All week long a former national basketball champion Michael Linklater has been injecting his knowledge and international experience into the hearts and minds of teenagers.
It’s the inaugural week for Prime Basketball, a new summer basketball camp led by Linklater at Tommy Douglas Collegiate in Saskatoon. Many remember Linklater for his stellar performance for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies on route to their CIS championship in 2010.
It isn’t your average basketball summer camp.
“What we’re really trying to do is give them a high-level instruction so some of things they’ve been taught hasn’t come from the highest level of coaching; there’s not too many players who have gone on to play CIS or professional so that’s what I’m looking to do,” Linklater said.
His motto is “champions teaching champions” and Linklater is bringing in other college athletes, coaches and even referees to give the high-school athletes a greater picture of the game to help them succeed.
Sydney and Bronwyn Murray are two of almost 20 who signed up for this week’s camp.
While the wall-to-wall dribbling, shooting and passing drills will help students on the court, Linklater wants to teach the players how their skills on the court can help them off the court as well.
“What we want to teach these kids is about life after basketball off the court — your work effort on the court needs to go into your schoolwork and when you’re looking for a job or applying to post-secondary,” he said. “I remember when I was a teenager I thought I was going to play basketball forever and I didn’t think about life after basketball, so I understand it’s difficult to look past that.”
Attending St. Mary’s community school in Saskatoon as a kid, Linklater said his transition to basketball was all about timing.
“What drew me in was the brand new court that was paved outside. It was something new so all the older kids went out to shoot around,” he said. “I’d never played basketball myself until that point but when I saw the older kids doing some cool things dribbling-wise I thought that was something I would like to do.”
So he picked up the basketball and never looked back. While Linklater stands five-feet-10 inches tall, he hears it wherever he goes, ‘I thought you would be taller.’ He embraces it and uses it as a great example to teach players to play to their strengths.
“I actually prefer playing against taller players because they’re not as quick. When I have to play against someone who is smaller they are quicker and it’s more difficult. Big guys shouldn’t have the ball down low at their hips where us little guys can steal it. They have to use their height to their advantage and we have to do that as well.”
Linklater, who took Canada to the International FIBA three-on-three competition has qualified once more in 2015. He and his team are heading to Mexico later this year for the America’s qualifier.
The Prime Basketball skills camp continues through to Thursday.
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