Local Olympians gather to share their experience and inspire kids

Four basketball Olympians are back inside Ring Road tonight. But this time not at McKinnon Gym, where their deeds were legendary.

They will be across the street in the University of Victoria Farquhar Auditorium addressing hundreds of young players in the Be Your Best seminar beginning at 7 p.m. The purpose of the event is to inspire. Admission is free and all are welcome.

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“Our message to the young people is to find your passion and go for it,” said former UVic great and two-time Olympian Gerald Kazanowski.

Kazanowski will be among the presenters, along with Eli Pasquale, Karl Tilleman and Howard Kelsey.

The four were part of a hoops golden age in which Canada placed fourth in the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles and sixth at the1988 Seoul Summer Olympics.

“[The late national team coach] Jack Donohue was able to get the best out of us … it was always about the team,” said Kazanowski, now an investment advisor.

“That’s part of what we will be talking about to the kids [today]. We’re going to talk about our backgrounds and the challenges we had.”

The two-time Olympians Pasquale and Kazanowski were part of a UVic dynasty which won seven consecutive national championships in the 1980s, with Kazanowski part of four of them and Pasquale five. Their jerseys are retired and hanging on the walls of McKinnon Gym.

There was one young fan in the McKinnon Gym stands during those years who was heavily influenced by Pasquale’s play at point guard for UVic. Steve Nash went on to twice be named NBA MVP, and also become an Olympian.

The University of Calgary’s Tilleman, one of the most prolific shooters in Canadian basketball history, was Kazanowski’s and Pasquale’s great Canada West adversary. Tilleman is now a lawyer in Phoenix.

Kelsey came out of Point Grey Secondary with a fluidly seamless style and played in the NCAA. He was UVic athletic co-ordinator for seven years, during which the school won seven men’s and six women’s basketball titles and produced 64 Olympians in various sports. Those Olympians earned 16 medals. Pasquale and Kelsey have both been successful in business following their basketball careers.

Also taking part will be former UVic and national team coach Ken Shields, who guided the Vikes to their seven straight national titles in the 1980s.

“Everyone has talent, and it may not necessarily be in sports,” said Kazanowski.

“Whatever you’re interested in, do your best.”

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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