FREDERICTON, N.B. — The game of basketball can take you anywhere in the world.
In terms of professional basketball, the opportunities are seemingly endless. Most countries have at least one level of professional basketball, while some of the bigger countries have multiple tiers to their professional ranks. There are opportunities aplenty for players from all over the world to play professionally.
When it comes to collegiate basketball, the United States and Canada are undoubtedly the top two options. The bulk of the opportunities can be found in the States, as there are multiple levels in the NCAA, and then you have NAIA and JUCO institutions on top of that. Schools south of the border get most of the attention from mainstream media, but Canadian colleges and universities deserve the same level of respect.
Sometimes, all it takes is for someone to tell you about the opportunities that Canadian schools can present, and it will change your entire perception on collegiate basketball in the Great White North.
Arthur ‘Ace’ Reece is entering his second season with the St. Thomas Tommies in the ACAA in 2018-19. Originally from Houston, Texas, Reece came north of the border thanks to some advice from a friend who had previously played in Canada.
“One of my good friends played up in Canada and told me that there were great opportunities up there,” said Reece. “I eventually started doing research and sent out film.”
One of the schools that Reece sent his game film to was St. Thomas University in Fredericton, New Brunswick. He connected with head coach Scott MacLeod, and the rest as they say is history.
“We formed a good relationship,” continued Reece. “Once I talked to coach Scott MacLeod, it just went up gill from there.”
“It was about getting a degree first then worry about basketball, and that stuck out to be over everyone else.”
Last season, Reece posted 9.7 points and 3.8 rebounds per game while shooting 46.3% from the floor. The season posed new challenges for Reece, as schools in Canada use FIBA rules in their games. So, that means they play four 10-minute quarters, they use a 24-second shot clock, and there is a deeper three-point line, among other rule changes.
“It took me a few games last season to adjust to the difference and everything, continued Reece. “But now I feel that I like the Canadian college game better than American college games.”
While the Canadian game may have posed a few challenges for Reece early on in the 2017-18 season, it serves a deeper purpose for the Houston, Texas native. Like many, he plans to pursue professional opportunities when his collegiate career is over, and he is looking at options overseas in Europe and other countries.
The thing about professional basketball in Europe is that they also use FIBA rules, so the Canadian collegiate system is helping to prepare Reece for his next step in his basketball career.
“The first thing I said was, ‘what better way to get ready for Europe than to play in a college using their rules’,” added Reece, when asked about whether or not the Canadian game helps to better prepare you for the professional game. “It’s a much faster pace, and that’s what the pro game is.”
“Given the fact that I’d like to pursue an opportunity overseas once I graduate, it’s a huge plus for me to be able to play a pro style type of game within the Canadian college system.”
The Canadian collegiate basketball system simply doesn’t get the level of attention that it deserves on a regular basis. It’s not in the conversation until the post-season rolls around, and that’s a shame. There’s a ton of talent from coast to coast, both with U Sports and the CCAA, and the product that teams put on the floor is of top quality.
It’s also a major stepping stone for players who are looking to explore professional opportunities. With schools using FIBA rules, some would argue that it helps to better prepare players for professional opportunities than the States.
What better way to learn and develop than by playing under the same rules as many professional leagues across the world.
The game of basketball can take you anywhere you want to go. Yes, that includes college in Canada.
Reece and the Tommies get their 2018-19 season under way on October 27th when they take on the Holland Hurricanes on the road. St. Thomas University went 4-17 a season ago, and they will be looking to flip the script this season.
– T. Bennett