On my last check West Hill Collegiate in Scarborough, Ontario had 10 currently active Canadian professional basketball players. That is more than any other Canadian high school in the new millennium. More importantly the approximately $3, 000,000 in scholarship money produced more bachelors and masters degrees than professional contracts. An accomplishment of this magnitude could not be possible without great sacrifice from leisure time, personal relationships, part time jobs and family, for all involved. Each player created a mighty legacy of their own but collectively gave West Hill C.I. a lineage of distinguished gentlemen poised to be role models for the next generation of student athletes. I share their legacy to inspire them to continue to grow as the Global Ambassadors they are blessed to be, representing "the Hill" in dozens of countries around the world. From my arrival in 2001 to my departure in 2010, here's a look at how that collective Journey of Elite 1's transpired...
"West Hill man, I don't even know where to start nor do I even have a clue where I'd be had I not gone there. I learned so much during my years at the hill, on the court and off. When it comes to basketball it was there I understood what it meant to train and develop your skills. To this day I possess those same habits playing professionally and just in everyday life. Two of the most inspirational quotes I ever got came from Coach Dawkins. "Do you want to be a star now or when it counts, the days you take off somebody across the world is working". I had gone in as probably one of the worst players the school had seen. I was too focused on the now and not the outcome. Once I embraced that it enabled me to remain patient but work ten times harder knowing the end goal was to make it count when it counted. Here I am today playing my tenth year professionally and member of the Canadian National team!" - Jevohn Shepherd, West Hill 2005
Kyle Johnson owns two very special millennium hallmarks. I had the honor of sharing the first one with Kyle when I was selected as a coach for the Nike Global Challenge in 2007 but it would be Kyle who left the biggest impression. As Captain the Canadian Global Challenge Team he would put on a performance worthy of tournament All Star with a field that featured future NBA stars DeMarr Derozen-Toronto Raptors, Kemba Walker-Charlotte Hornets, Tyreke Evans - Memphis/Sacramento Kings, Isiah Thomas-Boston Celtics and more.
"The training at West Hill was very advanced and intense. It really helped prepare me for what I was going to come up against in university. Not only was it physically tough but also mentally tough. I've learned some great habits from West Hill that I still carry with me and use to this day." - Kyle Johnson, West Hill CI 2007
The ball would continue to roll for Kyle because after a trip to the 2011 NCAA tournament with his Long Island University team, he would soon become the only Canadian male basketball player to participate in the 2012 Olympics held in London England. After not receiving an invite to the Canadian National Team, Kyle accepted an invite to try out for Great Britain, the country of his parents heritage. Shortly after receiving a dual passport he would find himself on the journey of a lifetime representing the Queen of England alongside his new teammates Luol Deng of the Chicago Bulls and former Toronto Raptor, Pops Mensah Bonsu. The first battle for Kyle would be defending his new flag against the U.S. Dream Team. It was a blessing for me to be able to travel to London and support Kyle as he matched up against Russell Westbrook, Chris Paul, Kobe Bryant and Lebron James. Just a kid from "the Hill" that was already used to fighting for opportunities along side other great players.
Of course no one can dispute Denham Brown’s place in history. Denham became the first
Canadian NBA draft pick of the millennium, when the former Seattle Supersonics selected him with their 35th pick in 2006 draft and the only NCAA Champion when his U Conn Huskies beat the Duke Blue Devils in the 2004 NCAA finals. Denham also stands as the millenniums first Canadian high schooler drafted to the NBA, who finished his prep years in Canada. Denham not only made everyone better basketball players with his tremendous work ethic but he became the focal point for the building of the West Hill Family. We traveled as a pack through every new door he opened, whether it was Nike All American Camp, Pittsburgh Hoops Classic, countless NCAA games throughout the Big East Conference or "the Hills" first NBA Draft party. Denham made the dream real for everyone and to him we owe a great honor.
At West Hill CI the hardest workers didn't always have the biggest names but settling was never going to be an option. Ashton Smith would become one of "the Hill's" greatest examples of climbing out of the shadows of the other great players and casting a huge shadow of his own. From his initial disappointment of limited NCAA D1 offers, came an opportunity to take a different route and accept a scholarship to Indiana U.-Purdue U. Indianapolis (IUPUI) a small NCAA D2 school. The end result has been a storybook basketball experience that continues to heat up. After "the Hill" Ashton would lead IUPUI to 3 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) Championships, 4 NCAA D2 Championship appearances and an the 2010 D2 National Finals. Along the way earning 2010 First Team All-PSAC West, 2012 D2 All American and the 2012 PSAC Player of the Year. The IUPUI All Time Assist Leader would then go on to be one of the 1st Canadians to make the inaugural 2015 Raptors 905 D-League team roster.
From there, the list of 2K accomplishments continued to grow for the mighty West Hill Warriors from the back end of Scarborough. Our list of basketball players playing post secondary, whether on full NCAA Scholarship, in the Canadian Interscholastic Sports League (CIS) or Ontario College Athletics Association (OCAA) would grow steadily.
Even guys that attended West Hill but didn't get to compete for "the Hill" were influenced by the basketball culture. 6'11 Liam McMorrow chose to focus on hockey and lacrosse while at West Hill despite my effort to convince him otherwise. I did convince him to attend Durham College for a year and play basketball and see what could come of it. Liam would have a season at Durham College worthy of attracting Marquette U., a top Big East Conference school. With one year of competitive basketball under his belt, Liam would accept a scholarship to play for Marquette U. and then finish at Tennessee Tech U. After graduating Liam would turn professional and even joined the Los Angeles Clippers 2015 NBA Summer League Team in Orlando, Florida. He continues to play professionally to this day.
"It appears that the plan we worked out when I came in that day is working out really good. I appreciate the advice of going to Durham College for the year, if I didnt do that there is no way I would be where I am right now, thanks again Coach Dawkins!" - Liam McMorrow, West Hill 2006
As a team there were many tournament championships to go along with 6 straight Scarborough Championships (not including the season in 2001/2002 when the team got disqualified for an ineligible player), Ontario Federation of School Athletic Associations (OFSAA) Bronze in 2004 and Silver in 2005
Early 2000's would awaken the greatest rivalry of downtown Toronto and Scarborough. West Hill and Eastern Commerce battling for the not only the GTA supremacy but producing the top players and award winners. The intense rivalry grew such a following in 2006 it drew 3,000 fans to the Air Canada Center for the 1st High School Showcase ever played at the home of the Toronto Raptors, and hosted by P.H.A.S.E. 1.
Behind the scenes very few people knew the greatest rivalry had also created some of the best friendships. Roy Rana, the head coach of Eastern Commerce during one of their many reigns of terror on high school basketball, became one of my closest friend to this day. I credit him as my greatest basketball coaching mentor and a catalyst for West Hill becoming a Greater Toronto Area (GTA) powerhouse. Roy's 2002 team relentlessly abused us on the way to a 60pt loss during a playoff run. That loss was so bad, in anger I took the train to Eastern Commerce and knocked on his gym door to ask him how and why! In shock he let me in and after a inspiring conversation a friendship and coaching partnership was born, Nike Global Challenge, P1 Training Centers and more . We would only beat Eastern one time for the decade but we never went down without a battle to the buzzer.
The rivalry and friendship between West Hill and Eastern Commerce instilled in me a greater appreciation for how much the confidence of a great leader can transfer into your athletes. The players that would come to "the Hill" after never understood the relationship but they benefitted from the passion it produced. Both West Hill and Eastern teams would even join forces to take on the AAU scene prompting me to retire P.H.A.S.E. 1 as an AAU team and all join the Toronto Mission AAU run by the late Kerriegh Ernst and Roy Rana. Thank you from all of us Warriors you looked out for! May you rest in Peace Coach Ernst...
Historically West Hill has had a proud basketball tradition. Some of the greatest talent in Canadian Basketball history has graced the Warrior hardwood. The legendary twins Delroy and Leroy Williams, Rowan Jones a dunking freak of nature and Rowan Barrett a Canadian National Team staple. However what is most impressive about the 2000 millennium group of Warrior's basketball players is what they would go on to accomplish:
Nike All American Camp - Denham Brown 2002 and Jevohn Shepherd 2004, Pittsburgh Hoops Showcase, U.S.A. National All Star Game - Denham Brown 2002, Roderick Ramsay 2003, Nike Hoop Summit, Global All Star Game – Jevohn Shepherd 2005, Nike Global Challenge - Kyle Johnson 2007, Dwayne Smith 2008
P.H.A.S.E. 1 All Canada Classic-Rumble in the T-Dot, Canadian National High School All Star Game – Denham Brown 2001, 2002, - Andrew Carpenter 2001, 2002 - Dorian Andrews 2003, Roderick Ramsay 2003, - Nathan Skinner 2005, Jevohn Shepherd 2004, 2005, - Kaylan Anderson 2004, 2005, - Jamaar Burke 06, Rio Pitt 2006, Kyle Johnson 2007, Taylor Johnston 2009, Adrian Tomlinson 2007, Dwayne Smith 2008, 2009
Mr Basketball Canada-Denham Brown 2001,2002, Jevohn Shepherd 2005, Mr Basketball Ontario-Jevohn Shepherd 2004
NCAA Tournament Appearances: Denham Brown-U Conn, Kyle Johnson-Long Island U., Ashton Smith-IUPUI, NCAA Conference Championships: Denham Brown – U. Conn (Big East), Kyle Johnson-Long Island U. (NEC), Ashton Smith-IPUI (PSAC), D1 NCAA Championships: Denham Brown-U Conn, D2 NCAA Championships: Ashton Smith-IUPUI
British National Team - Kyle Johnson 2011-present, Olympics – Kyle Johnson (Great Britain 2012) Canadian National Team – Denham Brown, Jevohn Shepherd
NBA Draft Pick-Denham Brown (Seattle Supersonics 2006), NBA D-League-Denham Brown (Iowa Energy 2006), NBA D-League -Ashton Smith (2015 Toronto Raptors 905) NBA Summer League - Liam McMorrow (LA Clippers 2015)
NCAA D1 Associate Head Coach (Rio Pitt, South Carolina State 2015-Present), Face of the “We The North” (Dane Smith 2015-Present), Nike Crown League Champions (Dane Smith and Dwayne Smith 2015), Nike Crown League MVP (Dwayne Smith 2015)
West Hill Collegiate Pro's in 2000
As a former classroom teacher for many of them, I am most proud of the number of Bachelor’s and Master's Degrees held by this group of student athletes. Even more impressive was the fact the majority of the group came from some of the most notorious neighborhoods in Toronto, Malvern, Galloway, Orton Park, Jungle, Jane and Finch.
But equally as impressive were the ones that travelled from far distances to be part of what was being built. Dorian Andrews was the first of the Edmonton arrivals when he cam in 2002. Dorian went on to receive a basketball scholarship and graduate from St. Andrew's University in Laurinburg, North Carolina. Dorian's now a family man with a successful business back in Edmonton. He remains a close friend and business partner who holds a seat as a Director in P.H.A.S.E. 1. Dorian's trailblazing would soon open a pathway from Western Canada. Jamaal Buckner and Andrew Champagnie would soon follow from Edmonton, Alberta and Mike Luby would journey from Kenora, Manitoba for a chance to be plugged in to the machine that was being built.
" It was an opportunity of a life time to train, play alongside the best, & play against the best basketball talent in Canada. At West Hill, our coaches Mr. Dawkins & Mr. Wolch not only attracted great basketball talents but also brought in American & Canadian Coaches to peak their interest at our practices. It really was the beginning of an era. Our team had at least 4 players get Scholarships to American Colleges, myself included...Such an amazing experience." Dorian Andrews, West Hill 2003
The commitment to travel was no less for the ones that came from other parts of the Greater Toronto Area. Kris Douse from Brampton, Kyle Johnson and Juevol Myles from Ajax, Dane and Dwayne from Jungle (Toronto), and Taylor Johnston from Whitby. Taylor Johnston came to West Hill in the 9th grade and commuted daily by GO Bus followed by local Toronto Transit for 3 years before getting his drivers license and driving to "the Hill". The sacrifice for Taylor he never regrets. He received a full basketball scholarship to Binghamton University one of the top business schools in America. In 2013 he graduated with a Bachelors in Economics and remained on scholarship to receive his MBA in 2015. Taylor now works for Protiviti as a Management Consultant and lives in Manhattan, New York City.
“ I came to West Hill Collegiate Institute because in grade 8 I set a goal to achieve an NCAA Division 1 basketball scholarship. West Hill was a basketball powerhouse with great coaches and teams which allowed me to be coached and play with the best in Canada. While at West Hill I learned importance of having a strong work-ethic, determination and teamwork. These are three character traits that have helped me to continue to achieve the goals I set out for myself on and off the court." – Taylor Johnson, West Hill 2009
With so many athletes leaving their home schools and traveling a great distance it made many in the basketball community accuse us of recruiting. My answer to this day is "if you focus on building something great inside then the outside will become that much more attractive". Plus, with me running Grassroots Canada and then P.H.A.S.E. 1, it was difficult to keep parents and kids from trying to enroll and keep their children close. Either way, history always reveals the irony (I really would call in hypocrisy) in past events. Today athletes are celebrated for being brave enough at 14 years old to leave their designated school and home to find the best opportunities in basketball in places as far away as Texas and Florida.
Our West Hill trailblazers may never be recognized for transferring schools and leaving Canada to go to prep schools in the U.S. but these decision were in the best interest of our student athletes and history is our confirmation. Kaylan Anderson transferred from Mother Teresa CSS to West Hill in a swirl of controversy. He would later be the first West Hill player we would transfer in 2004/2005 to a Prep School, Central Park Christian School in Birmingham Alabama. Kaylan would lay a path for Jamaar Burke to attend a U.S. prep school on his way to a scholarship to Cameron University. After one year at prep school Kaylan would receive a scholarship to Wisconsin Milwaukee, where he had tremendous career and graduated with a Bachelors in English in 2009 and then complete teachers college at U. Toronto in 2013. Kaylan now teaches English in Dubai and coaches in his community of Malvern when he's back home.
"In 2002, when I decided to leave Mother Teresa CSS (MT) and go to West Hill it was bitter sweet. MT was my High school choice from the 3rd grade, and most of the glorified hoopers from Malvern went there. From Keith Vassell, to Sandy Jeffries, to Jamie McNeilly; it literally seemed like the only school to go to. At MT it was a family, and we looked up to the older guys like big Brothers whether we knew them or not. We would practice hard, and we wouldn't stop unless an Alumni came through. But the line was thin, and as happy as I was, was as frustrated as I was when I made the decision to leave. Luckily, I had Wayne Dawkins, my AAU Coach to smoothen the transition to West Hill and really make the decision easier. West Hill has taught me that all things happen for a reason, because it was there I learned lessons about work ethic that I was only able to realize out my comfort zone (MT). At "the Hill" we were expected to work countless hours and show up everyday, but it wasn't forced. The choice to be great was left on us, and if we made the right choice, Dawk would be in the gym til 7pm to assist. He trained us all individually, and pushed us to limits that were comparable to the conditions I would experience at the D1 level. Both schools prepared me for success, but due to the flaws in my own character, leaving home and going to "the Hill" helped transition me from a dependent boy to an independent young man. I needed West Hill, I'll forever be grateful for that experience." - Kaylan Anderson
West Hill CI a Choice of Fate
When I arrived at West Hill it was my first full time high school teaching position. I found out the beginning of the summer in 2001 former Superintendent of the Toronto District School Board, Chris Spence felt I would be a great fit for the large minority population at the school. Chris invited me to leave Lawrence Heights Middle School in Lawrence Heights (Jungle), Toronto and help uplift the culture of West Hill. I was excited for the opportunity but it was going to cause a real shake up to my basketball world. It meant my coaching days at my alma mater York Memorial CI would come to an end, so the decision was made to move my star players Kevin Massiah and Tristan Martin to Prep school in the United States. Kevin would attend Main Central Institute in Pittsfield, Main and Tristan would go to Love Christian in North Carolina.
What would be the greatest impact on West Hill CI would be my Grassroots Canada AAU team I was co-founder and coach. On this team was Denham Brown #1 Player in Canada and Andrew Carpenter the best defender in the country, along with several other current and future West Hill CI talent.
With Denham and Andrew's high school Bathurst Heights closing down the most logical thing at the time may have been to send at least Denham, who was soon to commit to U. Connecticut, to a powerhouse prep program in the United States. But according to Denham he did not want America to take credit for his development so both Denham and Andrew chose to come with me to West Hill. Later that summer Denham and Andrew would move in to my house in Scarborough to finish their last year of high school. That move would open the floodgate of incoming talent, including the youngest entry, freshman Jevohn Shepherd. A new era of Warrior basketball was about to be born!
The Coaching Years
On my arrival in 2001, West Hill Principal, Al Wolch, explained an incident took place with the previous head coach of the Senior Boys Basketball Team and he would no longer be returning. I told Mr. Wolch I didn’t want to be the head coach, so he suggested we fill the vacancy together. I was a first year teacher and West Hill CI and I really didn't want to coach, I loved the individual skill development of players and I felt being a bench boss would interfere with the ability to focus on that aspect. Also, along with being their classroom teacher, I new managing their academic performance was an additional full time job. Unfortunately over the years it was too hard to be just a teacher and trainer without being the coach. At the high school level coaching is volunteerism so you often end up short handed and wearing too many hats.
Regardless of how I felt the decision was to move forward assisting Al Wolch and we wasted no time getting the team up and running. The season began and we were on a role. Denham and Andrew picked up where they left off, after leading Bathurst to a 2000 OFSAA Gold the previous year. The rest of the cast would soon begin to rise to their level. However things would change quickly for us, Al Wolch’s administrative responsibilities grew and he was no longer able to finish the season. I took over as head coach but it would only last a short time because tention was brewing between Denham and myself. Living together, teaching him, coaching him in AAU and now high school was becoming too much for both of us. So during the season in early December the decision was made to find another coach.
Through relationships Coach Marvin Spencer would be brought in to finish the season. Coach Marvin would provide the fuel to the " Machine" called Denham Brown and he would score 111pts in a single game against Scarborough's second ranked team, R.H. King Academy. The media would label the historic effort a black eye and to make the situation worse we were disqualified from 6 league wins due to an ineligible player, Karlon Magloire (former Canadian NBA player Jamaal Maguloire’s younger bother). To no fault of his own, a decision was made over my head, to not invite Coach Marvin back to coach the Warriors for a redemption year.
It would seem I would have no choice but to return as the head coach but I was still adiment about not coaching so next I would bring in Chris Smalling who had already been assisting me with P.H.A.S.E. 1 Training Centers and together we would lead the team to OFSAA Bronze in 2004 and Silver in 2005. After our run together Coach Chris would leave with Juevol Myles and Dwayne Smith and join powerhouse Pickering High School with Toronto Raptors Corey Joseph and his brother Devoe. Once again I would take on the Head Coaching position for a couple years with my fellow colleague Carter Livingstone before stepping away from the team completely in 2009. After a short interview in my classroom I wold turn the reigns over to Nate Philippe.
"In the Summer of 2008 I was looking for an opportunity to develop as a coach and gain experience as a Head Coach. I had heard that Wayne Dawkins had accepted the head coaching job at Seneca College, so I reached out to him and the Athletic Director at West Hill. West Hill was one of the tradition rich, as looking for an opportunity to develop as a coach and gain experience as a Head Coach. I had heard that Wayne Dawkins had accepted the head coaching job at Seneca College, so I reached out to him and the Athletic Director at West Hill. West Hill was one of the tradition rich, Elite programs in Toronto and I had always had great respect for the tradition there and for the excellent job that Coach Dawkins had done there. With players like Denham Brown, Rowan Barrett, Juevol Myles, and Dwayne Williams that had represented the Warriors, I saw it as a great opportunity to continue that legacy and help write my own chapter in the storied Warriors book of excellence! We had a great season in 2008-09 finishing 30-8, competing in the Toronto Public School Board Championship game and making a run to the Quarterfinals at OFSAA. Getting to work with Adrian Tomlinson, Alex Arthur, Taylor Johnson, Kevon Parchment, and the rest of that special team was an honor and an experience I'll always remember." - Nate Philippe, West Hill CI 2009
The Environment for Success
Carter Livingstone was one of "the Hill's" biggest influence on being a professional athlete. Carter was full-time teacher at West Hill CI and a professional lacross player for Chicago Shamrox and Toronto Rock. It was the first time I ever met a professional athlete that had to train himself from Monday to Friday while working a full time job and coaching. He would then fly out on Friday evening to practice with his team and play against other pros, many of whom did not work other jobs. Since playing with Steve Nash, Carter was the most discipline athlete I had ever worked with. He taught me and the West Hill basketball players how to train like a pro when no else is looking. Techniques on how to improve agility, speed and strength I had never seen before. Many of the exercise I still do myself and with my athletes to this day.
"Working alongside Wayne Dawkins for almost a full decade at WHCI fuelled my passion to teach, model and further develop my love of coaching and training student athletes. We were able to motivate and enhance the development of some really dedicated and hard working student athletes. They knew we we're going to push them to get better everyday in the classroom and in the gym. Looking back now, it is pretty impressive to see how many young men graduated from post secondary programs and continue to flourish in professional leagues around the world. I am proud to say I got a chance to help them turn their potential and dreams into reality."- Carter Livingstone, West Hill 2002-2016
The coaches contributed to the team success but it was the culture and commitment to skill and athlete development, finding the best competition and showcasing the talent of these young men that insured success beyond the Warriors hardwood. The passion was to see them all one day become something greater than ourselves on and off the court. Even the workshops, teams, showcases and all star games created by P.H.A.S.E. 1 was to help fulfill this mission of the West Hill Warriors. The passion to train hard in and out of school was not just to win basketball games but to create survivors that could make it in any coaches system at all levels, while creating positive role models to return to their respective communities.
"During my time at West Hill, I spent 4 strong years there. at the time in my grade 10 campaign it was really overwhelming, I didn't understand the schools true program. when I first touched a weight in gr. 10 I wasn't able to lift anything in the weight room, I was restricted to push ups and skipping rope lol, but as I started to get stronger and develop. Mr. Carter Livingston Ex Toronto Rock player was a huge influence in my athletic career. I think he was the first male pro athlete I ever met in my life and the way he carried himself overall made me want to play sports and be a pro. It was fortunate how I came to West Hill and he was the gym teacher and my coach, along with Wayne Dawkins who was the basketball guru at West Hill. working out with Livingston, Shep and Dawkins in the weight was very professional, now that I looked back. When I finally got into a routine, it was like putting my socks on. we finished every set, lifted for sport specifics only , I don't even think we did bicep workouts, cause it didn't do anything for our sport. all in all my days of working out in high school is where I gained the most knowledge about body development and I would later sign a athlete scholarship to Kilgore College and than transfer to the university of Tennessee at Martin.” -Dane Smith, West Hill 2007
Congratulations Warriors for your commitment to excellence and representing West Hill, P.H.A.S.E. 1, Grassroots, Toronto Mission and the many other organizations you have entered to this day. Thank you to all the teachers and administration at West Hill for the commitment to the success of these student athletes. A culture of excellence is not by accident but by design and together we can be proud of the legacy that was created. On the "Journey of An Elite 1" there are many people that will contribute in both small and large. This blog will hopefully help insure all your places in history and I looked forward to sharing more individual stories in the future to inspire the next generation. Distinguished Gentlemen, you are leaders and role models for the the many who will follow in your footsteps.
"Thank you for the many road trips throughout Canada and the United States. Trips to France and London, places I may not have visited if not for the pursuit of excellence. The NCAA games, events, Weddings, bbq's and more. You all pushed me to be my best and gave me friendships with the amazing people along the way. It was a blessing to share in your accomplishments and a privilege to make memories happen together. I continue to follow many of your journey's throughout the world. I very proud of how you are inspiring lives both young and old. Always give God the glory because riches and fame is not the measure of your success, it's how you have used the talent you're blessed with. Continue your 'Journey of An Elite 1' with faith and confidence even greater lays ahead." - Wayne Dawkins, West Hill CI 2001-2010