North Van's Robert Sacre on playing with Kobe, CIS Final 8 National Championship at UBC

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Image: Canada Basketball

When your father played in the NFL, and your mother was an NCAA Division 1 basketball star, sports and competition are in your DNA.

Robert Sacre knew playing at the highest level was what he wanted to do.

“I looked up to my mom and dad, and knew from a young age that I wanted to be an athlete.”

Sacre moved to the North Shore when he was seven, and was standing 6-feet, 8-inches tall by the eighth grade, but there was no pressure to play basketball from his parents.

“I wasn’t forced into anything, they let me know do what I wanted, which made it easier for me growing up, I chose basketball.”

He attended Handsworth Secondary in North Vancouver, where his mother worked hard to raise him. Although he was a part of the provincial champions in 2006, his best memories from playing in high school come from spending time with his classmates.

“I was very fortunate to have a great group of friends and teammates during my time at Handsworth, just being with them at tournaments was enough for me.”

Sacre accepted a scholarship offer from Gonzaga, a team that is almost always playing in the March Madness tournament. He averaged just 9 minutes a game in his freshman year, and an injury gave him medical red-shirt status for his second season. Coming back for the 2009-10 year, Sacre was ready to make the jump.

“I stayed at Gonzaga that whole summer and just worked on my game, I was focused and at the gym every single day, doing what I needed to do to get better, all the work paid off.”

In his senior year, Sacre averaged 11 points and 6 rebounds a game, leading his team to the second round of the championship tournament. He went into the 2012 NBA Draft uncertain of his status, but his dream was realized with the final pick in the 2nd round, where he was picked by an iconic franchise, the Los Angeles Lakers.

“I can’t put into words of what it’s like to be with such an historic franchise, I am blessed to be playing in Los Angeles. My goal was always to play in the NBA, and realizing that goal was very special.”

In his rookie season, the Lakers had championship aspirations. They acquired all-stars Dwight Howard and fellow B.C. boy Steve Nash, joining forces with one of the greatest players of all time, Kobe Bryant.

The team struggled to find chemistry, and injuries have taken their toll on Bryant, who has said this is his final season in the NBA. Sacre relishes the time he has spent with Black Mamba.

“Kobe’s been great. He demands a certain level when you come onto the court, and expects you to meet it. This year, he’s been the lightest he has been since I got here, and he has loosened up personally, which is a drastic change, but this year has been my favourite being his teammate.”

Sacre is part of the Canadian National team, which has seen a renaissance the last few years. With big names like Andrew Wiggins in the league, and upcoming talent like Jamal Murray in Kentucky, Canada is experiencing a golden age for basketball.

Image: UBC

SEE ALSO: UBC announces Kelly Olynyk as ambassador for CIS Final 8 Basketball Championships

“It really helped having NBA teams in the country growing up, it gave us something to look forward to, that was the biggest key for us, and I really believe there should be an NBA team in Vancouver.”

Sacre believes there is still some room left for the game of basketball to grow in Canada.

“I think there needs to be a guy to come out of a Canadian university to make it to the league. That’s the next goal, it’ll help take the program to a whole new level.”

Sacre joins fellow NBA player Kelly Olynyk as official ambassadors for the CIS Men’s Basketball Championship, which is being played at UBC for the first time in 44 years.

The CIS Final 8 National Championship runs March 17-20 at UBC.

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