Anthony Pate joined the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks in 2020, but has had a long history in basketball. The 26-year-old has been overcome two separate knee injuries since high school.
The 6-foot-3 guard Oakville, Ont. native is averaging 10.6 points per game this season for a Ridgebacks team which had a 1-7 record before their season was put on hold by COVID-19. Pate is looking forward to the resumption of the season Feb. 16 at York University against the Lions.
COVID-19 is one of many challenges Pate has stared down during his basketball career but he continues to remain positive about the future. Pate recently spoke with the Chronicle about his injuries and what’s kept him going. The Chronicle also spoke with his coach, Greg Francis.
Chronicle: How did you first get injured?
Pate: I was at New Hampton Prep (in New Hampshire) in Grade 12, I was playing with Tyler Lydon, we were trapping a ball screen at the top of the net, and I guess we just collided. Knee on knee with him. And I played for maybe like two more minutes and then I was like, ‘this doesn’t feel right.’ So I sat the rest of the game out and the next day I went to the Celtics team facility and got an MRI, and the surgeons told me I’d have to get it cleaned out.
After Pate got injured he had to take time off to recover, but because of his history playing with Team Canada, he was offered a position on Carleton University’s basketball team.
Pate: Dave Smart, who was the Carleton coach was like, ‘Well, you know, you can still play here, and we’ll still try and get you to go pro.’ So that’s really what like transitioned me to coming back. But to be honest, I was still partially in recovery.
Chronicle: When did you get injured the second time?
Pate: In one of the summer games, we were playing Baylor (University). I just tweaked my knee in a weird way trying to pin a fast break layup. I didn’t know what was going on, but I knew I had to get out of the game. So my trainer and I went and got a new MRI, and a few days later I found out that I needed another scope. So it’s been an uphill battle honestly, a lot of ups and downs, a lot of injury stuff. But you know, on the positive side, Carleton taught me a lot. I played in the games when I could. But mainly I just took two years to train, work to get better mentally and be ready to play again once I was allowed to get cleared.
Chronicle: When did you get cleared to play again?
Pate: Around my birthday in 2020, I went and got the MRIs, they came back good and the surgeon said you’re good to play. So I kept training and went back to Ottawa. I started posting content to let people know I was back playing and everyone was like, ‘What? You’re doing it?’ Everyone was very happy. And then one of my Team Canada coaches saw what I was posting and he was like, ‘Listen, I’m looking online and you still have eligibility (to go pro), I can’t get you to pro right now. But if you want to come back and play for a bit, there’s a school you can play at.’
It was then that Pate’s Team Canada coach, Tarry Upshaw, put him in touch with Greg Francis, the Ontario Tech Ridgebacks head basketball coach.
Chronicle: Was there something about Anthony that stood out to you?
Greg Francis: What I’ve always liked about Anthony is, he can really shoot the ball. And that’s kind of what I used to be able to do when I was playing. So, I think because of that I can bring the best out of Anthony. But to be honest, he’s probably actually a better shooter than me. So he’s come a long way. It’s good.
Chronicle: What’s it been like playing again for the Ridgebacks?
Pate: It’s been great. It’s been very accommodating for me coming here. And it’s been helpful to rediscover the game. And playing with these guys has been great. We’ve won a few games and I feel like we’re gonna win a lot more in the second half.
Chronicle: What kept you going in the worst of your injury? Did you ever think, ‘Is this the end of my basketball career?’
Pate: Absolutely. I was definitely discouraged, I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to play again, from an injury standpoint. I was always motivated to play and I was watching basketball and college ball the whole time. To be honest it kind of hurt me to see other people play. But I think that solidified that I was going to find a way to get back into it if I could. I think subconsciously, I kept watching the game and I kept following it. And that helped me out a bit in terms of not fully accepting it and moving on.
Everyone deals with injuries and, you know, older guys have to deal with them and they still play and manage professional careers. So at this point, it’s something I’m just working through. It’s not going to stop me from playing again or anything like that.