Former Carleton Ravens hoops star Aaron Doornekamp is on Canada's roster for the FIBA world championship, which begins Saturday in Turkey. From March 19, 2007, here's a post from someone from the same corner of the world, written the day the Odessa native was MVP of the CIS Final 8 after scoring 20 points in a championship-game win over Brandon.
Back in the day, Ernestown Secondary School had an English teacher named Peter Peart. Give a weak answer in his classroom — the sacred confines of 208 — and often you'd get zinged, "Good enough for Odessa."
With that line, Mr. Peart* summed up everything about the hometown and alma mater of Aaron Doornekamp (pictured), who was the linchpin of the Carleton Ravens' latest national championship run on the weekend.
Odessa, Ont., is a basic bedroom community which has had 1,000 people forever and hasn't changed much since I graduated in 1996 (I lived between Odessa and Bath, another bedroom community). It's so nondescript that during the Capital Hoops Classic in January, one writer asked the rest of the press box denizens, "Where's Odessa?" even though there was a good possibility he had driven past it on Hwy. 401 dozens of times.
Anyway, "good enough for Odessa" laid it out there. You had a choice: Be small time and never live a day in your life, or go for the big time. You might pull it off, but it could also be a royal asskicking.
Hopefully that gives some context to why it was such a trip yesterday, a for a fellow ex-Ernestown Eagle to see Doornekamp hugging his proud father Henk on the Halifax Metro Centre floor in front of thousands of people and a national TV audience. Aaron, the last in the Doornekamp-Smart line of succession that basically was one-half to two-thirds of Ernestown's basketball program for about a decade, kicked plenty of ass himself to help secure the Ravens' fifth straight national title.
Canadians generally don't do the whole alumni thing like Americans do when it comes to their high schools. Ernestown is no exception in this regard, but damn is it freakin' sweet to see one of our own garner such accolades. It almost makes up all the jokes and snide comments people make about a rural high school, along with the myth about buying a statue of the horse instead of football equipment, which is even acknowledged on the school homepage.
My mom teaches at ESS. Last April, a popular recent graduate, Tristan Webb, was killed after being struck by a train. A few weeks later, three students were charged with making alleged Internet death threats, which made national headlines. Right after the new school year started, there was a pellet gun shooting on a school bus which occurred the same day as the shootings at Dawson College in Montreal. It's been a rough 12 months, so any positive publicity for Ernestown is really good these days.
So call it cornball, maybe even a little sad on my part, but yeah, it's OK to vicariously celebrate this.
On Saturday, you could watch one former Eagle, '96 grad Adnan Virk, anchor NCAA Tournament coverage on The Score in the afternoon, then flip over to TSN and see Aaron Doornekamp play a big part Carleton's semi-final win over Ottawa. Was there another high school in in Canada, let alone one with 650 students in a village of 1,000 people, which had two of its grads playing prominent roles in the hoopla for both the U.S. and Canadian versions of March Madness on the weekend?
Good enough for Odessa? Hell, we're good enough for the whole country. One cannot help but think back to mentors such as Mr. Peart, who saw that we were. Thanks, Aaron, for making sure some of us can't forget where we came from.
(* No relation to Neil Peart of Rush fame, although over the years Peter probably gulled more than one teenage metalhead who asked. Deadpanning, "Yes, he's my brother," would have them going, usually for a couple seconds.)