Elias Sbiet of North Pole Hoops told me this morning that the kids’ “jaws will drop” during the classroom portion of today’s NPH Manitoba Showcase. He wasn’t lying.
Sbiet also didn’t lie to those kids. He laid out the reality of what it will take to become professional at the game of basketball. He was brutally honest. He asked for a show of hands from those that were hoping to track through the NCAA. All hands went up. “Look around,” he said, “all of your hands are up.” None of the players seemed surprised, and some even giggled at that. “I’m going to Saskatchewan Wednesday. What do you think those guys are going to do when I ask the same question?”
I looked around to see some faces sink and it seemed to really strike some of them that maybe it’s not as easy as they might have thought. Sbiet continued to explain that it takes next level dedication to break out of a group like this. “Forget the other guys in those other cities,” he told the group, “what sets you apart from the other guys in this room?”
It’s very clear that NPH has the mandate to help grow the game of basketball in Canada. It’s also very clear that their strategy includes inspiring the strongest wills to push themselves as much mentally as they do physically. More than that, perhaps, is the attempt to teach these young would-be stars that the mental parts and physical parts go hand in hand.
All the coaches involved seem to really want to help grow the game of basketball as much as Elias Sbiet. When asked why he got involved with the NPH National Showcase Circuit, coach Juan Nunez said, “it’s great to be able to see whats out there. Kids that don’t have the opportunity to travel are able to be seen and get some exposure and get some coaches, not just in Manitoba, but other provinces and hopefully maybe some in the US to get interested in them and be able to keep growing the game in the country.”
The players seem pretty excited to be part of it, too. “My day’s been great,” says player Donato Joseph, “a bit fatigued because we started at 9 am, but I’m getting my legs back.” Joseph says he hopes to “get better” during this showcase, specifically his basketball IQ.
Fellow baller AJ Conner echoed Joseph’s sentiment. He says he’s looking to “learn a lot of things about my game, and how to fix it. Learn new things, little things, everything is just helpful.” When asked where he’d like to take his basketball career, he simply said, “I want to go as far as I can.”
Whether Conner or Joseph make the NBA or not, Sbiet and North Pole Hoops want to give them the best shot to get better at the game they love. I applaud the effort and energy the coaching staff is pouring into this showcase. Passion feeds passion, and there is clearly plenty of that to go around.
The showcase wraps up tomorrow around 5 pm.