Cameron Bett, First Year, Queen's Gaels Men's Basketball
Growing up in England, I always wanted to play basketball across the pond.
After representing the England U16 in the European Championship, I was blessed with an opportunity to attend the McCallie School in Chattanooga, Tennessee. It was an amazing experience, especially adjusting to the different game style and speed.
The year was going well until my mother, back home in London, told me that both her and my father got offered jobs at Ridley College in St Catharine's. They told me I would be offered a full ride to play basketball for the newly appointed OSBA (Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association) team under the school. At first, I was hesitant and mad; changing countries again after just finding my role at McCallie. I remember getting into Toronto Pearson International Airport feeling empty as if everything I worked for just disappeared.
That same week, the whole team came to campus for an annual training camp. Seeing all these guys above 6'7 playing similar roles as I was crazy; they all had the same determination and goals as me – to play ball at a higher level. We were extremely young for a prep program, as the majority of our team was still underclassmen. We had our struggles, mainly because we were all chasing Division 1 offers in the U.S. We ended up losing in the quarterfinals that year, ending our season short of what we had hoped.
That same summer, I stopped chasing intangible things such as offers, stardom, and recognition. It was more about winning and playing with my brothers for one last year. Quite literally right after I started thinking like that, Coach Smalls from Queen's University came up to me after an AAU game in Toronto asking for contact details and schedules for next year. At this point, I still had no clue about U SPORTS ball, but I knew it was a great academic school.
"Riding back to St. Catharines, I told my mom that this was the place for me."
My senior year went even quicker than the year before, basically playing right when school started. It was really smooth at first; we were winning games and cruising along until I broke my wrist in January. Obviously, it was a low point for me, as the doctors told me they wouldn't know if I could get back in time for playoffs. During this time, Jermaine and Steph (Queen's) were always checking up on me, asking me when I wanted to visit and how my hand was doing. We planned a visit that same month and as soon as I stepped on campus, I knew this was the place for me. They had everything down to a statistic, and showed how they can help improve each part of my game over time. Riding back to St. Catharines, I told my mom that this was the place for me.
Two months of therapy and weights went by and I remember not feeling any pain at all. I was so desperate to play and go to battle for my school that I cut off my cast and went to the hospital that same night to get it X-rayed. Luckily, all the bones healed perfectly and the next day I was headed to South Carolina to play in a tournament. Although the doctors were looking after my hand by keeping it in that cast, in the moment, I felt as if they were taking the one thing away from me that I could never accept – playing ball.
Going into the playoffs I remained the team's sixth man; coming off the bench, doing what I could to get us to the finals. We won the quarterfinals and semis – both by 20+ points – shocking the entire league. Everyone kept saying we were the sleeper of the tournament, but we knew what we could do from the first day we got on campus. The final was a close game, which we ended up losing by 3, and while the loss stung, it wasn't the end of the world.
I was healthy, playing basketball with people I will always remember, and committed. I couldn't really complain at all. One month after graduation, I arrived at Kingston with the same ambitions – to win, to get better every day, and to enjoy the journey.