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Canada Basketball Session Recap

Published by on November 7, 2010

malcolm and blakeNewly appointed Canada Basketball Technical Director Renato Pasquali was in full-out coaching mode on Halloween night last Sunday October 31st as he and some highly respected Toronto-area coaches sought to teach some of the young up-and-coming studs what it means to “think” basketball and not just play basketball!

The players on hand included:

Kevin Pangos-Newmarket, Dr. Dennison

Duane Notice-Toronto, St. Mike’s

Agunwa Okolie-Ajax, Dennis O’Connor

Isaiah Watkins-Toronto, Oakwood

Malcom Duvivier-Toronto, St. Mikes

Raynold Kasongo- Scarborough, Mother Theresa

Brody Clarke- Toronto Oakwood, Jr.

Justin Jackson – 8th grade

Kemar Alleyne- Scarborough, Pope John Paul

Kevin Blake-Toronto, Oakwood

The two hour mostly skills workout is a welcome sight as Canada Basketball becomes serious in its goal to become a world basketball power. Other coaches on hand to share their expertise included, Roy Rana(Ryerson University Men’s coach and World U17 Bronze medal coach), Bill Pangos(York University Women’s coach and Kevin Pangos’ dad), Norm Clarke(Oakwood coach) as well as several other Ontario Basketball coaches.

The workout was the second one in as many weeks and featured a lot of repetition of key points which included cutting without the ball, proper passing, showing two hands to receive a pass, proper court spacing, replacing the cutting player, sliding into open areas, communication and the most important thing from watching Pasquale; taking the open shot after your teammates move the ball to get you open.

There were times when the age of these young players worked against them as coach Pasquali had to repeatedly say “offence to defence” so the players would switch positions but stay on the court. He was tough on them but in a way that made them want to do better on the next attempt or next drill.

Pasquali showed his comedic side many times during the workout, throwing in one-liners that some of the ballers no-doubt had no clue what he was referring to as many of them were simply trying to concentrate on the drills and get them right and weren’t in the mood to be embarrassed.

But in the end, the coaches seemed to get the idea across to the players that they have to get out of the habit of always playing with the basketball and learn to move without the ball and fill spaces highly akin to the way basketball is played in Europe. I agree with that style because I think as Canadians we can’t compete(talent-wise) with a country like the U.S.A. that has a talent pool of a nation of over 300 million people, so our best bet is to model our game after the European model. The U.S. system is based on a lot of one-on-one play but with a ball movement style of play we can utilize our athleticism but play a smart and heady game that will make us always competitive with a chance in a few years to beat any team on the planet, including the U.S. one day. Wishful thinking maybe, but anything is possible with talent, hard work, dedication and a little luck!


Pangos, was his usual steady self, running the drills effortlessly while helping the younger players get used to what the coaches were looking for. He’s got a knack for making the “right” play and/or pass when on the court.

Notice took the ball strong to the hole and played outstanding defence while shuffling his feet to get in position to guard as well as help and recover.

Okolie was stellar on the glass and took it to the rim hard several times which including a huge dunk right down the middle of the key. The height he gets when rebounding is impressive, drawing oohs from the spectators a couple of times, especially as his head is at or near rim level.

Duvivier has tons of potential. He’s crafty and speedy and will be a breakout player this season in my estimation.

Jackson, the grade schooler and Clarke, the Oakwood junior are two young bigs who will improve as they play big stronger players and in a couple years should be very formidable. Jackson will have to put on some size but he’s got the length to do damage at the high school level.

Blake had no trouble using his athletic prowess and size to make an impact in the workout, going strong to hole and making shots inside. He will need to improve his outside shot to become a tough cover.

Watkins is a very impressive athletic specimen. He has broad shoulders and banged with the best of them on Sunday. His father David played football at Indiana State and you can tell that he imparted his tough as nails attitude on this up-and-coming big man.

Kasongo was also impressive using his size to his advantage inside the paint. He also showed good co-ordination and foot speed when outside on the wings.

Alleyne used his ball handling to get to the tin and was very active on defence, often beating the offensive player to the spot on the floor.

After the workout I had a chance to catch up with Oakwood Sr. baller Isaiah Watkins who talked about the invaluable resource the workouts have been and will continue to be and which schools are talking to him on the recruiting trail…check it out…


Most of the participants were in high school but a kid like Justin Jackson, shows that there is considerable Canadian talent burgeoning at the younger levels and that getting them up to speed on how to “think” the game instead of just playing the game will only serve to get them ready for higher competition levels like what the U17 Canadian team faced in Germany this past summer en-route to a bronze medal!

In a few years several of these youth players will graduate to the Canadian Junior Men’s National team and the Men’s National team and they will undoubtedly look back on these workouts fondly as they apply what they learned while taking on the best the world has to offer. Canada Basketball is clearly on the right track and needs to continue to build rapport from the grassroots upwards to build the program to the lofty heights to which it aspires and I firmly believe Canada is truly on it’s way!

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