By RON FANFAIR
Young Canadian women seeking to carve out a professional basketball career can use the newly created Toronto Stealth franchise to refine their skills and showcase their talent to a wider North American audience.
The Stealth, which has been operating since 2005, is Canada’s first expansion team in the Women’s Blue Chip Basketball League. The Toronto team will compete in the North East division with sides from Chicago, Cleveland, Columbus, Detroit, West Virginia and Montreal, which acquired a franchise after Toronto.
Basketball aficionado, Matt Slan, said he jumped at the opportunity to bring a franchise to this city because he wants to help market Canadian talent and assist players attempting to make it to the professional level.
“The players will earn zero dollars from this exercise,” said Slan, a Dalhousie University business graduate. “However, this is a grand opportunity for them to market themselves and create a platform from which they can move to the next level and a chance for them to play against a high level of competition.”
Slan, who interned with Basketball Canada for a year, hired long-time Ryerson University assistant coach, Richard Dean, as his franchise’s head coach.
“Richard comes highly recommended,” said Slan. “Most of the coaches I have talked to around the country have assured me that I made the right choice and he would do a great job.”
Dean coached former Canadian, National Basketball Association and European player, Rowan Barrett, while he was the boys head coach at West Hill Collegiate in Scarborough from 1989 to 1992. He has been an assistant coach at Ryerson University for the last 11 years.
“I have certainly enjoyed working at Ryerson, but the time has come where I was looking for an opportunity to be a head coach,” said Dean, who was a member of the George Brown College team that went undefeated for two seasons and captured the first Canadian Colleges Athletic Association (CCAA) title in 1975, easily disposing of Vancouver Community College 91-71 in the championship game in Calgary.
“I am very excited by what lies ahead this summer for elite basketball players and those below that level. In the past, some talented players have complained that they have been unfairly overlooked for selection on the national program. This is their chance to step up and show what they have…
“Those who dream of assertively taking their game to the next level now have a tool to help them get there. I am committed to helping these young ladies reach their dreams and I can hardly wait for the first ball to start bouncing.”
Both Dean and Slan are scouting players for the franchise which will play its first game on May 16 at Ryerson. The team’s first official practice takes place on May 1.
“I have an idea of some of the players that will make this outfit competitive,” said Dean, a certified Level Three coach. ”We cannot recruit players with eligibility at National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) schools because that’s not allowed. However, we will have a look at those players who are completing their university careers, but we have to wait until they are finished. In my mind, those are the prime candidates for jobs with the franchise because they have aspirations to play at the next level and they have very useful legs and talent.”
The Stealth last month successfully recruited its first player, University of Waterloo fourth-year shooting guard, Kimberly Lee, who graduated from Father Michael McGivney High School in Markham.
“She’s a superb shooter with very good form,” said Dean. “Real good shooters are hard to come by so we are very excited to have Kimberly in our fold. She’s hungry and she wants to get to the next level.
“She wanted to do this right away,” he said. “I love her game and she has a great personality.”
Slan said he’s aiming to complete the 12-person roster by the end of this week.
The Toronto Stealth is partnering with Ryerson and Bishop Strachan School on the new initiative.
“Ryerson University is happy to be the new home of the Toronto Stealth,” said Guyanese-born Ivan Joseph, the Director of Athletics at Ryerson University. “We are proud of our basketball tradition here on campus and we look forward to hosting this exciting and growing league at the Kerr Hall gymnasium.”
The Stealth will play 10 regular season games over an 11-week period.