Hanover hoopster hitting the heights

Brett Sloan is in the centre of the University of Guelph's 2018-19 recruiting class.

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Basketball fever has hit new heights in these parts with the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA championship, so there is no better time for Hanover to get familiar with one of their own, Brett Sloan, who has been accomplishing big things in the sport.

Sloan, who stands a towering 7’ 1” (216 cm), is entering his sophomore season with the University of Guelph men’s basketball team, which plays in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA). In a league where players often ride the pine for a season or more before getting court time, Sloan earned his way into four regular season games. He averaged 1.8 rebounds and 10.3 minutes of playing time in those games.

When asked to characterize Sloan’s rookie year, head coach Chris O’Rourke said, “Like the majority of rookies it’s a learning experience year…an adjustment to university life academically and athletically.”

He went on to say, “Brett has a bright future in our program…this summer will be key as he gets himself in top form physically to be able to maximize his potential…We have big plans for him.”

Sloan appears to be on the same page with his coach, saying this past spring, “This offseason I have to improve my speed and agility, to be able to go out on the perimeter and guard smaller players. Next season I’d like to be able to come in and be a real reason that my team makes a deep playoff run.”

Sloan had more than 10 scholarship offers from NCAA programs such as Central Florida and Utah State, as well as expressions of interest from many more. He also had offers from more than 25 Canadian schools before committing to the University of Guelph.

Big factors in his decision to go to the University of Guelph were the closeness to home, the quality of facilities (which Sloan’s describes as “the best in Canada”) and the opportunity to be a difference maker on an improving team.

Before playing basketball and studying psychology at Guelph, Sloan spent a year on scholarship at the Southwest Academy in London. Southwest is a relatively new prep school program, which allowed him to develop his independence and ensured him a large enough on-court role to keep his game developing in his senior year.

Prior to his senior year, Sloan played at the acclaimed Athlete Institute Basketball Academy, which is also known as “Orangeville Prep.”

This school boasts such alumni as first round National Basketball Association draft picks Jamal Murray and Thon Maker. The team frequently travelled to prestigious tournaments all through the United States where they faced top-notch talent.

Sloan estimates he played against more than 20 future NBA players in his time there. They were also given private tours by several programs, including Syracuse and Florida State, and got to hang out with players from the powerhouse Kentucky team after one of their games.

Life at Orangeville Prep was not all glitz and glamour, however. Sloan recalls that, “going to practice every day you had to be prepared to run until you threw up” while discipline could be strict.

He recounts that on one occasion the entire team had to pull sleds with weights on them across a soccer field 150 times at 4:30 a.m. because a few players had broken curfew.

Overall, he says his time at Orangeville Prep “was an amazing experience and it helped me grow as a person and as a basketball player.”

While growing up in southern Grey-Bruce he attended several schools: Hanover Heights, Mother Theresa in Walkerton, Mildmay-Carrick and John Diefenbaker Senior School.

He did not show particular interest in sports until he arrived at Mildmay-Carrick where he met an important mentor, coach Dave West, who recruited him to the school’s basketball team when he was in Grade 6.

Sloan says, “I credit Mr. West with all of my success in basketball, without him I would never have made it out of Grey-Bruce. Mr. West was always very patient and supportive with me, which was exactly what I needed.”

Jim Sloan, Brett’s father, recalls Brett developed a sudden interest in basketball around the age of 11 and began analyzing classic NBA games on TV, then soon after joined a Sunday night recreational league where he played with much older players.

Around the age of 13, West helped pave the way for Sloan to join the competitive AAU Waterloo Wildhawks.

What Sloan remembers most fondly about playing basketball at JDSS during Grades 9 and 10 was the opportunity to play with some of his best friends, even though they were “far from the best team in the league.”

Julie Bouius, a community basketball coach, recalls that team made an intimidating first impression because it had a trio of tall players – Sloan, Noah Bouius and Shane Herman, but that did not always translate to wins because they were still developing their quickness and coordination.

Noah Bouius is currently 6’ 7” and playing competitive volleyball and soccer (goalkeeper) at Redeemer University College while the University of Waterloo Warriors football team lists Herman as a 6’ 6”, 350 lb defensive lineman.

When O’Rourke was asked to describe Sloan’s best assets as a basketball player, he said that beyond his size “he is skilled offensively with great hands. He can shoot, pass and finish well in the paint.”

When Jim Sloan was asked to describe his son’s best assets as a person he quickly replied that he is dedicated and has a big heart.

So while residents of Hanover and area cheer on the Raptors, remember to also cheer on Brett Sloan – a local guy hitting the heights at the University of Guelph.