By John Chidley-Hill, The Canadian Press on December 27, 2023.
TORONTO – Whether it’s with Canada’s national men’s basketball team or the Utah Jazz, Kelly Olynyk is embracing a leadership role.
Olynyk, born in Toronto but raised in Kamloops, B.C., was the captain of Canada’s bronze-medal winning team at the FIBA World Cup this past fall and is part of its core of players that have committed to playing at the Paris Olympics in July.
Olynyk wants the current men’s senior team to inspire a whole new generation of players to even greater heights.
“Your hopes, dreams, wishes are that somebody looking up to you is going to be better than you one day and take this thing further than you could ever have dreamed,” said Olynyk after Utah’s morning shootaround Saturday at Scotiabank Arena. “Time will tell if that happens.
“I think there’s a lot of people that look up to you, you inspire them, have aspirations to do, whatever it may be, whether it’s basketball or not, and that’s a big thing to represent.”
Olynyk comes from a basketball family.
His father Ken was the Canadian junior team’s coach from 1983 to 1996 and then became the athletic director at Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops. His mother Arlene was a women’s basketball referee at the Canadian collegiate level before working for the Raptors from 1995 to 2004 as the first female scorekeeper in the NBA.
Sister Jesse competed in rugby and wrestling, but his youngest sister, Maya, played basketball for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies.
He said ahead of the Jazz’s 126-119 win over the Raptors on Dec. 23 that his loyalty to the national team comes from his dad.
“He always believed that international basketball was one of the epitomes of what you could do, and how the game is played,” said Olynyk, sitting by the court. “Just watching him when I was growing up, watching him coach and compete and do different things, that instilled in me to have that pride in representing your country and playing on a world stage.”
The 32-year-old Olynyk is averaging 7.9 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists in 21.9 minutes per game as a centre for Utah this season. Over 11 NBA seasons with Boston, Miami, Houston, Detroit and the Jazz he’s averaged 10.2 points, 5.2 rebounds, and 2.3 assists.
Jazz head coach Will Hardy said that what he really appreciates is the intangibles Olynyk brings to every practice and every game.
“Kelly shows up every day with an attitude of ‘basketball is my favourite thing in the world to do and I’m here to play,'” said Hardy. “That’s something that you want to rub off on everybody.
“It’s easy sometimes to get caught up in the hard parts of this job. It’s easy sometimes for the guys to get caught up in maybe their role isn’t exactly what they want, or they feel like they’re struggling, but K.O. is just such a tremendous example of just coming to hoop every day.”
DORT DRILLING THREES
Hamilton’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander grabbed the headlines as his 34 points, nine assists and six rebounds led the Oklahoma City Thunder past the Minnesota Timberwolves 129-106 on Tuesday.
But Gilgeous-Alexander’s teammate Lu Dort, from Montreal, was also impressive with 20 points, including 5 for 6 shooting from beyond the arc. A career 34-per-cent three-point shooter, Dort’s long-range accuracy has improved to 42.9 per cent this season.
“Always shooting the ball with confidence, shoot the ball to make it all the time, that’s just my mindset, that’s what’s in my head,” said Dort after the game. “Shoot the good ones, at the same time.
“Credit to my teammates, the way we move the ball like that, I’m always going to find some good shots so I’ve just got to knock it down.”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Dec. 27, 2023.