The Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association (OSBA) has embarked on its inaugural season.
Adeel Sahibzada is the head coach of BTB Prep, one of seven teams within the GTA competing in the OSBA. The league was created in response to prep schools in the United States. The OSBA provides high-school kids with elite level competition and exposure as a means to develop athletes for post-secondary opportunities in reputable leagues like the NCAA or the CIS. However, the OSBA is not solely focused on basketball related progression, as all programs emphasize the importance of being a well-rounded member of the community.
“Starting a program like this, a lot of guys are low-key players that a lot of people don’t know about. I saw potential in them that they didn’t even know they had,” says Sahibzada.
Sahibzada has worked closely with John Polanyi Collegiate for the past several months in order to get this elite basketball program up and running. He speaks highly of his peers at the school and of their desire to help his players succeed.
“The kind of energy, the kind of support, the kind of academic discipline, all of these things that the school board has provided for these kids. Not to mention the nutrition, not to mention the academic counseling aspect, not to mention the social welfare aspect. The kids have been nothing but grateful about having a program like this. Our communities need more of these programs.”
In order to be part of BTB prep, the students were required to attend a mandatory hour-long study session prior to practice. The players were also required to attend every scheduled class in order to be part of the team.
“Guys who don’t come to practice don’t play, guys who don’t go to class don’t play.” Said assistant coach Jovon Biggart. “Our first home game (two prominent player on BTB) weren’t allowed to play…we had both bleachers packed, five cops standing in the middle. If you saw the atmosphere, it was crazy. The two players were so upset that they weren’t able to play. Do they think they missed class again?”
The OSBA boasts several marquee players on the cusp of massive media recognition. Thon Maker, a 7’1 powerhouse turning heads across North America, is one of them. Having a player of Maker’s caliber provides the OSBA with legitimacy amongst the international basketball community.
“To be honest it was really interesting (playing against Thon Maker).” Said star guard Ahmed Ali of BTB. “He’s the number one player in the world and we all looked forward to it. We were all anxious to play him. It was one of our goals to beat him.”
For Sahibzada, the idea of providing BTB players with the opportunity to expand their scholastic career is what drives the initiative.
“To take it into account, a scholarship is worth 20-30 thousand per year, just to be able to say that some of these guys will be able to get a scholarship,” said Sahibzada. “We will be able to create a vibrant and healthy prosperous community moving forward.”
The bottom line is that his players are being noticed. Sahibzada was also able to touch base on the impact that his program has had within the international basketball community.
“Just today, I had calls from Phoenix, from Arizona, from Florida, from Panama, from Indiana, from Oklahoma, from California. I’ve had five programs call me today alone; calling about different player I have in my program. For me, that’s the most refreshing thing that’s come out of the program.”
BTB Prep practices five days a week, along with an hour of mandatory study hall before they hit the floor. Their commitment to the program is unquestionable. Through two games this season they have hung with the leagues best, and will be an exciting team to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
For basketball fans interested in checking out some of the action, every league game is digitalized and can be viewed on the OSBA YouTube channel. You can also check out their website for team rosters, current OSBA standings as well as all upcoming games (www.ontariosba.ca).
Follow them on twitter @OntarioSBA.