At the end of their inaugural season, the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks men’s basketball team had one goal in mind – surround its young talent with proven players.
Not a simple task in a pandemic.
“Usually you try to go see players, you’ll go to their games, go see them at practice, but you can’t recruit that way anymore,” says head coach Greg Francis. “You have to go by word of mouth.”
Word of mouth from Francis’ close friend Tarry Upshaw led to him taking a look at former Carleton Raven, Anthony Pate, a player who’s been rehabbing injuries sustained more than six years ago at New Hampton Prep before attending Carleton, where he only appeared in six games due to the injuries.
For the last four years, Pate took time off from competitive basketball to allow his body to heal and pursue degrees in political science at York and law at Carleton, but Pate says his love for the game never left.
“For the last year now I’ve been waiting and itching for an opportunity,” says Pate.
For his 25th birthday present, Pate was cleared in March for a return to basketball from meniscus tears in both knees.
“The injury at this point now is so far removed from what I would have said is something that even required the clearance in March,” says Pate. “It was essentially just a psychological thing.”
Prior to committing to Carleton, Pate played at New Hampton Prep in New Hampshire with future NBA player Noah Vonleh, who played last season with the Denver Nuggets.
Francis hopes between Pate’s time at Carleton, the national team and in the U.S., the 6-foot-3 guard from Oakville will be able to share some of his experience with the young stars on the Ridgebacks.
“He’s pushing those guys like ‘let’s go’ and those guys aren’t used to it,” said Francis, whose team went 1-21 in its their maiden season. “We all try and ‘blah, blah, blah’, but we’re a young team. He’s a guy who’s had experience.”
Pate is just one of the many new faces to the Ridgebacks. He’ll be joined by former Durham Lords’ players Roy Anku and Gabriel Andre, Sheridan transfer Khaleek Bakari Whyte, freshman Tesloch Luc and Amara Ba finally joins the team after waiting in the wings for the last year.
Pate, who is now enrolled in Legal Studies at Ontario Tech, says he’s been impressed with his new team and has no shortage of compliments for them.
Ontario University Athletics has cancelled all winter sports for the upcoming season – which includes basketball, so Pate will have to wait a little longer to see the floor again.
“It really sucks,” says Pate. “I know the guys are feeling the pain a bit as well. As a competitor, you just hope to have every opportunity for a season.”
But when they do, Pate looks to be he’ll big a part of the new look Ridgebacks, says Francis.
“I’m really excited to see how he meshes in with the group and especially how our young players react to him,” says Francis. “I think it’s going to be a win-win. It’s going to be a great situation.”