Growing as a player
SYDNEY, N.S. — Growing up on Caldwell Avenue on Ottawa's west side, Eugene Kankue knew he had to find something better to do than hanging out on the streets.
"In my neighbourhood, there were a lot of distractions when I was younger," said Kankue. "There was a gym near my house and I got involved in the sports and recreation they had, and I guess I was influenced to play basketball."
The 19-year-old credits his mentor, who goes by the name "Turtle," for helping him find his passion for the sport.
"He wanted me to get into sports and stuff because he knew there was a lot of distractions in my neighbourhood such as violence and he knew I didn't want to be involved in that.
"A lot of the boys I looked up too when I was younger kind of went to the streets and I didn't want to go into that same route, I knew I had to do other things to take my mind off that."
- Hometown: Ottawa, Ont.
- Age: 19
- Position: Guard
- Height: 6'1"
- He played his high school basketball with St. Patrick's High School in Ottawa
- Following high school, he played with Central Technical School in Toronto
- He was recruited to play for the Cape Breton Capers and is in his first season with the club
In high school, Kankue played for St. Patrick's High School, winning a pair of city championship titles with the Ottawa-based school.
Unfortunately for Kankue, he was unable to play in the championship game in his Grade 11 year because of injury, but he redeemed himself in his graduating year.
"I wanted to prove to everyone that I could still play basketball and that I could still help my team win," said Kankue. "I did that, and we won the championship and that was probably my favourite year of basketball."
Following high school, the guard went on to play for Central Technical School in Toronto, before being recruited to play for the Cape Breton Capers in Atlantic University Sport.
In 11 games this season for Cape Breton, Kankue has averaged 11.9 points per game and 2.2 rebounds.
"I know I can score much more, and I can average much more," said Kankue. "My percentages aren't so good, so my main focus is to work on that – my defense needs a lot of work, and I know there is always room for improvement and I can't really settle for what I have right now."
Kankue, who is enrolled in the bachelor of arts community studies program at Cape Breton University, said the team didn't start the season the way it wanted.
"We had a quick turnaround and we started playing Capers basketball and the way that we knew we could," said Kankue of Capers season to date. "Once you play your game, you start winning games and you keep going and going until someone wants to beat you."
Kankue, who has always lived in larger centres like Ottawa and Toronto, admits playing in a small community like Sydney has its benefits.
"I realize there is so much support here, more than any other city that I know," said Kankue. "Even if people don't like basketball, they still come to the games and support us, so it's a different type of love and support in Cape Breton – I like it."
Although winning a championship with the Capers is one of his goals, Kankue hopes to one day play professional basketball after his time in university.
"First things first, I have to finish my school, I promised my parents that," said Kankue. "My parents are another reason why I want to play pro basketball because they have taken care of me and have done so much for me.
"For me, doing what I love and making money is how I want to repay my parents. I'm going to give back to my parents everything they gave me."
The CAPERS play host to the St.Francis Xavier X-men on Wednesday, February 13th. The women Tip-off at 6pm and Kankue and the men at 8pm.