Over the past four years, Kevin McLeod estimates he has spent an average of 20 hours per week on a basketball court.
That’s because the young Charlottetown athlete has been dividing his time between the 2009 Canada Games basketball team that competed in P.E.I., his Colonel Gray AAA high school team and the P.E.I. wheelchair basketball team that is competing this week at the 2011 Canada Winter Games in Halifax.
McLeod’s first ever basketball team was the under-13 P.E.I. squad that competed at the Eastern Canadian Championships in Wolfville, N.S. From there, he went on to play in junior high, on successive under-15 and under-17 provincial teams and with his high school team.
“Many of us all continued to play together provincially and then when we heard about the Canada Games, everyone got excited and trained harder to make that Canada Games team,” he said Tuesday in an interview from Halifax.
Although he was already devoting a lot of time to basketball, McLeod decided to give wheelchair basketball a try this past November when his friend, Ronnie MacPhee, who is on the provincial team, suggested he come to a practice. At the time, the Island squad was short the required number of seven players (which can be a combination of able-bodied and disabled athletes) for a Canada Games team.
“He invited me out to a practice, and the first time I got there I think I made one foul shot and they invited to me to stay. So I kept going to practices and I started liking it more and more. I started getting better and now I am pretty hooked on it.”
McLeod was a natural, says Stephen Farquharson, Team P.E.I.’s coach.
“Whenever he first tried the sport, he seemed to have a natural grasp for the wheelchair game. He picked it up very quickly,” he said, adding that McLeod’s height was also a major asset to his team.
“He already had the basic skills of shooting down, so it was just a matter of trying to learn to use the chair properly.”