Ryan Trottier is going from one of the top high school basketball teams in BC to a rebuilding project in Ontario, and he couldn’t be happier.
The soon-to-be graduated GW Graham hoops star has committed to the University of Waterloo and will play for the Warriors this fall.
Waterloo’s team just lurched through a 1-19 season in OUA (Ontario University Athletics) play, guided by Justin Gunter.
“Last year was his (Gunter’s) first year as coach and he inherited a roster that wasn’t his,” Trottier said. “This year he’s recruited six, seven, eight new guys to build a team around.”
“We might not compete next year but in two, three, four years he wants to have a good team that can compete with a group of guys who’ve been together a long time.”
Trottier has come a long way in a short time.
GWG head coach Jake Mouritzen said the kid was a major project when he first walked onto the basketball court in Grade 8.
“All I could do back then was get rebounds,” he chuckled. “I couldn’t shoot at all, or dribble.”
“I had no skill at all.”
In Grade 9 he put aside his other sporting interests (hockey and football) and focused solely on b-ball.
“Hockey was starting to drag a little bit because I knew I wasn’t getting anywhere with it,” he said. “It was OK. And football, I tried it for one year but I wasn’t super into it.”
The lanky teen bulked up in the weight room and was in the gym every morning working on his skills.
At the end of Grade 10 and early in Grade 11, he’d improved so much, and for the first time he thought he might be able to play at the next level.
“I thought maybe if I worked really hard, I could maybe get something out of it. Maybe,” he said. “But I was never really sure until it happened.”
Not until the last three months of his senior season did he think he had a serious shot.
That’s when he heard from Gunter.
“I liked the idea of being able to develop and get playing time with a group of guys who become really close,” Trottier said when asked what appealed to him in Gunter’s pitch. “In Calgary (another school that was in the mix), I probably wouldn’t even play until my third year.”
“I’m 60/40 nervous/confident that I’ll be able to handle playing right away.”
Trottier’s a lethal outside shooter with acknowledged weaknesses in ball-handling and quickness. He’ll be working his butt off this summer developing those other ‘guard skills’ so he doesn’t get pigeon-holed into the bomber-off-the-bench role.
“I’ll work on finishing around the basket and defence and all that stuff so I’m a more well-rounded player,” he noted. “I don’t want to be the guy who comes in to spot up for a couple threes.”
What made Trottier’s situation different from the norm is that he’s also a bit of a genius. Academically, he runs in the 95 percent range and is enrolling in chemical engineering.
Pursuing that path limited his b-ball options. On academics alone he narrowed his list to Queen’s, Western, Alberta, Calgary and Waterloo.
Waterloo is viewed as the best engineering school in Canada and one of the best in North America.
“They’re all really good schools and that was my first concern, because basketball will end and you need a career afterwards,” Trottier said.
Even a bright guy like Trottier expects to be challenged balancing books and b-ball, and Waterloo’s engineering program is known for being exceptionally tough.
“I’m not going to get a lot of sleep,” he laughed. “Maybe five or six hours a night if I’m lucky. There will be a lot of long days.”
Financially, Trottier would have been better off staying in the west, where schools in Alberta, for instance, can offer bigger scholarships.
Waterloo will only provide $4,500 per year while the program costs $15,000-plus.
“But I can have a bit of a student loan and Waterloo’s got a co-op program where you can work at a research lab or something and make $11,000-12,000 to put towards tuition,” he explained.
“Other schools don’t offer that and the $55,000 or $60,000 I can earn in that program is a big part of why I went there.”
“I could have gotten more elsewhere, but Waterloo is where I wanted to go.”
“When you combine the academics and athletics, it was the perfect fit for me.”