By Devin Jones
The countdown kicked off for the Canadian Interuniversity Sports (CIS) men’s basketball final eight tournament that Ryerson is hosting in March.
NBA legend Bill Walton was one of the dignitaries on hand at the Mattamy Athletic Centre (MAC) Thursday for the kickoff. Others included the CEO of CIS Pierre Lafontaine, Ryerson president Sheldon Levy and athletics director Ivan Joseph. Ryerson will be partnering with the Downtown Yonge Business Improvement Area (BIA), which has the potential to turn the tournament into a larger, community-based affair.
“For me [the tournament] comes back to the purpose of universities and the purpose of using sport as an agent of change,” said Lafontaine. “And what [Ryerson] is doing by saying ‘we’re going to host this for the first time ever, and do a great job at it’ is exactly what we need for the sport.”
The tournament runs from March 12th to the 15th will be the first time Ryerson and the city of Toronto have ever hosted a CIS national basketball championship since its inception in 1963. Coupled with an explosive, undefeated Rams team and a talented Raptors roster; Toronto has become a de-facto community for basketball.
“I believe that Toronto is becoming the home of basketball in our country, and this tournament just puts us on the map that much more,” said Ryerson president Sheldon Levy. “We have the very best facility for it, and it brings a tremendous amount of spirit and student engagement. Really for me it’s all about building the community.”
According to Joseph, Ryerson intends to draw crowds from across the nation; with games being televised nationally and being played in front of up to 4,000 people under the famous Maple Leaf Garden dome.
“With fans coming from all over and games being televised, we’re going to have a national audience paying attention to our university,” Joseph said. “These are exceptional moments to showcase all the talent Ryerson has, not just basketball.”