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Sports scholarships and tough decisions

SHOULD I STAY OR SHOULD I GO: Northern’s Sophie Beutel hit the road to Rhode Island to attend Ivy League school Brown University.

The New Year brings students’ post-secondary school selections and young Canadian athletes are pursuing the many opportunities at institutions south of the border

High school athletes across the city will have tough decisions to make this month when deciding on the next level of education.

They will be busy making their selections, many scouting universities based on academia.

But what happens when universities south of the border come courting for the talent Canada has to provide for sports?

To find Torontonians who have gone on to successful U.S. college careers, and later turned pro, one need not look further than Eastern Commerce’s Jamaal Magloire of the Miami Heat and hockey player John Madden who plays for the Minnesota Wild.

Judging by a list of Canadians in Division I basketball alone, the U.S. institutions are crossing the border more often.

Former Leaside student Michael Holder, who recently won an NCAA Division II soccer title in his freshman year, followed the scouts back south.

A full soccer scholarship to Northern Kentucky University, just across the border from Cincinnati, has given him the opportunity to achieve footie success.

Something, he said, Canadian universities didn’t offer him.

With his Woodbridge club team, Holder toured showcases in North Carolina, but ironically it was one in Oakville, Ont. where he met Northern Kentucky coach John Basalyga.

“He’s been up and recruiting in Canada now because he likes the new talent and other coaches don’t really want to come to Canada,” Holder said. “He’s taken advantage of it.”

Obviously, he has four other team members on the Northern Kentucky Norse hailing from Ontario.

The only Canadian university seeking Holder’s striking prowess was Guelph, but there was no scholarship on the table for soccer.

It is a bit of dilemma, Hockey Hall of Famer Angela James said, when so much of Canada’s athletic talent is recruited south of the border.

Many talented hockey players have been offered scholarships to University of Michigan and Lake Superior State.

“We tend to lose our best players down to the States – even at the high school level now,” she said. “Or we’ll lose our juniors to universities in the States.

“It would be nice to keep all our best athletes here in Canada,” she added. “I think especially at the university scholarship level with all our athletes.”

JUST A HOMETOWN BOY: Lawrence Park’s Justin Babin opted for his hometown’s academic juggernaut U of T.

Justin Babin, former gridiron denizen at Lawrence Park CI, is more about location. Unsure of where most university campuses were located, he used his cousin as a frame of reference.

“My cousin got a hockey scholarship down south in New York and she’s in some small town in the middle of nowhere,” he said. “I couldn’t do that.”

It’s all about the city for him.

“Honestly, I’m from Toronto. I’ve lived all my life here,” he said. “I just love the city, especially the downtown.

“I’m staying on the St. George campus and I got money for football and my grades are all right.”

On scholarship for both academics and sports, Babin ran into a bit of snag with a high ankle sprain on the third day of training camp for the Varsity Blues.

That meant no time spent on being a slotback. But there was a positive side.

“It was sort of a blessing in disguise. I didn’t know what I was getting into with university,” he said. “So it gave me some extra time to get used to the academic side of it.”

Much like Holder, Northern alumnus Sophie Beutel came across U.S. colleges through club teams outside of school.

Playing for the Sultan Prospects in tournaments in the States, she was scouted by many teams.

One was Providence, Rhode Island’s Brown University.

What sold her on the decision to go Red, White and Blue was the school itself.

“When I visited the campus in the fall of 2009, I really liked what I saw and connected with the team immediately,” she said. “The quality of the school, combined with the proximity to home  — seeing as I was also strongly considering UBC — were also key points.”

She was referring to the University of British Columbia, one of Vancouver’s most highly respected universities.

Though she’s focused on her studies, sports infiltrate the rest of her schedule.

“The amount of time devoted to basketball is obviously a huge commitment, and a major step up from that required of me in high school,” she said. “Although my coaches and older peers prepared me, it was hard to imagine at the time how much more demanding and challenging college ball can be.

“I’m glad I have the friendships that I do on the team, because between the practices, the travel time and the school work, there isn’t a whole lot of time to goof off.”

There’s only one downside.

“One of the biggest differences though is not having my parents at all of my games,” Beutel admitted.

Still, the trend among Canadian students here and abroad is the focus on academics first. Dreams of professional careers are still in the distance.

Holder admitted he’s game for the MLS.

“It’s a thought,” he said, adding his marketing management degree is more important.

Babin seconded the view when asked about the CFL.

“I can’t rule anything out. It’s not a goal necessarily because I want to do well in school,” he said. “But if the chance arises I won’t deny it.

“It’d be fun to play for a year or two.”

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