His choice was a slam-dunk

Volunteer basketball executive 10 years in 'job' and counting


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Ross Wedlake recalls attending École Luxton School in the North End and playing two-on-two basketball with his friends on the outdoor court.

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Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 18/02/2020 (1021 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Ross Wedlake recalls attending École Luxton School in the North End and playing two-on-two basketball with his friends on the outdoor court.

“I didn’t really want to play that badly, but I did it just to make them happy,” the 71-year-old says, adding that he relied heavily on his teammate. “All I did was stay out of his way, and if he happened to throw me the ball, I threw it right back to him. That was my introduction to the game.”

He may not have been a great athlete back then, but Wedlake’s elementary school basketball experience turned into a lifelong passion for the game.

RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Ross Wedlake, president of Basketball Manitoba for more than 10 years, says his mission is to grow the sport in the province.

Highlights of his playing career include five years with the University of Manitoba Bisons, where he was a conference all-star three times and was named the team MVP twice.

Wedlake was a member of the Canadian National Team that played in Mexico, Italy and Germany in 1972. At the Pre-Olympic tournament in Augsburg, Germany, the team narrowly missed a trip to the 1972 Munich Olympics.

Wedlake was also a member of Team Manitoba when it won the gold medal at the first Western Canada Summer Games in 1975.

Still, Wedlake has made some of his biggest contributions to basketball in Manitoba since his playing career ended. He coached at the high school level for much of his 35-year career as a teacher and administrator, including a 20-year stint at Kildonan-East Collegiate.

“Once you put your heart and soul into something like that, you realize the value of it,” he says. “The relationships and experiences I’ve had through coaching and playing could never be replaced, and they’ve become a big part of my life.”

After he retired in 2005, Wedlake joined the board of Basketball Manitoba. He serves as the board’s president, a position he’s held for more than 10 years.

He’s passionate about the organization’s mission, which is to grow the sport of basketball in the province and make it accessible to as many people as possible, especially young people.

“Sport is, in my opinion, one of the true positive forces in our society,” Wedlake says. “Sport brings people together and sport offers opportunity, and we need to make sure the people who are working with young people have the training and resources they need to do as good a job as possible.”

Wedlake is the chairman of the Manitoba Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum at the University of Winnipeg’s Duckworth Centre. He has also volunteered at the Western Canada Summer Games and the Pan Am Games.

Some of his non-basketball volunteering includes serving as chairman of the board at his church, John Black Memorial United.

When he isn’t volunteering, Wedlake enjoys spending time with his family.

Last summer, he took his grandchildren who live in Winnipeg to play basketball with him at Luxton.

He calls it a sacred place, and wants his family to spread half of his ashes there after he dies.

“I would like to think I’ve put something back into the sport of basketball with the things that I’ve done,” he says.

“But I can tell you, no matter what I’ve put back into basketball, I’m still in huge debt to the game. I will never be able to repay what the game has done for me.”

Basketball Manitoba and the Winnipeg Minor Basketball Association are seeking volunteers to get involved in the role of head coach or assistant coach. Anyone interested can email info@wmba.ca, call 204-925-5774 or visit wmba.ca.

If you know a special volunteer, please contact aaron.epp@gmail.com.

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