St. Joseph CHS will maintain a team in the local high school league but will also add a new high-performance team that will play primarily in the U.S. File photo
By Austin Stanton
As the Notre Dame Catholic High School-based Canada Topflight Academy boys’ basketball program shoots for a title in their inaugural season later this month at the National Preparatory Association (NPA) Championships in Toronto, the Ottawa Catholic School Board is also readying to add another pair of specialized sports programs come this fall.
CTA will launch a girls’ basketball program out of Immaculata High School for the 2017-18 school year to mirror their current boys’ team.
“I’ve been able to get it done on the men’s side,” says CTA director Tony House, a veteran of the Ottawa basketball scene. “It was an easy sell to do the women’s based on what we’re doing on the guys’ side.”
House founded CTA because he saw a need for a prep school program in Ottawa. The former University of Manitoba Bisons player felt there were too many talented local players leaving to play in the United States or Toronto.
The Ottawa boys have quickly shown they can keep up with best in the league. Following 5 losses to open their first campaign, CTA has reeled off 10 wins in a row against opponents opponents from as far as Saskatchewan, British Columbia and New Brunswick, as well as Ontario. But House is most pleased with his team’s success in the classroom.
“Our guys are doing very well from an academic standpoint. They understand they are a ‘student-athlete,’ in that order,” he underlines. “If you score 40 on the court, that’s one thing. If you score 40 in the classroom, you’re going nowhere.”
There is of course plenty of basketball too, though that only begins after the final school bell and a mandatory study hall session from 3-4:15 p.m. The typical day features weights, cardio, ball-handling, or shoot-around from 5-5:30 p.m., followed by a 2-hour practice.
The girls’ program will benefit from the year of knowledge gained by House and his team on the boys’ side. They’ll also have a pair of well-known local coaches leading the charge, including long-time University of Ottawa Gee-Gees assistant and St. Peter CHS coach Mario Gaetano, and Jaime McLean, who coached an undefeated team to a Canadian Youth Basketball League title last year under House’s Ottawa Elite club banner.
While the girls’ program doesn’t have any commits yet, House thinks that will change after the first parent-student information meeting in March.
“People are still waiting to see if we get into the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association, waiting to see how it unveils,” House says of the Ontario/Canada Basketball-backed loop for prep school-style teams. “I’m very confident. I’ve surrounded myself with very good people – the best in the business – and I think it won’t take long to assemble the women’s team.”
St. Joe’s adds football academy
Along with girls’ basketball at Immaculata, the OCSB will also welcome an elite football program at St. Joseph CHS. Modelled after the Football North program that launched in Mississauga last year, the team will play a schedule primarily against U.S. schools.
“Our goal is to attract and retain top Canadian talent and keep them in Canada,” program director Blaine Scatcherd says in a press release. “Working with the OCSB, we will provide the student-athletes an opportunity to specialize in year-round football training and compete against the top high school teams and coaches in North America.”