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Home > Articles > High School Sports > Hard work lands Crusader at Carleton

Hard work lands Crusader at Carleton

Posted: March 1st, 2013 @ 10:53pm


When Dave Smart went searching for athletes to restock his perennially powerful Carleton Ravens basketball team this year, naturally he went looking for hockey players.

That's where he found Brody Maracle.

"I really like him because he's an ex-hockey player," Smart said. "He's got that kind of mentality, and that's what I think you win with."

Maracle smiled to think his hard-nosed approach to the game found such a distinguished fan.

"I play pretty tough," he said, with a grin. "If anyone does something to one of my teammates, I won't think twice about getting back at him.

"I was a big hockey guy," added Maracle, who came to basketball in Grade 8, relatively late in life. "I didn't really want to be labelled soft."

Mission accomplished. Maracle, who will be leading the Holy Cross Crusaders into their third consecutive Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations basketball tournament Monday, has committed to playing university ball next year at Carleton, in no small part because soft is perhaps the least apt description of his game.

Smart, like Maracle from Napanee, liked the young man's competitiveness almost from the moment he first saw him play.

"Obviously he's a talented kid," Smart said. "You don't recruit kids who aren't talented, but on top of the talent, for a high school kid his work ethic is great. I think he'll adjust well to what we expect - but his toughness is the biggest thing. It's one of the things we're a little bit lacking right now."

It's a subtle deficit, to be sure, on a university team that has lost just one game this year, but a man who has won eight national championships in the last nine years knows the importance of such things. Smart's teams have typically had tough nuts such as Frontenac Secondary School grads Rob Saunders and Stu Turnbull at their core, a trait most recently personified last year by Willy Manigat, Cole Hobin and Elliot Thompson.

"They were pretty good players but really tough kids," Smart said. "Now, we're probably as talented as we've ever been but we don't have as many of those what I call ex-hockey players."

From the time he was in Grade 11 two years ago, Maracle estimates he heard from recruiters from 25 or more schools. Carleton, he said, was the best situation.

"I'll be playing for the No. 1 team in Canada. They offer the right program, academically," said Maracle, who will be studying criminology. "I'm kind of a family-first guy so having it just an hour and a half away is an ideal situation. It was a perfect fit."

He also has "a great relationship" with Smart, in whose Guardsmen program Maracle played the last two summers. An exacting coach, with almost fanatical attention to detail, Smart is not every player's cup of tea but Maracle says he's eager to play in that atmosphere.

"He's the best coach in Canada and one of the best in North America," he said. "It's a lot different pace, pretty intense, but it's pretty fun. I really like his philosophies."

Confident he's walking into the pressure cooker with his eyes wide open, Maracle believes he has a pretty good idea of what awaits.

"I walk into a pretty good situation, with them losing two big players," Maracle said. "I want to make the rotation. I want to play meaningful minutes. I want to have an impact in my first year

"A lot of guys go there and they won't see floor time until third or fourth year. I want to work hard, play in my first year and win a national championship."

If hard work will achieve those goals, Holy Cross coach Robin Dzierniejko believes Maracle will be successful.

"I don't think there's a player, definitely not in Kingston, but I would argue in eastern Ontario, who works harder than him," Dzierniejko said. "His work ethic is unrivalled in high school sport, any high school sport. I've never heard of someone working as hard."

Dzierniejko suspects Maracle experienced an epiphany last year at OFSAA.

"There were some boys who were stronger and quicker than he was," Dzierniejko said, "and I think maybe getting out-worked in the quarter-final game awoke something in him."

Coach and athlete had a chat at the end of last season. Maracle weighed 165 pounds that day. Today, he weighs a solid 210. "In one year," Dzierniejko marvelled.

"He always worked out, watched what he ate, but he wasn't interested in learning more about it. Then it was like, 'I want a workout plan,' 'Tell me what I need to do,' 'Do you have anything for this?' He became like a sponge. He always worked hard but he became more open to change, and stepping outside of his comfort zone."

It's not uncommon, Dzierniejko said, for a coach to suggest his players spend some time in the weight room. They'll act keen, he said. " They don't come."

Brody goes.

"He'd be in (the gym) before school, he'd be in at lunch, during his spare, after school. A lot of guys say, 'I'm in there before school.' He is. He's shooting and it's not him working on fancy trick shots. It's him working on his game, he's working on moves, he's working on counter, he's working on a whole slew of things, and I've never seen that in an athlete before.

"The improvement from last year to this year is insane, and that stems from his work ethic."

The constant improvement is something that caught Smart's attention as well.

"He played for our club team and every time I saw him his ball handling, his passing, his shooting has gotten better," Smart said. "He needs to get a little better at all those things but every time I see him he's better than the last time I saw him. That's a credit to his coaches and a credit to his work ethic.

"He's a really good kid, he's a really good student, but you know what? He's not afraid to bump somebody if he feels that it's necessary. He's not going to allow himself to get buoyed. He just doesn't back down. He's obviously a little raw and he's going to get better learning from Tyson Hinz and Tommy Scrubb and guys like that.

"He knows how to score in the post. He's just got to get a little more refined. He's got to get stronger. He trains pretty hard and he understands what it means to train. It's a case of getting a little more man strength. Getting in the weight room, not so much more, but in the weight room with 23-year-olds. It's no different than anywhere else. The competition helps."

OFSAA basketball

What: Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations boys AAA basketball championship tournament

Logistics: Monday through Wednesday, at Windsor

Local flavour: Holy Cross Crusaders are the fifth-seeded team

Opening game: Monday morning, vs. No. 15 Huntsville

Head to head: The teams met once this year at a tournament, with Holy Cross winning by 11 points

History: This is the Crusaders' third year in a row at OFSAA; they were two and out the first year, and lost in the quarter-finals in 2012

Close: Three of the four Holy Cross defeats at those two OFSAAs were by three points

Overheard: "They're big, big boys. I think they've got four fifth-year kids and they work and they shoot. They shoot well." Holy Cross coach Robin Dzierniejko, on the Huntsville team his Crusaders will face Monday.
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