Forward, Grant Shephard, will be joining the UBC Thunderbirds in September hot off his gold medal win with the Canadian National team.“It just felt like a dream,” Shephard said of the moment he knew they won,
“It didn’t feel real, and it still doesn’t feel real.”
The team made history after upsetting Italy in the FIBA U19 Basketball World Cup final. Up until that moment, Canada has never had a team of any gender, or age group bring home an official basketball world title.
“It’s something we can tell our kids,” Shephard said of the win, “everyone will remember that we were the first ones to ever do it. It’s amazing.
Canada has never before been in medal contention at this tournament, and after ousting France in a close game in the quarters, earned their first chance to play for a medal. The wins were motivating, said Shephard, and gave the team the confidence they needed to make it to the finals. After Canada beat the United States in the semi-finals, 99-87, they moved on to play for gold.
R.J Barrett wowed fans throughout the entire tournament, and made sure the team made it to the finals, putting up 38 points against The U.S. The 17 year old didn’t disappoint in the final, with 18 points, and 12 rebounds, Barrett earned the tournament MVP recognition he received.
“He gave everyone energy,” Shephard said of the Mississauga, ON native, “the other team might go on a run, and then [Barrett] would just turn into an animal and get everyone hyped and motivate everyone to just keep playing.”
Roy Rana was the man in charge of the team’s success, and Shephard said that he kept everything simple. In the months leading up to the tournament, the team practiced in Toronto, and Rana worked with the team’s strengths.
“A lot of our offense was fast break so we could use our speed and skill. While our defense was probably one of the best factors of us winning,” Shephard admitted, “I think our coach did a good job of keeping us intact.”
Grant Shephard is a highly sought after forward from Kelowna, B.C. He lead the Kelowna Owls to the 2016 AAA championship title before spending his grade twelve year at Montverde Academy, a prep school in Florida, and he signed with the UBC Thunderbirds, after turning down several NCAA Division One offers.
“Everyone was calm [going into the finals] no one was nervous,” the forward said of the team’s attitude, “we just kept telling ourselves we could do it. We had a really good mindset we just had to believe in ourselves”
“Location, the team, and the atmosphere was a big part of it,” he said of his decision to stay in Canada, “I have a lot of support there with my family and friends, and the team will be really good, I know that for sure.” Part of that support comes in the form of a close friend, and longtime teammate Mason Bourcier. Coach Kevin Hanson said it’s great watching the two play together and amazing to see the trust they have in each other.
“We know how to play with each other,” Shephard said of his friend, “he feeds me the ball and knows that I can finish and make good plays out of it. We have great chemistry.”
Shephard will come to UBC in September to start his undergrad, studying science, and playing for the Thunderbirds. “I know we’ll be a great team and get some championship wins,” the 6’10 forward said of what he expects of the upcoming season.
After a busy and massively successful summer, Shephard is looking forward to some well-deserved down time, up until he travels to Costa Rica with the UBC team in August.
Written by: Sarah Reid