CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – There are more than 130 Canadians playing division 1 basketball in the NCAA.
One of the next might be a Nova Scotian plying his trade at Holland College.
Jace Colley, a 21-year-old East Preston, N.S., native, is drawing significant interest south of the border. A handful of division one schools are in touch and a couple, including Chicago State and Binghamton universities, have made him offers.
“I’ve always wanted to play division 1 basketball,” he said during a recent practice. “It’s been my motivation, which is keeping me on my toes and keeping me in the gym every day.”
Colley’s path to being discovered in Canada’s smallest province wasn’t the straightest one, but it is one that shows a lot can be accomplished with hard work and determination.
“It speaks to the basketball world right now. If there’s enough talent, they’ll find you,” Holland College Hurricanes head coach Josh Whitty said.
“The opportunities that are being presented (to him) are opportunities that he has created for himself by being very committed both on and off the court and academically.”
Colley, a six-foot-seven wing, whose weight fluctuates between 190 and 200 pounds, has been a game changer since arriving in Charlottetown last year. He was named the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association rookie of the year and all-Canadian last season. He has taken his game to another level this season as the Hurricanes chase their seventh straight conference title and the one piece that has eluded the program since its inception in 2006 – a national title.
He can beat teams in many ways – by scoring the rock inside or out, swatting away a shot from his team’s rim on defence, getting into the passing lane or grabbing a rebound and starting the fast break.
“Versatility and efficiency are the two words I like to look at,” he said when asked to describe his game.
There are many things that are surprising about Colley.
“When I first started playing, I was one of the shortest players on my team, believe it or not,” he said. “I was actually a shooting guard and I was one of our best three-point shooters. That was kind of my role. Then one summer I grew from five-foot-eight to six-foot-one in a summer.”
He ended up playing on Auburn Drive High School’s junior varsity team in Grade 10. He was planning on taking a trade at community college and was taking a trades program in high school.
But, basketball sparked another path for him.
He left Nova Scotia for a prep school when he was 17, enrolling at the Toronto Basketball Academy. He had former teammates who had played on the team and moved in with his best friend since they were four – UPEI Panthers guard Dakelle Brooks.
His game continued to grow, but after 1 ½ seasons in Toronto, Colley was exploring options for his next stop.
He was looking for the closest institution where he could take a mechanics program and play basketball at a high level.
Enter Holland College.
The one problem was the program that he wanted to enrol in was full.
Whitty suggested business and the young man agreed, providing the chance for him to continue to get better while pursuing his diploma.
Colley is a modest young man.
He remembers looking at the roster before last season and wondering if he could crack the starting lineup.
Whitty put those questions to rest early when he announced his starting five for the team’s first pre-season game against Acadia.
“I was ecstatic,” Colley said. “Since then, I just didn't want to let anyone down.”
Holland College has a slew of two-year programs, and the Hurricanes have had a lot of talented players come through its men’s basketball program. Many have been at other colleges or universities, including a couple of division 1 players, but Colley is the best first-year player – true rookie – Whitty has seen at Holland College.
And while Colley has received a lot of attention, it hasn’t negatively impacted the rest of the team as it does in some cases.
“There’s no jealously, there’s no animosity,” Whitty said.
“Nothing about this whole process has ever interfered with team goals,” he added. “His goal here is to try and help us try to win a national championship and that comes first and foremost.”
Colley is appreciative of his teammates and coaches for all they have done for him as the Hurricanes (10-0) look to continue their winning ways.
“Everybody has been supportive. They work hard. The thing I like the most is they’re so unselfish,” he said.
Asked to look back and compare the trajectory of his career to where it was in high school, Colley smiles.
“It’s been night and day,” he said. “You don't really see how far you’re coming along as you’re (going through the various stages), but . . . now when I look back it’s definitely a huge improvement.”
Colley said he’s been fortunate to have a supportive family, including his parents, William and Lesley, and older brother Riley, and other people surrounding him.
“You have to find people you can trust and people who are actually looking out for you,” he said.
They will be good sounding boards as he prepares to decide on where to go next season. While it is a big decision, Colley is staying in the moment.
“The goals I have for next year always keep me motivated to try and get better each day,” he said. “I just look at the next step. I don't look too far ahead.”
Wherever that is, Colley will have Islanders, who have been fortunate to see him play locally, pulling for him.
“I’m confident with the rate he has improved here that wherever he goes he’s going to carve out a good role for himself and he’s going to produce at a high level,” Whitty said.
Need to know
Who – A 21-year-old East Preston, N.S., native and a member of the Holland College Hurricanes men’s basketball.
The latest – He is gaining attention from college and universities in the United States.
Colley said: “I am definitely, by far, my harshest critic. I feel like everything I do well, I’m supposed to do, and the things I don't do well, I need to do better at.”
Head coach Josh Whitty: “He’s a really good kid to start. He works really hard. His effort is always there – day in, day out. He’s totally committed to doing things the right way.”
Season GP Pts./G Reb./G A/G
2018-19 10 25.7 8.9 3.8
2017-18 21 16.1 6.5 1.5
Season FG 3 FT
2018-19 68.2 34.4 69
2017-18 60.3 25.9 61.5
Upcoming home games
7 p.m. – St. Thomas at Holland College.
5 p.m. – Crandall at Holland College.
4 p.m. – Mount Saint Vincent at Holland College.
8 p.m. – Mount Allison at Holland College.
4 p.m. – Dal AC at Holland College.
8 p.m. – Crandall at Holland College.
4 p.m. – UNBSJ at Holland College.