Feb. 22 was the final game for three students as they graduate at the end of this school year. Each of them was honoured as a part of Seniors Night. This moment was bittersweet for Alex Hagoriles, Paul Walwyn, and Marko Curic, teammates and co-captains, but each with a completely different story.
Hagoriles is currently the longest tenured member of the Colts men’s varsity basketball team. Stress amongst athletes is always obvious on and off the court. It was even more complicated for Hagoriles, because on top of school and basketball, he is a father to three-year-old Avery.
“When (being a father) first happened, it was tough,” Hagoriles said. “It’s okay now but at times, it gets a little too much because of school.”
Hagoriles barely sees his daughter from Tuesday to Thursday every week since he has classes all day. Whenever he had to study, it would have to be while she was sleeping, which is a chore in itself but Hagoriles was determined to handle his duties as a father, at the same time.
“I wanted to be there and watch her grow up,” Hagoriles said. “I didn’t want to be one of those fathers who put her off with my parents and let her grow without me there.”
Hagoriles changed programs after the first semester and seems to like the new program that he’s in now. “I was in the hospitality program; it was just a lot of theory,” Hagoriles said. “This was in September; now from January to April, I’m in a food service working program. And that seems to be going well for me.”
Curic had a different path to graduation. Two years ago, he attended Ryerson University and took business. However, he lived in Georgetown, Ont. and commuted every day for class, over an hour away from Ryerson by car, a decision that he described as a big mistake. Although university was great, Curic said it was not for him. He believes that for more many it is becoming clear that university is not the best option for everyone. He explains that college has caught up in a lot of aspects and has even been better in some programs, particularly in vocational and hands-on programs.
He was searching for a college that had Heating, Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Technician (HRAC). It was between George Brown and Centennial for him.
“I’m in HRAC. I think it’s a great program and a lot of people should get into it. The field is very open to the young people right now because the average age (for employees) is 55,” he said. “I went to George Brown and knew how (the downtown vibe) was,” Curic said. “Instead of downtown, (I decided to) go to Centennial and see how it is. Great choice, in my opinion.”
As for meeting Walwyn (LC) for the first time, he said his first memory of him was interesting, to say the least. Curic found out about Walwyn’s blunt attitude early, getting a forearm shiver from him in his first practice.
“LC was like, ‘Who is this guy,’” Curic said. “But he toughened me up in a good way, for sure.”
Leaving Centennial feels bittersweet for Curic when he looks back, especially with the team doing well and his program being great.
“I did enjoy my time a lot here; the people here treated me well,” Curic said. “I’ve met a lot of good people. It is a bit bittersweet but life goes on.”
Curic and Hagoriles joined the team in January 2016 and wondered whether it would be a good decision to play basketball with the Colts. They stuck through it with Walwyn however, trusting the process, as the Colts went 6-4 the rest of the season and almost earned a playoff spot.
For Curic and Hagoriles, they intend to take a break for a bit as they decide on what to do after graduating from Centennial, whether it would be more schooling or going into their career choices. For now, they plan to play for Megacity Basketball next year in terms of sports.
However, Walwyn may be the most battle-tested in terms of this year’s Colts team. At 29, Walwyn, is the oldest player on the Colts. He was taking at Child and Youth care.
“I have worked with children and youth for over 10 years,” Walwyn said. “I feel youth with mental health difficulties need more awareness.”
Unlike Hagoriles and Curic, Walwyn went through the struggles of the Colts basketball team from the beginning of last season when he was a rookie. Walwyn’s brutal honesty and blunt attitude in terms of his leadership towards Centennial’s rookies and transfer athletes have played a key role this season as the Colts improved tremendously, easily becoming the surprise team in the OCAA.
“I have had one-on-one conversations with all the transfers and rookies reminding them to stay focused on the task at hand, and to buy into the process the coaches have set out,” Walwyn said. “Continue to play hard and you will be recognized for your efforts.”
Walwyn has also been impressed by the change in the culture of the basketball program and the athletics department as well.
“I feel a lot better about the culture and how our coaches interact with our players are moving in the right direction.”
“When I first met AC, I was happy to see a guy who can shoot the three and can be our point guard,” Walwyn reminisced. “AC plays intense defense and we pushed each other in practices to become better players.”
With Curic, Walwyn said it was tense at first due to all the losing that the Colts endured but have grown closer since last season.
“It was clear he was going to improve our team,” Walwyn said. “We disagreed a lot last year but we began to build a friendship through all the adversity and now we compete and criticize each other to make both of us become better players.”
Walwyn says he will miss the team road trips where players interact with each other. He says that he will miss playing basketball for college as well.
“I wish I could continue but life happens,” Walwyn said.
As for Walwyn’s plans after college, this was what he had to say.
“Rule number one,” he said. “Never let people know (about) your plans.”
Curic, Hagoriles and Walwyn are part of an incredible turnaround from the Colts men’s basketball program. They won only six of 20 games last year, losing their first 10.
This year? Centennial finished with 15 wins in 20 games and ended the season on a six-game winning streak.