By Michael Sun
Ottawa’s Aiden Warnholtz keeps ticking boxes in his home town: it’s where he won his first – and second – national championship, it’s where he got his first taste of Canada’s national basketball program, and now it will be where he takes the next step in his basketball career with the perennial powerhouse Carleton Ravens.
Just before joining the Ravens, the Ottawa Elite and Canada Topflight Academy point guard leaped at the opportunity to further hone his skills as an invitee at Canada’s Under-18 camp.
“The overall experience was pretty cool cause training camp was at Carleton (University) so it was nice for me because it was in my hometown,” he said. “I was disappointed I didn’t make the actual roster (but) I was happy with how far I’d gone and I thought I did pretty well for myself.”
Warnholtz was a late cut from Canada’s team for the FIBA U18 Americas Championship.
It’s still a major milestone for the Kanata-native who picked up the sport at four-years-old.
Warnholtz was the most valuable player of the Canadian Youth Basketball League (CYBL) in Grade 11, running the point for the Ontario-champion Ottawa Elite. This year he was Topflight’s playoff MVP in their second year as national champions.
He also took part in the Signature All-Canadian Showcase in April – taking the hardwood with senior national team players Andrew Nembhard, Rowan Barrett Jr, as well as fellow Ottawan Noah Kirkwood.
“I’m a point guard. I try to keep the team in order,” Warnholtz says of his play style. “I’m not exactly the biggest yeller and I don’t get crazy emotional on the court.”
Warnholtz says he embraces the point guard role – “I like the feeling of giving assists and spreading the love” – but noted he’s been told he needs to be “meaner” on the court.
“I kind of take my nice side off the court onto the court sometimes,” he adds.
He’s played for Ottawa Elite for four years but wasn’t able to finish his time there with another championship as the team opted out of the CYBL playoffs because of a lack of players.
Warnholtz called it “disappointing” but credits his teammates and coaches for making him a better player, as he does to Ravens’ assistant Aaaron Blakely, who he had several weekly practices and individual skill sessions with at Carleton.
Ottawa Elite head coach Patrick Sullivan – who’s coached Warnholtz for four years – called him “the best player I’ve ever coached” and “the heart of the team” with the highest basketball IQ he’s ever seen.
“He’s another coach on the floor and what’s so great about Aiden, if Aiden has an off night with shooting, it does not impact any other part of his game,” Sullivan said. “He’ll even work harder on defence, he’ll pass the ball to other players.”
Sullivan also praised Warnholtz as a person: “ (He’s) just someone who cares.”
Warnholtz says he enjoys the thrill of winning. However, there have been challenges with balancing school and basketball, and of course, a willingness to make sacrifices.
“Sometimes if you have a tournament right over Christmas, (or) over Thanksgiving, sometimes you’re like I want to spend that time with the family and with your friends,” he noted. However, “if you can be busy with something you love and you enjoy, it’s just a benefit.”
He says he’s looking to joining “an amazing basketball program” at Carleton and will try to earn as many minutes with the Ravens as possible, starting with the Can-Am Shootout against the Cincinnati Bearcats on Aug. 6. Both he and Ottawa Elite teammate Connor Vreeken will have the chance to debut for the Ravens.
“Another bonus for me is that it’s in Ottawa so I’m not going to have to travel,” he noted. “I enjoy being near my family and having my family be able to come and watch my games.”