By Crina Mustafa
Rams men’s basketball rookie Aaron Rhooms recalls what it feels like walking through Yonge-Dundas Square at night. For a kid from Mississauga, Ont., the big city has a drastically different energy.
“I just love the vibes down there, all the people, just looking up. I never get tired of seeing the lights…that’s a real benefit of being at Ryerson, being in the heart of downtown Toronto,” he said.
The journey from Mississauga to ‘The Six’ has spanned over a decade for Rhooms. He started playing basketball when he was nine years old for a rep team in Oakville, Ont. He and his cousin played on that rep team together and that is when he fell in love with the game.
“I really felt basketball was an escape for me,” said Rhooms. “It has been ever since, and even more so now. I’ve always just loved the game.”
Rhooms said he grew up with a family of basketball lovers and that really helped him on his journey. “My family and I would watch games together and them being basketball fans helped them understand me,” he said.
Now, Rhooms is fresh out of high school and has quickly acclimated to university life. He said the difference in his training has been huge, especially on defence. Rhooms added that there is a lot more accountability in university.
“Everybody’s watching you all the time. There’s film, there are stats, everyone’s watching your every move,” he said.
However, the players are never on their own. The Rams basketball team has come up with ways to keep each other motivated and create meaningful relationships.
“Everybody’s watching you all the time. There’s film, there are stats, everyone’s watching your every move”
Whenever the Rams are on the court, Rhooms said they’re always talking trash and trying to get under each other’s skin. He claims teammates Kayode Fakomi and Tyler Sagl are the team’s biggest trash talkers. This is their way of building morale and pushing each other to perform their best when they are on the court.
At the end of the day, for Rhooms and the Rams men’s basketball squad, “it’s all love,” which is part of the brotherhood that Rhooms mentioned the team is building. This also extends past just the players.
David DeAveiro, the team’s head coach, reached out to Rhooms in fall 2020 about playing for the Rams. Eventually, this was the reason that Rhooms decided to attend Ryerson.
“He just made me feel that he was the guy that was gonna support me in my post-secondary athletics and [take] my game to the next level,” he said.
One of the main points of emphasis for the Rams this season has been communicating on defence. Rhooms said he has been working on being in the right spots to help defend properly. His defensive stats include recording six steals and two blocks in six games this season.
However, the rookie forward has been putting up numbers on the offensive side as well.
Throughout the first six games of the season, Rhooms is averaging 21 points per game and had a season-high five assists against the Queen’s Gaels in November. Rhooms is in the top 10 scoring in Ontario University Athletics (OUA) and is the only rookie on the list.
The team started the season 3-3, getting to .500 after winning three games in a row before the winter break. Rhooms said that although the season didn’t start the way they wanted it to, the Rams are getting back on track and the rookie has been a big part of that.
“I understand that I may be a rookie but I feel that’s no real excuse for anybody on a team. No matter how young or how old you are, there’s no reason that you can’t be a leader”
In fact, Rhooms said he draws inspiration from Toronto Raptors rookie Scottie Barnes—particularly his energy and leadership. He said he carries a lot of the same mentality in the sense that regardless of his basketball status, he does his best to be a good leader both on and off the court. Nobody expected Barnes to perform as well as he has been on the Raptors, especially when he was first drafted.
There were a lot of doubts for the Raptors rookie, and Rhooms said he could relate to that.
“I understand that I may be a rookie but I feel that’s no real excuse for anybody on a team. No matter how young or how old you are, there’s no reason that you can’t be a leader,” he said.
By setting an example of how to be a leader for his teammates, he’s also able to help himself grow as a player.
He may be new to the OUA, but he is not new to challenges. The pandemic was one of those challenges.
“In this past year or two, there’s been a lot of downs but I pushed through most of them and I’m proud of myself for getting to where I am despite all the hardships,” said Rhooms. “I just feel like I’m never going to quit. On the court, off the court, whatever it may be.”
Part of the challenge of adjusting to university life also includes time without basketball. Rhooms said that seeing family is hard when he is playing games or is on the road, so it’s one of his top priorities when he has time. Rhooms is also a gamer but said he stays away from NBA 2K because it’s too repetitive.
Rhooms said the one thing he always comes back to is accountability. Even as a rookie, he’s playing like an established veteran.
“I’m relentless,” he said. “I just feel like I’m never gonna quit on the court, off the court, whatever it may be.”