As soon as Sydney native Jason Callaghan knew playing for Cape Breton University was a possibility, the thought of leaving the island didn't cross his mind.
"When I was given the opportunity to stay home and commit to CBU I didn't hesitate at all," Callaghan said. "I love it here, so I never really thought about leaving"
Callaghan's transition from playing high school basketball with the Sydney Academy Wildcats to playing in the AUS with the Capers has been seamless.
After an injury to Artur Arhangelski earlier in the season, Callaghan stepped into a starting role for Matt Skinn's Capers squad and has started 7 of the team's 11 games this season.
"It's definitely a big transition when it comes to the size and strength of everyone around me," Callaghan said. "It's also an adjustment with the amount of game planning and effort that goes into preparing for a game."
Callaghan is shooting 36 per cent from three in his rookie season and his status as a floor general has translated well to the university game.
"I was going in [to my rookie year] just wanting to do whatever I could to help us win," Callaghan said. "Even knowing I was undersized, I was never really scared because I felt like my strength is in shooting the ball and having a high basketball IQ. So having those two things allowed me to feel pretty confident playing against anybody"
Callaghan is joined by Sydney Academy alumni Liam MacDonald-Stapleton as the only other local player on the Capers' roster.
While Cape Bretoners have found a lot of success in AUS women's basketball, alumni of the Cape Breton High School Basketball League have found less success in AUS men's basketball. Former CBU forward Kelson Desvereaux was the last Cape Breton native in the men's division to have a large impact in AUS, but Callaghan says to expect more Cape Breton natives to have an impact going forward.
"It's not going to be a rare thing going on around here," Callaghan said. "There are so many guys playing high school right now that have the potential to do that. I think basketball around here has improved so much since kids have been given the opportunity to play all year and focus so much on it. I mean it's not even comparable."
Callaghan credits Basketball Cape Breton with the growth in the area and much of his own development.
"[Basketball Cape Breton] started when I was in grade 7," Callaghan said. "I went away the previous year and I played with Basketball Nova Scotia. But then I stayed home every other year after that—as soon as Basketball Cape Breton was created. They helped me and everyone else around my age to try to improve and they did a great job."
Since starting the season with three consecutive losses, the Capers have jumped in the AUS standings.
"We had a rough start and we weren't clicking but as soon as we got the first regular season win against UNB, things looked up and we're playing really well together," Callaghan said.
After missing the playoffs in the past two seasons, Callaghan says making it to the AUS Championship in Halifax is the goal for the rest of the season.
"Anything can happen if we get to Scotiabank Centre," Callaghan said. "You always want to win a championship. But to do that we need to just put our heads down to get to the playoffs and then anything can happen"
The CAPERS next game is Saturday, February 2nd as they host the Saint Mary's Huskies. The women tip-off at 6pm and the men at 8pm.