VICTORIA – The University of Victoria campus, and in particular the Centre for Athletics, Recreation and Special Abilities (CARSA), has been an absolute hub of activity for the past four days. Canada’s only NBA team, the Toronto Raptors, have been the talk of the town as they complete their four-day training camp, Sept. 26-29, today following an exciting open intrasquad game last night.
On Sept. 28, the CARSA Performance Gym hosted 2,700 community, alumni, students, staff and all-out Raptors fans for an exciting game that included appearances from the Raptors Dance Pak, Raptors alumnus Muggsy Bogues and the Raptor himself.
“No other team has an entire country as a fan base. The great enthusiasm got our players’ juices going . . . the crowd got us going,” said Raptors head coach Dwane Casey, following the game. “These are excellent basketball fans and they know the game.”
The actual game saw team black trump team white 89-63 thanks to 17 points from Norman Powell and four three-pointers from Andy Rautins. The black team was headed up by NBA all-star Kyle Lowry who was good for 11 points and a team-high six assists. Team white didn’t disappoint as they boasted crowd favourite DeMar DeRozan, while UVic-connected Kyle Wiltjer had 17 points after making five-straight three-pointers on nine attempts.
Kyle Wiltjer, also a member of Canada’s national team, is the son of former Vikes men’s basketball star Greg Wiltjer a six-foot-11 Olympian who won a national championship with UVic.
Victoria is just one stop on the Raptors’ pre-season list as they head to Hawaii for two games against the L.A. Clippers, Oct. 1 and 3, jet back up the coast to play in Portland against the Trail Blazers, Oct. 5, and then wrap-up their pre-season playing Detroit in Toronto on Oct. 10 and the Bulls in Chicago on Oct. 13.
Although it was just one open intrasquad game and two closed practices a day for four days, Victoria and the UVic community has been grateful for the experience to host an NBA team. All ticket proceeds from the intrasquad game went to support Golf for Kids Charity Classic, a local organization that supports an incredible number of recognized children’s charities.
Clint Hamilton, director of Vikes Athletics and Recreation and Raptors bench boss Casey presented a cheque at half time of the intrasquad game to Golf for Kids Charity Classic co-chairs Dale Douglas and Murray Stewart. The sum on the giant cheque was an impressive $85,000.
The Raptors training camp was all running alongside a busy week for Vikes Athletics and Recreation who filled the CARSA Performance Gym at 7:00 a.m. on Sept. 26, the same day the Raptors arrived, for the Vikes Championship Breakfast. It was the 10th edition of the Championship Breakfast and it raised $540,000 for 2017 to bring the 10-year total to just over $4.4 million dollars to support student-athlete scholarships. Just two hours after the event the gym transformed from a banquet hall for 650 guests to an NBA-level training court for the Raptors’ first practice in CARSA. The department also hosted a special unveiling ceremony for the new Nike Team Serenity Studio, naming the mind body studio in CARSA, the last of the four studios to be named. That ceremony happened on Sept. 27 alongside T. Litzen Sports representatives.
As the Raptors camp wraps up Sept. 29 the performance gym will once again be converted to host the annual Guy Vetrie Memorial men’s basketball tournament starting at 5:00 p.m. Perennial national champions Carleton along with Concordia and Guelph will play a three-day tournament with the Vikes. The Vikes women’s soccer team and women’s rugby team are also hosting games at Centennial Stadium and Wallace Field this weekend.
Last year, 2016-17, saw a new level of hosting for the Vikes as two U SPORTS national championships were held on campus – women’s rugby in November and women’s basketball in March – but the week of Sept. 26-Oct. 1, 2017 will forever be a memorable one for Vikes Athletics and Recreation.
It is a week that not only saw Canada’s only NBA team choose to come to the UVic campus and play in CARSA but it is a week that saw Vikes staff rise to the challenge and come together with the UVic and Victoria community to share in celebrating the excitement and appreciation for excellence in sport.