Mr. "Air Canada III"
Canadian basketball fans will always appreciate Vince Carter as the most popular “Air Canada” anyone knows. But for many of us Canadians on the ball scene, we had an actual Canadian “Air Canada” years before. That title was officially given to Charles Rochelen of Eastern Commerce H.S. who went on to play for UCLA in the mid 80’s
And even if they didn’t have the name “Air Canada,” as young ballers we all idolized or looked up to some version of that title in our local gyms. Before I got to high school guys like Joe Alexander, Eastern Commerce H.S. then Phil Dickson, Bathurst Heights H.S. ruled the air above. As a player my colleagues and competition above the rim was Keith Vassell, Mother Teresa C.S.S; Rowan Barrett, West Hill C.I. and so many more.
Once I started coaching high school at West Hill C.I. in this era, it was Jevohn Shepherd. Many of the young guys today grew up being entertained by guys like Jevohn on a local level, and if they didn’t, there siblings and peers certainly let them know.
Ironically I met Jevohn when I was a coach at Vince Carter’s basketball camp in the summer of 2001. Jevohn was just beginning to turn heads then, and would later earn the same nickname as the man who ignited the Air Canada Center almost every night.
Jevohn was 6’2 and about to be a freshman in High School. It was another coach at the camp who introduced him to me and suggested he attend my high school. West Hill C.I. would be a great situation for a young player. We were just getting a boost of talent at the Sr. level because of the closing of Bathurst Heights H.S. That meant talent like Denham Brown (U. Conn, 2006 NBA 2nd Rd Pick Seattle Supersonics) and Andrew Carpenter (U. Denver) would be gracing West Hill C.I. hardwood. I knew this would be an opportunity for Jevohn to learn and be challenged, which would only push him to be even better.
The decision was made to move him to the Sr. team with Denham and Andrew right away and the rest is history. Jevohn flourished in the tough training environment and as soon as Denham left, the torch was passed. “J-Shep” took over the scene.
Shep just missed the social media hyped era otherwise he would have definitely broke the internet with his many highlight dunks. I’m glad I was able to save some of what was captured on video, but there were plenty of witnesses in the gyms he packed to confirm what I’m saying. Shep was the most celebrated dunker of his time, as confirmed by winning the dunk contest at the 2005 All Canada Classic National High School All Star Game, and could flat out play. His back to back 2004 Mr. Basketball Ontario and 2005 Mr. Basketball Canada awards closed his chapter on Canadian High School basketball history.
Shep kept the door to the U.S. open for fellow Canadians like Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Myke Kabaongo, Tyler Ennis and Andrew Wiggins to follow. Shep dominated the AAU scene from east to west coast, getting featured in Slam Magazine, leading in offensive rebounding for the World Team at the Hoop Summit, battled above the rim with his teammates Josh McRoberts and Lou Williams at Nike All American Camp, before eventually signing with U. Michigan over programs such as U. Memphis, U. Virginia, and whole lot of other top NCAA D1 teams.
I often wonder what would have happened if Shep would have went to a prep program and played even a season (or 2 if he reclassified) in the U.S. high school scene. Regardless he is still having a great career. He’s served the Canadian National Team for almost a decade and is loved in every city he has played professionally, most recently in Italy for Victoria Libertas Pesaro.
Young Canadian high school ballers owe a debt of gratitude to the work he has done. For us at P.H.A.S.E. 1, we are very proud to have him as our alumni and the definition of what we call an Elite 1.