about making that team, and planning how I would do it. Then they would talk about the game the next day, telling all kinds of grand stories and I made a pact with myself that I would not get cut again. I did, but at the highest level. I set goals for myself, after I got cut in Grade 7. I was going to make the Olympic Team and get drafted by the NBA. My friends thought I was insane as I was terrible. I did not have the strength to get the ball to the hoop on a free throw or even make a layup. However, I felt at that young age, if you are going to dream, why not dream big?
I had a fire in my gut and it burned every day. So, I begged my Dad to put a hoop up on the driveway and he bought me a basketball. I drove my neighbours crazy. I shot every day, morning, noon, and night. The constant sound of a bouncing basketball and the ball hitting the rim for thousands of hours was too much for some of them, but I did not care. All I could think about was getting cut and how that felt. I shot when it was 38 above and 38 below, in blizzards and snowstorms, in the wind. I would clean the driveway with a snow shovel and then sweep the residual layer so I could make my cuts, toque on my head, wearing a down filled jacket and my Mom's leather gloves as they would offer some protection and still give me a feel for the ball. I played every chance I could; open gym, intramurals, pickup games, at home, with friends on their driveways, I was a basketball nomad, going anywhere there was some action. I subscribed to Sports Illustrated so I could read about the NBA and college ball, looking at photos of these players for hours, analyzing their body positioning, what they were looking at, inspired by their stories. I would watch tv in our unfinished basement, sitting on a chair and dribbling for hours, I would watch what NBA I could access, try to get NBA films, watch what they would do and go out and try to master those moves. I would watch the Harlem Globetrotters and practice their fancy moves and ballhandling skills. I would watch commercial men's league at Wilson Jr High and learn from them. I would always try to play against better players who would destroy me so I could learn how to be quicker, to use my body more effectively, to get the jump shot off faster, how to do double and triple pumps to avoid taller players willing the jam the ball down my throat. I barely made the team in grade 8, rarely played, never complained, I just worked harder. Grade 9 I played because I was in grade 9 . Grade ten I made varsity and had a great, fantastic coach with Pete Neufeld but still did not play much. I worked harder. Made the team in Grade 11 and 12, Pete did not coach anymore and Glen Alexander took over, who was amazing and he changed my life.
I can't thank those men enough.
I met with resounding failure at first, got laughed at quite a bit but that stopped after a while. All those repetitions started to pay off, things started to click, but it took years and countless blisters for me to build any semblance of athleticism. Even then, I was never satisfied with any result, no matter my point total or performance it was never enough, I always tried to get better.
Q: What was your post-secondary decision like and what ultimately brought you to the U of L?
A: I was recruited by Canada West universities, Simon Fraser and a couple of places in the States, but I chose Lethbridge as it was close to home and of course, less expensive, and it was the best basketball decision I made. I loved that place and program and still do, to this day.
Q: What role do you feel being active in sport during your developmental years played in you ultimately having such a fantastic career as a Pronghorn?
A: All the lessons I learned from those sports led to being a Horn and going on beyond that, to the Olympic team, the NBA tryout, and Europe. But far more than that I was incredibly lucky to have the people in my life who helped me through so much. My parents who were wartime refugees but fought for a life for my brother and I, my brother who was and still is my idol, my teammates who are family to me, the coaches I have had, as I mentioned earlier but also people like Ken Olynyk who was instrumental in my development both as a player and as a man. My kids and wife who have been there and made my life complete even after my basketball days. How do I thank them, how can I possibly tell them what they mean to me? Everything I have said or tried to express falls short of how I feel for them. Love is too weak a word.