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Deus learns from the Raptors

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BRAMPTON — You can tell Aprille Deus loves basketball.

She is both a player and a coach and in both roles she has a passion for the sport. During the school year she stars for the Acadia Axewomen in Wolfville, Nova Scotia. During the summer, while she is home in Brampton, she is busy coaching on several fronts including at the Aspire For Higher Elite Basketball Camp in Brampton.

With her passion for the sport, it is no surprise that she was recently selected as the second winner of The Toronto Raptors coaching mentorship program — a dream come true for any young coach.

She received that after spending three years working with the Raptors Basketball Academy. Jama Mahlalela ,a Raptors assistant in charge of player development, recommended her after seeing her coach at the Raptors Academy.

Because she was going to school in Nova Scotia her mentorship involved attending the team’s training camp in Halifax last fall. She was also able to work with the team while home on her Christmas break, going to practice. She went through game day preparation and sat behind the team bench during one of their games.

The opportunity to interact with coach Dwane Casey, his assistants and a number of players helped her appreciate a little more what it takes to play in the NBA.

“Everything is so intricate,” she said. “You have to really have a high IQ. There is a big difference between college and the NBA.”

She said she noticed the way players like DeMar DeRozan communicated with their teammates and that was a trait she brought to her own game when she returned to her team at Acadia.

She discovered that practices tended to be run by the assistant coaches. Once it gets to the game, Casey takes over. She said that is done so that the players don’t hear the same voice all the time. Deus said she met Canadian senior men’s head coach Jay Triano and he favoured the same procedure.

Her mentorship did not end when she finished her time with the Raptors. She said she has kept in touch with some of the coaches.

A graduate of St. Marguerite d’Youville, where she was a basketball star and athlete of the year, Deus said when the time came to choose her school, the decision came down to the University of Waterloo and Acadia, where she had been offered a scholarship.

What finally sealed the deal was a visit to Acadia. She fell in love with the small community in the picturesque Annapolis Valley, even though she had lived all her life in the city and was a little unsure of how that would appeal to her.

“I went there (on a visit) hoping to not like it,” she said. Her visit to the community changed that. She found out just how much support there was for the university sports teams. It also helped that the school had fewer than 5,000 under graduate students, meaning smaller class sizes. Last year was her second year on the team and she was the winner of the Coaches’ Award.

Besides being on the basketball team, Deus teamed with hockey player Jill Burton to bring the You Can Play program to the Acadia campus. That organization aims to make sports more inclusive for all sexual orientations.

The two of them set up booths at the school’s sports events with Acadia becoming only the second university in the Maritimes to have a Right to Play branch.

“Most people did not know about it (Right to Play),’ said Deus  “All the responses we had were positive.”

Besides coaching with club teams in Oakville and Kitchener Waterloo, and being an instructor at Point Guard College. Deus is spending her time with the Aspire For Higher camps, run by Abena Addo, who played at McGill and will be at the University of Toronto this fall. Deus said she likes the fact that that the camps are being kept low cost to allow as many as possible to sign up.

The camps continue to run through the summer. For information go to: www.a4hsports.ca

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