WHITBY, ON–This weekend, U17 Team Ontario started gearing up for another championship run. Last year’s team was absolutely dominant, using a combination of; size, speed, strength and athleticism to bully their opponents at all positions. This year will be no different, key players potentially returning are Calvin Epistola, Brody Clarke and Devonte Campbell.
At Top 50 Camp there were many standouts who were coming to battle for a spot. Every time there was a huddle, the message that came from head coach Fatih Akser was, “Leave it all on the floor. We are not choosing this team, you are, your game is. You have to find a way to separate yourselves from others.”
Two players in particular that really stood out were Isaiah Cummins and Glenn Thelemaque. This poses a threat at the guard position, where no man is locked in, no man has made it yet.
Some players got the point, while others eased through drills. In the most talented province in the country, it’s vital to a player’s basketball existence to play every possession to the best of their ability because there is always someone who is waiting and competing to snatch up a spot.
This year is special for the boys U17 Team Ontario since they will be challenged to play with a smaller team in terms of size in the frontcourt. Speed at all positions will keep them ahead of every pack.
“Our goal is to develop our players individually and prepare them for the next stage in their basketball careers,” explained coach Akser.
This year will be coach Akser’s fourth year being involved with the provincial program and his first as Head Coach. In 2011 and 2012 he and Coach Chris Cheng, who is now Manager of Youth Player Development for Canada Basketball, won back-to-back National Championships.
“Every year I’m asked about what style of offense we’re going to run. My reply is always, ‘let me see the roster and I will tell you.'”
Coach Akser further explains, “with new skills sets and characters we have to mold the offensive and defensive strategy to match our personnel. One thing that I would really like to enforce is to get players such as Brody Clarke comfortable in positions outside of the Power Forward and Center. This will ensure that he is maximizing his potential and adding to his offensive arsenal at other positions.
Following team practices and development sessions, Team Ontario will hit the road onto their second annual AAU trip, where they will compete in Indiana, Orlando and Las Vegas.