Whelan brings passion to court
The Canadian Elite Basketball League’s growing international reputation helped attract Patrick Whelan to the Niagara River Lions.
“I have heard a lot of good things about the CEBL. I know it is a growing league and teammates who have played there in the past have told me a couple good things about it,” said Whelan, a native of Warrington, England, who fills the international roster spot on the team required by the CEBL.
“My boy, Kimbal MacKenzie, is close to here and Mo Walker too has played in the league before. They put me on to it and my agent pushed me to a few teams and Niagara seemed like the right fit.”
Mackenzie and Walker played alongside Whelan with the Leicester Riders of the British Basketball League. There, he averaged 13.7 points, 4.9 rebounds and 44.8 in three-point percentage in 30.9 minutes of play per game.
Whalen has quickly found a home in Niagara.
“I really enjoy being on the court with all of these guys.They’re selfless and good people to be around also. It is looking like a good decision and I am excited for us to get some wins and make some noise.”
Whelan knew he had picked the right spot for the next phase of his basketball journey even before he arrived in Niagara.
“It was just the conversations I was having with coach Vic (Raso) and the things I had been hearing about the program,” the 26-year-old said. “I knew it was a great situation and from Day 1 everyone has been great to me. I feel like I am in a good spot.”
He arrived in Niagara knowing little about the region.
“It is kind of smaller scale than I am used to being from Manchester but I am enjoying it and taking it all in stride,” said the former scholarship player at William Jewell College in Missouri.“There’s pros and cons to every situation.”
It is his first-ever visit to Canada and there have been a few surprises.
“Aside from driving on the other side of the road and things like that, unusual in a good way was the level of the facilities. You can tell that there has been emphasis put on sport over the past few years. It is not one I am used to but it is a good surprise.”
He has yet to find his go to spot for British food.
“I am still working my way through Canadian food. I have been to a couple of local restaurants and obviously I had to go to Tim Hortons. It has been nice so far and we will see. There is a fish and chips a few seconds away from where I live and maybe if I am feeling homesick a little bit, I will go in there.”
Whelan is hoping to help Niagara win a championship and improve his game in the process.
“My goal is to get better every single day. I know there are a lot of things that I can work on in my game and one big thing for me is making the right decisions every time that I am out there,” he said. “With how fast the game is now, you have to make decisions very quickly. I am working on my reads and becoming a better basketball player.”
He describes himself as a passionate player, especially in the heat of the moment.
“I like to space the floor, spread the floor, shoot threes and get out in transition. I have an exciting game and I think I am just a good person to have out there and is a plus rather than a minus. I will contribute to winning in many different ways.”
Whelan suited up for Great Britain during the first and second window of the 2023 FIBA World Cup Qualifiers. The team didn’t make it to the World Cup but it was a great experience. It wasn’t the first time he represented his home country.
“I played in EuroBasket last summer with Great Britain and I also played in a few other FIBA qualifiers. Hopefully I can earn a few more caps in the future.”
The goal is to compete for his country in the Olympics.
“That would be amazing one day. It is early days for me and I am taking everything in stride.”
At the end of training camp, Raso used the word awesome to describe Whelan.
“He is a complete basketball player. He might be our best on-ball defender, he might be our best shooter, he is one of our smartest players, he picks everything up incredibly quickly, he is just a really good and he fits into this group well. He makes us better.”
Th River Lions (0-3) play their home opener Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at the Meridian Centre against the Saskatchewan Rattlers.
Season tickets, voucher packs, group tickets and single game tickets are on sale now. Visit www.riverlions.ca/tickets for more information.