Written by: Jayden Montague
Athlete Institute held one of the most extensive circuits in North America for the first time. The Maple Hoops Showcase presented by The Grind Session, hosted some of the most prestigious prep teams containing players committed to NCAA Division 1 Universities from the US and other high-profile schools in Canada. Specifically at Athlete Institute, they brought in large crowds of families and other supporters to cheer on all the competitive players featured. Their focus is on the comfort of the players and families, which is why they brought in Sul Irmaos Smokehouse, a local food truck (and their newest sponsor), serving everyone including the newcomers, Canada's signature Poutine - an authentic Canadian welcome!
Having all the athletes, boys and girls, in a competitive setting at the facility was a great watch. All of the teams present, including Crestwood Prep, Minnesota Prep, Chicago Prep, Edge Prep, Dynastie Prep, Prolific Prep, Fort Erie Prep, and home team Orangeville Prep, showed just how elite they are and how bright their futures are based on the competitiveness and non-stop energy shown throughout every game. It was encouraging to see multiple girls teams included in the showcase as well. It provided these girls an excellent opportunity to gain more media exposure thus increasing their chances of getting scholarships to more prominent universities and colleges. Athlete Institute felt it was essential to have equal amounts of coverage for both boys and girls teams to show the public that the gap is closing between male and female athletics when it comes to level of play, excitement, and the evolution of the game. The women in sports emphasis that was encouraged by Athlete Institute was effectively displayed and many more event hosts should look to them as a pillar in this regard, in the sports landscape.
The games on-hand were action-packed! Athlete Institute accomodated large crowds all weekend long, with the largest crowd of all the games played coming for their home team’s game. The Orangeville Prep National Team played some of the highest ranked competition, one of which was #1 ranked Prolific Prep on friday night. Their team consists of two ESPN Top prospects including #21 ranked Aden Holloway (University of Auburn Commit) and #52 Trey Green (University of Xavier Commit). The game also featured one of Canada’s rising stars in Mike Nwoko (Prolific Prep - University of Miami Commit) and the top Canadian prospect, according to 247Sports, in Jalik Dunkley-Distant (Orangeville Prep - Uncommited). The game was electric and came down to the wire but in the end the home favourite Orangeville Prep team came up short with a score of 84-93 - Orangeville Prep's Matai Baptiste was the player of the game scoring 31 points and 7 rebounds.
The following night Orangeville Prep played another primetime game this time against Minnesota Prep. The game had a relentless pace and non-stop action from tip-off! Another game that came down to the wire, however, this time Orangeville Prep won 88 - 92. The top three performances included Matai Baptiste with 30 points/3 rebounds/6 steals, Kevin De Kovachich had 19 points/4 assists, and Jalik Dunkley-Distant had 20 points/4 assists/4 steals. This game was a great example of Orangeville Prep overcoming adversity and never giving up. The big win launched the home team into the Top 10 Grind Session rankings.
This event was the first of its kind to be help here in Canada and Athlete Institute knocked it out of the park! They had the crowd excited and involved throughout each game with their energetic PA announcer, numerous game breaks and challenges, and tons of giveaways and prizes. On top of all of that, they had their fantastic coffee shop, Bear Cub Cafe, open all week long where players and staff enjoyed delicious hot/cold drinks, snacks, and much more. The best part is that the cafe overlooks the gym so no one has to miss any action! The environment oozed of professionalism and was an atmosphere that family, friends, and special guests all enjoyed due to their inclusivity, care, and exceptional service.
Athlete Institute is already in discussion with the Grind Session to host this showcase annually as they proved that the Maple Hoop Showcase could continue to be impactful and thrive for years to come.