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Sun Youth basketball player Wilguens Exacte Jr. practises at Bois-Franc Park in St-Laurent on July 8, 2020.
Sun Youth basketball player Wilguens Exacte Jr. at Bois-Franc Park in St-Laurent on July 8, 2020.
Wilguens Exacte Jr. won’t have to worry about how to pay for his university education.
A month before the St-Laurent native’s 17th birthday, he was offered a basketball scholarship to George Mason University, an NCAA Division I school in Fairfax, Va.
While Canada has become a fertile recruiting ground for U.S. schools during the past decade, Exacte’s path to George Mason is a bit unusual.
Exacte, who has been lighting it up at Sun Youth and Collège Notre-Dame, hasn’t finished high school and he won’t enrol at George Mason until 2022.
And, because of the pandemic, both parties are taking a leap of faith. Normally, there is a lot of interaction involved in the recruiting of an athlete. Coaches visit the athlete, watch him in action and get to know his family. And recruits usually visit the campus and get a feel for what might become their home for four years.
With the Canada-U.S. border closed, none of that was possible.
George Mason’s interest in Exacte was based on word of mouth, highlight videos and the Sun Youth connection.
“My first contact with the school was from coach Joseph,” said Exacte. “He talked to me a couple of times and then I talked to the head coach (Dave Paulsen and he offered me a scholarship.”
“Coach Joseph” is Maurice Joseph and he’s the Sun Youth connection. Joseph played at Sun Youth and was a teammate of Sun Youth basketball coordinator Rodney Skerritt at Champlain College in St-Lambert. Joseph, who played at Michigan State and the University of Vermont, was hired as an assistant coach at George Mason this year.
Exacte, who is 6-foot-5, describes himself as a well-rounded player.
“I like to rebound, I can go to the net and I’m a pretty good shooter,” said Exacte. “I’m a shooting guard, but I can also play the point.”
“He has great jumping ability and he can shoot really well, but he’s also a very unselfish player,” said Skerritt.
In addition to his play in Montreal, Exacte has been able to showcases his talent on larger stages. He was selected for the Canadian team that played in the 2019 FIBA Americas tournament, but a conflict with school forced him to skip the event.
“My mother was afraid I’d miss some (Quebec provincial exams) and we only found out later they could have sent the tests to me,” said Exacte.
He has competed at AAU tournaments in the U.S. as part of the Under Armour Canada Elite team and he rubbed shoulders and traded elbows with some of the best prospects in the U.S. last year when he went to Houston to attend an elite camp run by former NBA star and coach John Lucas.
Skerritt said George Madison made the right move by offering Exacte a scholarship early.
“They recognized his talent and they knew that he would be getting other offers so they decided to pull the trigger and make an offer,” said Skerritt.
Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2020