VANCOUVER â€” Most university athletes keep an eye on their diets to make sure their bodies can function at optimal levels, but how can you count calories for a breakfast with Steve Nash?
Simon Fraser University student-athletes got the opportunity on Tuesday (March 3) morning, as the two-time NBA Most Valuable Player was the guest of honour at the 6th Annual SFU Athleticsâ€™ Gathering of the Clan to raise funds for athletic scholarships.
Nash, who currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers, spoke to the 800 alumni, donors and athletes about his journey from Vancouver Island to the Association.
â€œFor me, obviously I had an incredible amount of energy as a kid and still, to this day, I have a hard time sitting still. I always had big dreams. Always out there and try to make it a reality,â€ said the 18-year NBA veteran. â€œIt all starts and ends there, but in the middle thereâ€™s the influence of my community, my parents (and) my coaches.â€
The point guard started his career with St. Michaels University School (Victoria) and led the Blue Jags to their first high school provincial title with a 76-48 victory over Pitt Meadows in 1992.
After high school, Nash received a basketball scholarship to play NCAA Division 1 basketball with the Santa Clara Mustangs.
The eight-time NBA All-Star said it was great to â€œget a chance to go to a great institution and to play sports and to have the resources to do it at a high level,â€ and not worry about the financial side of his post-secondary education.
â€œIâ€™m proud that I can help and Iâ€™m proud of what SFU has been able to do in the community,â€ he added.
Nash, 41, said heâ€™s â€œnot quiteâ€ ready to leave the hardwood, but is glad to see Canadaâ€™s representation on the big stage with the emergence of young stars like Andrew Wiggins, Tristan Thompson and Kamloopsâ€™ Kelly Olynyk.
â€œItâ€™s incredible to kind of be involved in these kidsâ€™ lives, too, and see them realize their dream,â€ said Nash, Canada Basketballâ€™s general manager. â€œI wouldnâ€™t give myself that much credit, but I think players like Vince Carter in Toronto, having the Raptors, having the Grizzlies for a short amount of time brought basketball into every household in this country.â€
(Story continues below highlights of Steve Nash in NBA)
For many of the Clanâ€™s athletes, meeting Nash was like meeting a hero.
Ryan Dhillon, a midfielder for the menâ€™s soccer team, noted that he still views Nash as a role model. â€œKnowing that heâ€™s a B.C. kid makes him relatable. Even though we play different sports, I still look up to him because heâ€™s a professional athlete,â€ said the North Delta graduate. â€œYou can learn a lot from a professional athlete like that. Itâ€™s hard work and dedication to the game.â€
Priya Sandhu, the goalkeeper for the womenâ€™s soccer team, mentioned Nash, the 15th overall pick from the 1996 NBA draft, had to prove a lot of doubters wrong because he was Canadian.â€œI think heâ€™s proved that if you set a goal, you should keep working at it,â€ the Tamanawis alumnus added.
Both Dhillon and Sandhu said Nash was a hero for them growing up and they both played basketball in YMCA/Steve Nash Basketball League.
Nash knows what it means to meet a hero. As a teenager, he idolized former Laker point guard Earvin â€œMagicâ€ Johnson and met him while at Santa Clara.
â€œTo meet him, it seemed for much of my life, was so far away. It was impactful for me and definitely inspired me to meet him and for him to have watched me play.
â€œThat was a pretty incredible moment for me,â€ Nash said. â€œI remember May and June and the sun has finally come out in Victoria on a Sunday afternoon watching Magic Johnson with that big smile and throwing balls all over the place and lighting up my TV screen. It was really impressionable to watch somebody play with that much charisma and energy and be so unselfish.â€
The Gathering of the Clan, which was held at Vancouver Convention Centre, raised $264,000 for athletic scholarships; the event has raised a total of $1.5 million since 2010.
For more information, visit Athletics.sfu.ca.