Aprille Deus may be enjoying her time on the court right now, but the Acadia basketball player hopes to have a shot at another position in the future.
The Brampton, Ont., resident has been dreaming of coaching basketball since the eighth grade and has already made strides towards making her dreams a reality.
Two years ago, Deus became aware the Toronto Raptors ran summer clinics as part of their Raptors Basketball Academy program.
“I emailed the team about the camp, asking if there were any opportunities,” she said. Less than 24-hours later, she received a response. “They said they were full, but that I would be first on the waiting list. When someone had to drop out, I got to do it. It’s been a great experience.”
Last summer, Deus did mentorships with both the Raptors and Basketball Canada. Her mentorship with the Raptors led to her - and Acadia Axewomen coach Bev Greenlaw - being featured in a video.
The recording process took place last October, when the Raptors were in Halifax for a training camp and over the Christmas break in Toronto.
“I got to meet the current GM and the rest of the coaching staff,” she said.
Deus also got to meet Raptors head coach Dwayne Casey, who she described as “a cool guy.”
Casey, she said, has “a very calm aspect to his personality. He’s quite different from Coach Bev, who is more animated.
“I’m able to learn a lot from both of their styles.”
Coaching at the grass roots
Deus has been able to get some hands-on experience with coaching youth at home in Brampton.
“When I’m at home, I do clinics at local schools, teaching basic skills. I talk about what a dream is, to motivate the kids to do well in school and work toward dreams of their own,” she said.
Canada, Deus said, has had success developing players who have gone on to play in the NCAA or overseas.
“I’ve played with or against a lot of them. I can see the importance of development at a young age,” she said.
“I want to be a part of developing future players for Canada. I think it could be a life-changing experience for me.”
Her goal is to coach high school or university someday, but she would like to start out coaching children.
“I’m really interested in the ‘grass roots’ process of developing players at a young age,” she said.
She’s also getting coaching experience at Acadia. Greenlaw says Deus’ level of engagement in the team’s work with the Junior Axewomen “has been one building block in her coaching development. She has worked hard to learn from as many sources as possible and I’m sure she will do so the rest of her life.”
Deus plans to work for the Raptors again as part of what is looking like a busy summer.
“I’ll be heading back in mid-May to work the Raptors Basketball Academy and I’ll be travelling back to the U.S. to attend Point Guard College as an instructor,” she said. “I’ll also be an assistant coach, for a second year, for my former club team.”
On the court
Deus, a point guard, is considered by Greenlaw to be one of the veteran building blocks for a still-young Axewomen team.
Greenlaw describes Deus as “an exceptional young woman” with “tremendous positive energy and enthusiasm.”
Deus says she has enjoyed her time with the Axewomen, and especially being able to grow, as a player, along with a young team.
“Next year’s team should look a lot like this year’s,” she said.
“All our first-year players are looking forward to working out and improving over the summer. Hopefully, everyone will do their work, and come back that much better. It all starts with commitment. We had a lot of growing pains this past year, but there’s definitely promise there.”
Deus has “absolutely no regrets” about choosing Acadia.
“It’s been neat to learn from Coach Bev. He’s told me he’s harder on me because he feels I’m most like him, in the way I think about the game,” she said.
“He knows the potential is there for me to break out,” both in the short-term as a player and in the long-term as a potential coach someday.
“It may take some time,” she says, “but I’m up to it.”