NORTH BAY – Chris Cheng, Nipissing University and North Bay’s basketball community are in a good mood this week as the Lakers added hard-court credibility to its varsity sports foundation.
Cheng, manager of youth player development for Canada Basketball, was named the inaugural Lakers men’s basketball coach Wednesday.
And he wasted little time demonstrating a sample of the class Ontario’s 2011 and 2012 national U17 championship coach brings to the basketball court.
“I’m grateful, humbled and honoured for this opportunity,” Cheng said, adding the chance to build a varsity program from the ground up comes once in a lifetime.
He thanked all his mentors, role models and friends for the help they gave to get him this far while reserving special gratitude and pride for his family and fiancee.
Cheng said their sacrifice and support to live his dream was essential as he went on to say North Bay is a “team city . . . and we want to make this a Lakers family.”
Mayor Al McDonald thanked Cheng for choosing to make this city and Nipissing the next part of his career, noting how the university only has one chance to get it right when launching a new program.
McDonald said varsity sports is the “heart and soul” of post secondary education, while hiring someone with Cheng’s reputation of success was a smart move.
“This gives us an opportunity to put North Bay on the map across the country . . . Chris brings that credibility right from the start,” he said.
Cheng has worked as an assistant coach with the men’s varsity basketball team at York University after proving himself at the provincial and national level. He was head coach of Ontario’s U17 Boys Provincial team, and guided them to an impressive 14-1 national record, and a 7-2 international record.
For four years he served as the Center for Performance coach at the Ontario Basketball Association. Cheng won back-to-back national Championships in 2011 and 2012 as head coach of Team Ontario. He has coached numerous elite-level players, including Anthony Bennet, the first overall draft pick in the 2013 NBA draft, and Cory Joseph, current NBA player.
In 2011, he was named Ontario Basketball Inaugural Men’s Elite Coach of the Year.
“The university is completely confident in Chris’ ability to build a high-quality and competitive program here,” said Mike DeGagne, Nipissing president. “This is a very exciting time for the university and the city.”
Cheng said he wants to help build a program of excellence at Nipissing and he thinks the university staff have the same “patience and persistence” as he to achieve that goal.
“In everything I do, I strive for excellence and I believe deeply in the power of hardwork, teamwork, patience, discipline, sacrifice and perseverance in building a program,” he said.
“My goal is to blend the talents and strengths of individuals into a team that is far greater than the sum of its parts and to help our student-athletes achieve more than they thought possible on the court, in the classroom and in their personal lives.”
McDonald said Nipissing’s foray into varsity basketball, with a women’s team coach to be named in the near future, may give local athletes another reason to study and play competitive sports here.
“Having high quality elite-level basketball teams at Nipissing University is a tremendous positive for the citizens of North Bay,” he said. “I have no doubt that there are young basketball players right now in our city who will see this team of student-athletes as role models, and who will be inspired to make sport and academics a significant part of their life.”
Cheng said he wants the Lakers to be the “role model” for basketball in the city.
He thanked Nipissing for choosing him, but said he actually chose Nipissing as his best career path opportunity a couple years ago.
He said he’ll spend much of the next year living in Toronto where much of his recruiting will take place and then move here to start a family as well as lead a team.