I remember being 13, seated alongside my pal Mac in the "Metro Centre" with our legs dangling toward the lower bowl, watching the St.F.X. men's team, starring John Hatch, wage battle against Acadia. Mac and I were so enamored of the X-men that we swore, then and there, that we'd attend St.F.X. and wear blue and white in the backcourt.
I was a decent ball player. Mac was outstanding. These two facts came to bear heavily on our respective decisions regarding university and where to attempt to play basketball. So, a few years later when my parents drove me onto the St. F.X. campus, I wasn't surprised to find that Mac was not enrolled. He'd been recruited pretty heavily and eventually opted to play in British Columbia - UVic to be precise.
Mac went west with dreams of eventually making it to the Olympics. I, on the other hand, stayed the course and, after a summer spent running the streets of Halifax in the hopes of getting into shape for training camp, headed down the highway in the hopes of making the basketball team as a “walk-on”. My timing was perfect. That year - 1985 - the X-men had a single spot on its roster for an non-recruited player. That said, looking around the gymnasium that September day, it quickly registered how deep the pool of basketball talent was: there were all-stars from Halifax, standouts from Ontario, and two players from the United States. The latter athletes were both outstanding, but it was a strong, smooth, 6’3” guard name Kyle Gayle, who hailed from Bayonne, New Jersey, that seemed other-worldly when it came to ball-handling and the ability to twist and turn to the hoop.
This was ball at a whole other level.
I made the team and, to this day, have friends from those days in the X locker-room. I am also still in touch with Steve ("Coach K") Konchalski. And now, as the USports (formerly the CIS) tournament kicks into gear, I find myself making my way to what's now the "Scotiabank Centre" to sit in the stands, sip a beer and watch the latest generation of university players live out their dreams. It's nice to see. And it's nice to feel, in a very small way, a part of the long & illustrious legacy of university ball in Canada.