Westley Johnston has come a long way from his days playing wheelchair basketball in Prince Edward Island to having a chance at cracking the men’s national team.
The 26-year-old has been playing the game for the better part of a decade now and is fresh off signing overseas in Spain to play for BSR Valladolid.
Johnston has his sights set on making Team Canada’s 12-man roster headed to Brazil to play in the IWBF Americas Cup in July, but he hasn’t forgotten his roots on the island.
“The program growing up was very, very small, a very [tight] knit group of people…” said Johnston, in a video interview on Wednesday. “There were six people on the team and some days we didn’t even have enough for two on two.”
Getting paid to play in one of Spain’s premiere wheelchair basketball leagues from not even having enough players to field a team at times was something of a big jump for Johnston.
“Going into Spain, it’s a bit of a shock,” said the former U23 player. “You’re playing some big minutes and some big time against some really well known and really talented players.”
The newly minted professional believes that his experience overseas will launch him to even bigger heights and help him crack the national side. Johnston was previously a last-minute cut from the 2020 Tokyo Paralympics squad.
“It left a bad taste in my mouth not being able to go to Tokyo,” he said. “It has just motivated me even more to want to be a part of that.”
Johnston said he is even more determined to have his name on the roster next time. In his eyes, turning pro this past year was the first step to doing so.
“Basketball is not just three hours a day, people say sports are 24 hours a day,” said the aspiring Paralympian. “Being able to be a professional athlete full time, not having to rely on a part-time job, I’m able to focus my entire day around my success in basketball.”