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(Posted 1 p.m., Feb. 28)
Former Lancer plying his trade on the other side of the pond
By Fred Sherwin
Orléans Online

Former Sir Wilfrid Laurier Lancer Simon Mitchel is plying his trade with a Division 3 basketball team in England while teaching hoops to primary school students and high schoolers. Fred Sherwin/Photo


Basketball has been very, very good to Simon Mitchell. After graduating from Sir Wilfrid Laurier Secondary School in 2002, the former Orléans resident went to Queen’s University where he won the team MVP during his last three years with the Golden Gaels.

During his fourth year at Queen’s, he heard through the grapevine that a club in England was looking for Canadian players. Mitchell responded to the request after graduating in the spring of 2007, only to find out that he needed four years of
basketball to qualify for a work visa in England. So he re-enrolled at Queen’s and played one more year of ball.

Last spring he sent some game tapes and his CV to Kent Crusaders chairman and director of basketball Jesse Sazant. A short while later he was offered a contract as well as a coaching position with the Crusaders high school basketball academy.

After moving to England in September, Matthew also took on a position coaching five- and six-year-old children at the Sturry Primary School.

“Coaching the little ones has been one of the toughest things I’ve ever done. Some days they are literally out of control. I spend the majority of the session just trying to get them organized and not injure themselves. Other days they are well-behaved. In the end it’s been one of the most challenging things I’ve ever done,” says Mitchell.

The entire experience has been unreal, especially considering the fact that he very nearly gave up on his hoops dream altogether.

“To be perfectly honest, I kind of lost motivation to play overseas near the end of my fifth year at Queen’s. I didn’t do anything in terms of finding a team in Europe. But around mid-May I decided I’d at least contact Jesse and send him game tapes, says Mitchell. “(Thus far) it’s been a great experience and I’m glad I made the decision to come.”

The Kent Crusaders are a semi-pro team currently playing in Division 2 of the English Basketball League. According to Mitchell, the level of play is mid-Canadian collegiate level and in past years a number of players have signed with professional clubs in Europe.

For Mitchell, the experience has been tremendous, especially the opportunity to pass along his love of basketball to his much young students.

“Coaching the high school kids has been very rewarding. I’ve really seen an improvement in their ability since September. It’s enjoyable coaching kids that are so enthusiastic about basketball and about improving their game. They soak up everything you say,” says Mitchell. “It’s cool being able to spread the sport of basketball in another country.”

The objective of any Division 2 team, however, is to finish at the top of the standings and earn a promotion to Division 1.

“Hopefully, we’ll finish in the top two in our division and get promoted,” says Mitchell. “In all, the experience has been really good. I’m enjoying the basketball and I’ve met some great people.”

(Posted 7:30 a.m., Feb. 27)

 

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