Remember a month or two ago when the Duke Blue Devils came to Toronto and Montreal for an exhibition basketball series and we all went ga-ga over RJ Barrett and Zion Williamson and Coach K?
We were among greatness and the fans poured out and we covered news conferences and practice and games and it supplied a week or so of good stories and coverage of something we don’t usually cover.
Well, there were other teams involved – Ryerson and the University of Toronto and McGill – and I can remember telling people and writing that the locals had acquitted themselves well, hung in games despite how early it was in their seasons and that the level of Canadian university basketball might be at an all-time high.
Those teams, and every other one in USports or the CIS or the CIAU or whatever they’re calling it in this marketing incarnation, are back at it, their regular seasons are beginning this week or tonight or this weekend.
And we should pay attention.
In a very brief chat with the great Roy Rana this week, I was reminded not only of the high level of play but the need to reconstruct of the momentum that came during that visit by Duke.
So, here we go.
I’ve seen a few games over the last couple of years – Go, Badgers! – and I can recommend them not only as one-off entertainment events but as solid basketball games, nice atmospheres, more than affordable and a way to support either the local school or the alma mater.
It’s not a sympathy buy or anything like that but I bet if you take in a game or two you’ll come away feeling pretty good and wanting to go back.
It’s not the highest level of the NCAA, nor would anyone want to be, but’s certainly mid-level, on-campus games and shows and atmospheres and you get the sense the kids are truly student-athletes rather than mercenaries looking for a way to get their first pro gigs. Some will, of course, and that’s a huge bonus but, most of all, it’s the momentum that Roy was talking about that’s important. If there’s more support, more athletes might want to stay home, the quality of play will continue to increase and that’s the biggest benefit.
I understand from my man Slim who has an interest in university pucks that the hockey is in the same place as the basketball and that season’s begun and is worthy of support.
It’s the same with the women, this I know first-hand, so if you’ve got a chance to see a game, do it with the women, too.
We – the greater media – has missed the boat in the past by not stopping in for the odd feature and paying attention and I promise we’ll find a way to do more.
The people who run USports need to do a much better job pitching stories and helping us find them and someone reading this needs to get to them and tell them to start reaching out.
But somehow, there has to be more done and instead of catching up with it solely at championship time, that needs to start now.
Do your part, if you can; we’ll try to do ours.
Doug Smith is basketball reporter for the Toronto Star, from which this article is reposted