Savouring the madness
The tournament is called March Madness for a reason. For some, it is a time to sit back with a beer and see how your “bracket” is doing. But for others, it is a chance to be remembered.
“It was something I dreamed about as a kid and taking part in it was everything I expected it to be an even better,” said Burlington native Brady Heslip.
He had already connected on six 3-pointers in the first half, but his Baylor Bears were losing 53-51 in the round of 32 at March Madness; it looked as though the number three seeded Bears might lose to the number 11 seeded Buffaloes. But Heslip was not finished, the tall and lanky freshman rained down three more 3-pointers, finishing with a career high 27 points, helping his team to a 80-63 win, and a birth in the sweet 16. The team would eventually lose to the number one ranked team in the country, Kentucky in the elite eight.
It has been more than a week since the Bears were eliminated from the NCAA tournament, but Heslip is still riding high on the experience.
“It was a dream come true. My first season in the NCAA, for us to set a school record for wins. The NCAA tournament is an unbelievable experience something you’ll never forget.”
Heslip comes from a basketball family, stating “I got into basketball the day I was born… My dad always had me around a game.”
His father was an All-Canadian basketball player at the University of Guelph in 1980, and his uncle is former Toronto Raptors Head Coach Jay Triano. Heslip says he scored his first basket when he was three, and it didn’t take him long to realize what he wanted to do with his life.
“From elementary school you see these guys in March Madness; I loved basketball so much I said that what I want to do. I knew from a really young age that it was my dream to play in the NCAA tournament.”
Heslip got his first chances in basketball through Grassroots Canada Basketball, a Toronto based program. Heslip credits founder and president Ro Russell with giving him his first opportunities.
“From when I was a little chubby guy in grade nine, he took me under his wing and took me to tournaments and I just kept learning about everything and how things worked. He gave me the exposure to all these scouts at tournaments in the states.”
Grassroots Canada Basketball has also been the training ground for now NBA player Tristan Thompson and NBA D-League player Cory Joseph.
Heslip still has two years left at Baylor and is looking forward to playing in the tournament next year, and the exposure for Canadian basketball that comes with it.
“It’s great for Canada basketball you know, guys playing at various schools, Chris Joseph at Syracuse, Kevin Pangos, one of my best friends Junior Cadougan at Marquette; there’s tons of Canadians making a mark. I think it opens doors for a lot more Canadian kids.”