First-year Mount Allison Basketball Mountie follows in mentor's footsteps
For first-year Mount Allison Basketball Mountie Emmanuel Octavious there is his team on the court — and his team off the court.
His off-the-court team includes his mother, but also a number of teachers who have been cheering him on since elementary school.
"From Grade 2 until Grade 4 I was not the best kid," he says. "I got into a lot of trouble, lots of fights. It was not a good time for me. The first time I met Norval, that was the turning point in my life."
"Norval" is Norval McConnell, well known in Moncton, NB as a respected educator and an athletics booster, for basketball in particular.
"I decided towards the end of my career that I didn't want to spend the last years in an office, so when the principal's job opened up at Beaverbrook School, an inner city school in Moncton, I took it," McConnell says. "Emmanuel spent more time in my office than anywhere else."
One day Octavious pulled a book about Terry Fox off McConnell's shelf and asked about it. McConnell said he would read it with him, but only if he was behaving in class.
"When he said he would try to do better in class so he could come read with me, he really tried," McConnell says. "And he never would ask to read when he had done something wrong."
McConnell could see something special in Octavious, but it was another teacher, Gordon Kline, who found the key to unlocking it. Finding Octavious in McConnell's office one day, Kline offered to take him to the gym to play basketball.
"It was the five minutes that changed Gordie's life and Emmanuel's life because Emmanuel found what he was good at," McConnell says.
Octavious is passionate about the game.
"You become close with the coaches, your teammates — you become like a family," he says. "And you know you can trust your teammates because you know they will put their heart and soul on the floor for you and they expect the same from you. If you all have that trust, it becomes simple."
Octavious played with many of the same teammates from Grade 6 through Grade 12, capping off his graduation year with a provincial championship and the Male Athlete of the Year award. When it came time to think about university, Octavious looked to Mount A. He already knew Mounties Head Coach Steve Chapman, who had coached him at Bernice MacNaughton High School — and it was McConnell's alma mater, where he played for the Mounties from 1976 to 1979.
"It means a lot to me to follow in his footsteps," Octavious says. "He came here and had a great career here, so if I can do some of what he did for this school, then I'll feel pretty accomplished."
McConnell drove to Montreal to watch Octavious play in his very first game as a Mountie.
"I love my Mounties, but what I love more is the chance they have given Eman to continue on his journey," McConnell says. "He has a dynamic personality. He will graduate and he will change other kids."
Octavious, for his part, is grateful for his off-court team.
"Before Grade 4, it was just my mum and I got into a lot of trouble, so most people saw me as a lost cause," he says. "But then one person, then two people started to really care about me, so it showed me there are more people who want to see me go somewhere in life. These people who have got me to this point, I would give them the world if I could. It means so much that they gave me a chance, and I think I am taking that chance right now."