Olivier-Maxence Prosper on GLOBL Jam, Canada becoming a basketball powerhouse – Sportsnet.ca

Olivier-Maxence Prosper is always thinking about home.

The Montréal native may have left home at age 16 to pursue his basketball future, but his family, as well as all of the kids with hoop dreams of their own back home, are always close to his heart.

When Prosper found out about GLOBL JAM — an international showcase of the best young basketball talent around the world, taking place in Toronto this summer — he was hyped. An opportunity to show out at home, in front of friends and family, while also potentially inspiring younger Canadians to seek out their own dreams? This is Prosper’s dream scenario.

“I’m super excited,” he said. “It’s a great opportunity to go and represent Canada on home soil. We’re going to get to play really good games against other countries. It’s a great event to really showcase Canada Basketball and really just go out and have fun.

“I’m excited to play against all the other elite athletes under 23, and just play with [the Canadian team] and go out there and hopefully win games.”

After earning a bronze medal with Canada at the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021 last summer, Prosper is looking forward to playing alongside some of his Team Canada teammates, as well as go against some of the young talent he faced in the tournament in Hungary. He’s also proud of what the event signifies for the country as a whole.

“It’s a real sign [that Canada has arrived] because now that you look, you see Canada hosting an event like this and you have other countries willing to come to Canada to compete,” he said. “This shows that they recognize us as a powerhouse of basketball. To play in this event that was created by Canada Basketball shows that they think it is good competition and this year they respect us and respect Canadian basketball. I can’t wait to see what the future holds for Canada Basketball.”

The FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup 2021 was Prosper’s first time suiting up for Canada, but it certainly won’t be his last.

“It was great, honestly,” he said of his experience. “I mean, going all the way to Hungary and playing last year and going on to get the bronze medal, just [getting the] experience playing with those guys, I will cherish it forever. It was an amazing experience.”

From the U19 World Cup to playing in this year’s NCAA tournament with Marquette University, in a year where there was a record number of Canadian men and women competing in the tournaments, Prosper’s excitement about the growth of the game in Canada is palpable.

“This next wave of Canadian basketball players, we are the future,” he said. “Every year, just more Canadians in the NBA and all that stuff. We’re consistently becoming bigger and bigger and like, people are recognizing Canada basketball and that’s what we want. I take a lot of pride in being the next generation of Canadian [basketball players].”

Prosper’s success at the NCAA level — he was given Marquette’s Gold Award this season, given to the top defender on the team — follows years of work at his craft. Though it was difficult to leave home at such a young age, playing at Lake Forest Academy in Illinois before transferring to the NBA’s Latin American Academy in Mexico City to finish out his high school career, Prosper knows the decision helped to prepare him for the next level.

“When I left home at 16, I just turned 16, I knew I wanted to leave at that point because the competition here in Montréal, in Canada, I was dominating,” he said. “I knew I needed a new challenge. And going to that prep school, you don’t have your parents around. It’s just you by yourself. You have to mature very quickly. You’ve got to have a routine. You’ve got to do all those things because you’re by yourself. It’s on you. It’s all up to you.”

He credits those years away from home with helping him to mature on and off the court.

“Looking back now, I’m so grateful for that year because you know, now I’m mature enough to be able to live by myself and, and I just love those things that I learned,” he said. “I would just say, like, it was hard at first. I was home sick of it and all that stuff, but after I got used to it and matured, I’m glad I made that decision at that age.”

Staying in close contact with his family helped the adjustment. Daily phone and Zoom calls, and frequent texts help to bridge the distance. Prosper is extremely close with his parents and younger sister, Cassandre, who most recently played for Canada in the FIBA U16 Women’s Americas Championship 2021. Prosper knows that his sister is looking up to him and that is a role he doesn’t ever take for granted.

“She’s everything to me,” Prosper said. “Being her older brother, I just try to be the best example and the best role model I can be for her. Everything I go through, everything I do is just an example for her and the experiences I’ve experienced is to make sure she just [has even] better experiences than I have. You know, everything that I go through is just for me to set up a better future for her. And that’s what I’m trying to do. Everything I do in life, I’m just trying to do it to the best of my ability so that when she gets to my point, or my age or wherever, she can be even better. That’s just the way I look at it. And that’s the way I go about everything. And seeing her success, I mean, I’m just so proud of her.”

Prosper’s passionate about wanting to help those around him succeed. This isn’t just limited to his own friends and family, either. When it comes to those younger Canadians with hoop dreams of their own, he wanted to leave them with this message:

“I just would like to emphasize to all the young Canadians and also young Canadians in Quebec: It doesn’t matter where you come from,” he said. “You can’t worry about what others think or where others say or do, or what people think about you at the end of the day. Because if you do that, then it ain’t going to work. I realized that growing up. The moment you worry about what others think about you, or you worry about critics or what people say, then you ain’t gonna reach your full potential.

“Go out there, keep your head down and go straight for it. And it doesn’t matter if you come from Toronto, Ottawa, B.C., wherever you come from in Canada. You can still achieve whatever you want. If you stay focused and stay on the right track, you stay disciplined and you believe that you can do it. You can’t wait for others to believe in you. You have to believe in yourself first. And if you believe it doesn’t matter what others think. I just want to put that out there to all young Canadians.”

This story was first published by Canada Basketball.

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