Abbotsford Basketball Association’s In Transition: a series spotlighting graduated basketball players from Abbotsford.
Marek Klassen – AAA (now AAAA) Champion/MVP with Abbotsford’s Yale Lions, NCCAA Conference Freshman of the Year, Conference All-Academic Member, NCCAA Champion, Junior Canadian Basketball Team Member, British Basketball League (BBL) All-Star, Guard/Captain for BBL Worcester Wolves.
In 2010, Marek Klassen and the Yale Lions defeated the White Rock Christian Academy for the AAA (now AAAA) crown at the final year of the Telus BC Boys’s Basketball Championships at the PNE Agrodome. Upon graduation he went to Point Loma in California to play collegiately in the NCCAA. If you don’t know Marek, he’s humble as they come. A dedicated individual who understands the requirements to be successful on and off the court as a student-athlete.
His determination, dignity, and his obsession to learning allowed him to develop the skills to becoming a leader on every team he has won a championship
We thank Marek Klassen for taking the time to answer our questions. To the student-athletes of all ages – take note.
Q: Being an individual who played multiple sports in high school, when did you decide to fully commit yourself to basketball and why?
A: “I played as many sports as I could in high school until the start of my grade 12 year. I had a pretty bad injury in my grade 10 season while playing volleyball (almost broke my ankle) which I felt hurt my basketball season and other sports. So going in to grade 11 I played only basketball and ran track. I stopped playing other sports because I got advice from my coaches that if I wanted to really see how good I could be at basketball, I needed to be training all year round. However, I’m a huge believer in cross training! I just didn’t want to take a risk of injury playing something other than basketball and risk a scholarship that would pay for my education.”
Q: What types of sacrifices did you make in order to meet the demands of university basketball?
A: “I made all kinds of sacrifices. One of the biggest things was not really having a social life at all my freshman year. I ended up being freshman of the year in the conference that year but only because I lived in the gym and weight room. While others were partying and having a regular social life at 18, I was the one working a job at the gym all weekend so that I could get up as many shots as I wanted. Also being a student athlete is much more time consuming than the average person thinks. If you want to keep up with your studies and be taken seriously on the court you have to be disciplined and grow up quick!”
Photo Credit: Point Loma Athletics
Q: What was the most valuable lesson you learned while you were playing at Point Loma?
A: “Basketball wise the best thing I learned form Point Loma was based around defense. Coach Carr is at Santa Clara now and still known as one of the best defensive coaches on the west coast. Team defense, defensive schemes, and individual breakdowns have helped me a lot as a pro. But Point Loma was so much more than basketball for me. It really developed my Christian faith and gave me a great eternal perspective that I carry with me in to every game.”
Q: What has been the highlight of your basketball career?
A: “It’s hard to say just one. Winning a championship in high school with my whole extended family there was incredible. Winning the national championship in college. I remember my first D1 offer came from New Mexico State in Grade 11 and I got to tell my family around the dinner table.. just the support from them and excitement at the table is an amazing memory. Then lastly these first few years of playing pro and playing in 3 different countries with my wife being here to support me has been such a great experience. My best game ever was last year in England having my first pro triple double 30-10-12.”
Q: What is the biggest thing you have learned from the game that has improved your life?
A: “It might seem cliche but the game has really taught me a lot about being a leader, and working well in teams. I had a well respected business professor in college who told me he though the best pre requisite to being a C level executive was someone who had been a pro point guard. You have to make decisions on the fly, read the teams emotional IQ, delegate, and be the coach on the floor when things are good and bad. After I’m done playing hoops I think the skills I’ve learned will help me easily fit in to a team in almost any business or team setting.”
Photo Credit: Razorlight Imagery
Q: How do you think the game has differed from the time you were playing in high school to the game now?
A: “The biggest difference is the way social media has taken over the game. So many visual highlights and almost everyone has there best games filmed. I had some huge games in high school, but I don’t even know if we even kept season long stats; and I definitely don’t have video. To me it was all about winning, and chasing that undefeated record. Now I feel like kids are more interested in having some sweet individual highlights that they can make a highlight video with than trying to win a championship or learning how to be a winner.”
Q: If you could go back and tell your grade 8 self one piece of advice what would it be?
A: “Grade 8! Ha that’s a long time ago now! I would probably say continue playing soccer…you are only going to be 6’0 tall! (laughs out loud) No I think I would say to try and make as many connections as possible. You never know as you get older who is in the stands watching, or who is tuning in to your live streamed game. You could have had a horrible season but one game with the right person watching might get you that college scholarship. Finally I would say learn to love working hard. Be excited to get extra reps up after practice. When it starts to pour rain or snow during a soccer or football game be the first guy to laugh and embrace the challenge. Embrace challenges and know that pressure is a privilege if your mentally strong enough.”
Next month we catch up with another member from the 2010 AAA Championship Yale Lions team.