Pat Payton, Gazette sports editor
The youngest player on the Canadian National Junior Men’s Paralympic basketball squad is a Grade 11 student at Stratford St. Michael Secondary School.
Eric Voss, 16, was recently named to the U-23 team after a series of selection camps. The final camp was held just before Christmas in Scarborough.
“All the camps were really hard, and really high-calibre,” the RR 7 St. Marys resident told the Gazette in a recent interview. “It kind of takes it to the next level.”
Voss is one of 12 players on the national team, plus there are two alternates. Thirty to 40 players attempted to win a spot when the numerous selection tryouts began about two years ago.
Voss and the Canadian squad will now attempt to qualify for the World tournament in Adana, Turkey in September. Their qualifier is March 11-17 in Mexico City, and the Canadians must finish first or second in that tournament to punch their ticket to Turkey.
The team’s “ultimate” goal is to medal should they reach the Worlds, Voss says.
Canada is currently ranked eighth in the world. After Canada won the World title in both 1997 and 2001, the team finished sixth in 2005 and eighth in 2009.
Voss is a point guard on the U-23 team. He notes that since he’s the youngest player on the team, he likely won’t be a starter. He sees himself “coming off the bench” and playing more of a supportive role to the more experienced players.
As a guard, he says he likes bringing the ball up the court and “setting up” his teammates. “I started out (as a youngster) playing with a ball, so it just came natural that I always carried a ball. I just got used to it.”
When he hits the court in Mexico in mid-March, it won’t be Voss’s first time competing at a high level of wheelchair basketball. He was a member of Ontario’s U-23 basketball team, which captured the silver medals at the 2011 Canadian Winter Games in Halifax.
Voss has been playing wheelchair basketball for the past six years. He competes in track and field at St. Mikes, but basketball is “definitely” his favourite sport.
To prepare for the Mexico qualifier, Voss is doing a lot of training on his own.
“We don’t get together that much (as a team), only a couple of times a month,” he explained. “The rest is left to the individual, and I have to find my own court time.”
Voss shoots hoops about four times a week at schools in St. Marys, Stratford and London.
“I also work out at home with weights and stuff,” he added.
Voss says it’s very important to be in top shape for international competition. “Basketball is pretty physically gruelling and you have to be at the top of your game.”
• Voss is also a member of a London Senior wheelchair hoops team.
• The basketball coaches at St. Mikes have been very supportive of Voss’s basketball endeavours, he says.
• Voss is the son of Matt and Heather Voss, who plan on making the trip to Mexico City in mid-March for the qualifier.