This past weekend in Saint-Laurent’s gym has put the ever changing landscape surrounding Canadian basketball into perspective while in attendance for Quebec’s High School Championship. It has been known for years that Quebec has a rich basketball culture and has developed several notable NBA, NCAA and CIS talents on both the mens and womens side, yet the talent witnessed in this tournament was mind boggling.
Some recent notables from Quebec include; Khem Birch (NBA D-League), Kenny Cherry (Baylor), Nirra Fields (UCLA) and Jennifer Mathurin (NC State).
After having watched high school and university basketball all over the country, the top two provinces that are clearly on top are; Ontario at number one and Quebec at number two. The past three days have confirmed that it could go either way.
The rate at which Quebec is catching up should be alarming for Ontario. They have a richer and more community based culture which is created by these type of competitions.
The event was put on by Saint-Laurent, who hosted mens and womens teams at midget (grade 8-9) and juvenile levels (grade 10-11). From the competition level, the energy from the crowd, the intensity of the players to coaching and thorough statistics, the event was a major success.
Credit to Daniel Lacasse, who is the vice-principal as well as head coach of the women’s team; he played the lead role in organizing festivities. From his coaching one can tell that he demands a level of excellence from his players, supporting staff, as well as himself.
The high school program at St-Laurent in Montreal is doing everything in it’s power to ensure that the cycle of success in basketball and life after continues with the next young crop.
Saint-Laurent went on to win Championships for the Boys Midget Division as well as the Girls Juvenile Division.
This was the girls seventh consecutive Provincial Championship. Seven in a row, now that is dominance. This doesn’t happen by accident, they’re doing something right here.
“We run summer camps and have a great development program with a strong coaching staff that works with the kids year round. We give them the chance to put in the work and they have been taking the opportunity, explained Coach Lacasse.”
Coach Lacasse is tough on his student-athletes, demanding a high level of attention to detail and a focus on accountability.
The standard is the same whether I was speaking to Coach Mathieu Chenier of the Midget Boys team or Head Coach of the Juvenile Boys Akram Sleiman.
Coach Lacasse continued, “I’ve been here for 14 years, and we’ve always had good players. When I started there were some really good players that weren’t taking school seriously enough, they started to get recruited and then fell off the map because of academics. We want to address academics before sports so that this never happens again. Every player leaving here must graduate with a good academic standing.”
Knowing all this information about the process in player and personal development gives prospects at this school a higher chance at being recruited. In a scout or coach’s position it entices them to track these prospects.
There were a few programs in this tournament who held the same standard to their players, meaning there is a good chunk of the player population that was discovered this past weekend that will enter NPH National Rankings.
It was refreshing to receive a humble approach from the coaches and players for the exposure that they received. Quebec is not used to the media attention that Ontario gets.
As harsh as it sounds, it true, Ontario prospects are spoiled with opportunity and often carry the body language that says they’re entitled to exposure.
In my past four visits to Montreal, I did not get that feeling. The majority of these prospects go about their business with the same facial expression, same intensity and respect for the game.
North Pole Hoops will be making trips to Quebec more frequently; the talent is there, the culture is there and most importantly the respect for the game in it’s purest form.