By Sam Laskaris
GARDEN RIVER FIRST NATION – Jackson Zack-Coneybeare completed his high school studies this past spring.
But the 17-year-old from northern Ontario’s Garden River First Nation plans to pick up some additional courses this year before hopefully moving on to post-secondary life.
Zack-Coneybeare, however, will not be returning to Superior Heights Collegiate and Vocational School in Sault Ste. Marie.
Instead, the talented hoops player will be taking his skills to the London Basketball Academy. This program, based in London, Ont., competes in the National Preparatory Association (NPA).
The NPA features 10 squads from across the country. They play league contests and also participate in various tournaments in both Canada and the United States.
Besides Ontario, the NPA includes teams in British Columbia, Saskatchewan and New Brunswick.
Zack-Coneybeare, a 6-foot point guard, believes his one-year stint at the hoops academy will give him some added exposure and hopefully lead to a decent offer to play for a Canadian or American college or university.
“I’m hoping there will be a good opportunity that comes up,” he said. “It would be nice to travel for basketball and get an education.”
All those who attend the London academy will also take classes at Saunders Secondary School. But they will not also suit up for the high school squad.
Since he already has his high school diploma, Zack-Coneybeare will take just two courses per semester.
The London Basketball Academy is scheduled to compete in six tournaments this season, including three in the United States.
The American events will be in Florida, Ohio and Rhode Island. The three Canadian tournaments will all be in Ontario.
Zack-Coneybeare’s play had generated a little bit of interest among a couple of Ontario-based colleges this past season, yet he felt another year of grooming at the London academy would boost his profile.
The NPA is heading into its second year of operations.
“It’s fairly new,” said Zack-Coneybeare. “That’s why I didn’t know much about it.”
After hearing about the London program earlier this year, Zack-Coneybeare sent in his highlights package. He was then invited for a two-day visit which included a tryout session. Shortly afterwards he was offered a spot on the academy squad for the 2017-18 campaign.
To help cover travel expenses and other team costs, those on the London Basketball Academy have to pay about $15,000 per year to be on the squad.
While in London, Zack-Coneybeare and several of his teammates will be living with the club’s head coach, Angelo Provenzano.
The London Basketball Academy club is expected to have as many as 12 players on its roster this year.
But Zack-Coneybeare doesn’t have too much information about his teammates.
“But I know we have a couple of kids from overseas,” said Zack-Coneybeare, who spent three season of playing senior ball with the Superior Heights club.
Zack-Coneybeare has also competed in a pair of prestigious Indigenous events in the past year.
In 2016 he was a member of the Ontario squad that participated at the Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) in Arizona. The NABI is the largest all-Native basketball tournament in North America.
Zack-Coneybeare also suited up for the Ontario boys’ under-19 squad that competed at the North American Indigenous Games in Toronto last month.
His team posted a 2-2 round-robin record in that event but did not advance to playoff action.