BY MELISSA HASHEMIAN
Upon completing the Toronto Raptors’ training camp two weeks ago in Ottawa, Jasmin Repesa was looking forward to his next guest coaching gig.
Not with NBA stars, nor upscale personnel.
It was at Ryerson, where eager high school students from across the GTA awaited the guidance of the renowned European and Croatian national team coach.
The Rams’ very own men’s basketball coach, Roy Rana, sought Repesa to grace Kerr Hall Gym last Friday.
“I really like it here compared to Europe’s organization. Doesn’t matter if it’s a college or the Toronto Raptors organization, it’s much better in general,” Repesa said.
Even though the Rams were not present for the experience, more than 60 spectators filled the stands to witness the coaching legend discuss the importance of balance and strength conditioning in basketball.
Repesa, who is best known for his role in leading Croatian basketball club Cibona Zagreb to three Croatian championships and two Croatian Cups, dedicated two hours to teaching defensive strategies with the help of the Toronto BJCC Magic, an Under-16 clubhouse team.
But the Croat wasn’t here for a token appearance or to sign autographs.
He assumed his players for the evening and urged them to “find your balance.”
That mantra served as the source to his own success throughout Europe, and he cited it like a famous quote.
Sitting down away from the action was the Magic’s head coach Allon Bross, who listened and watched intently as Repesa repeatedly pushed his players.
“Repesa is one of the greatest basketball coaches in Europe. Spending time with him and listening to him talk is very important for us,” Bross said.
“If I can pick up two or three different things I can use to make our team and our players better, then that would be valuable.”
The clinic, which was hosted by Ryerson and Ontario basketball, also gave outsiders a chance to see Ryerson’s campus and athletic community in a new light.
“Anytime you have a coach of the name of Repesa who’s a national contender and a national figure in the sport of basketball, it continues to send a message that we’re trying to do big things here,” said athletic director Ivan Joseph.
“This is something that helps to elevate our profile a bit at a national and provincial level.” Joseph hopes high school coaches and local coaches will be impressed by these unique sporting events at Ryerson and boost young players’ perception of the school’s athletics.
“What (Repesa) brings is wow, first class. And people look at that and now automatically associate us with that.”
Raptors vice-president Maurizio Gherardini, a long-time friend of Repesa, was also present but didn’t take a prominent role in drills. This is Repesa’s second time in Canada, and his first time running a clinic in North America.