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Off Court

Akil Augustine: Breaking Barries

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If you are a Canadian basketball fan, you know exactly who Akil Augustine is. If something big happens in Raptor-Land, he is the first one there bringing the fans at home the information they need. During the season, Akil and a group of knowledgeable basketball fanatics are analyzing exactly what they see going on all on a show he started from scratch.

Akil has the demeanor and style of someone who has been in the business for 50 years, but the 31-year old has only recently begun “growing up”. Born in Trinidad in 1982, Akil’s father served as a “Wharfman”, someone who worked at the docks. He spent years saving every penny to move his family to the United States to live what some considered to be the “American Dream.”

By 1988, the Augustine family was able to pack their bags and move to Brooklyn, New York. For those who know American history, you would know that the 80s was not a good time for New York. Crime rates spiked as the crack epidemic hit the city. Gangs from Los Angeles arrived, gaining notoriety when they appeared in Rikers Island early in the 90s. It was not easy for residents of what is now a beautiful city. Akil and his family were no different. They had no money, no friends and no papers, living as illegal immigrants for the first part of their American life. It was then that his parents decided to send him and his sister, Ayanna, to live with their aunt in Toronto.

Toronto was no easier for him. To add to his social troubles, Akil went from living in all black communities his whole life, to being the only black kid in his grade, and one of five in his school. Like one could imagine, he struggled to fit in. Claiming to be “loud and obnoxious”, he lacked the basic social skills it would take to make it in today’s world. He credits his sister Ayanna for teaching him everything he knows and for giving him the personality he has today.

Upon arrival to Canada, Akil’s cousin Sean would bring him to Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute, a public high school in Toronto. There he had the chance to watch Mark Hunt, Jamaal Magloire and Simeon Mars every day. He grew up around what was considered to be one of the best basketball programs the city has ever seen. Top Gun consisted of a group of local talent who would tour the province’s roughest neighborhoods taking on the city kids in pickup basketball games. They always won.

“It is where I get both my love for the game and my intensity”, Akil told me, as he praised the group.

By the time he was 13, his cousin had picked up DIRECTV satellite, and Akil was able to tune in to one of the best sports stations in the world, ESPN. One of the first faces he saw was Stuart Scott, a sportscaster and anchor on ESPN’s SportsCenter. He immediately said “That’s me!” He knew right away that was who he wanted to be and what he wanted to become, a sports anchor. His opinion was strong, he was confident, and he loved the game. All in all, it was a perfect combination and the exact recipe for a successful sports reporter.

He was able to get into basketball journalism during the summer of the 2nd Annual Battlegrounds Tournament, where close friend and former Canadian standout Vidal Massiah claimed he was going to win Nike’s 1-on-1-basketball tournament, crowning Toronto’s #1 “streetball” player. Massiah was so confident he would win, he told Akil to film his journey to the championship to later be used as as his final grad project for Seneca at York’s Journalism program.

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He borrowed his friend’s camera and followed Vidal for two days as the tournament proceeded. Sure enough, Massiah earned himself the victory. Augustine was able to turn his video clips into a short documentary, which not only earned him an “A” but was also the video that led him to become the youngest person ever to be accepted in to the Upcoming Documentary Filmmakers Program. After realizing this was not the career path for him, he dropped out, but states that the experience gained is exactly what gave him the confidence he needed.

From there, Akil’s career took off. He worked as an intern for Sportsnet under the wings of one of the most accredited sports personalities in Canada, Cabral Richards, better known as Cabbie, giving him the opportunity to move closer to his dream of covering basketball full time. He was awarded a position as a freelance producer for the hit-show NBAXL, a fun and outgoing series that covered all-things NBA. After about 3-5 years of freelance work, Akil earned the position as an interactive producer and host for all of Maple Leaf Sports Entertainment (MLSE) properties.

With the help of the BasketballBuzz team, Akil developed a web series entitled CouchLife, which consisted of short videos covering all things basketball. This included everything from local Canadian talent to the NBA. It was simple. A group of fans sitting on the couch and enjoying the game got to talk about what they saw. Quick, two-minute videos that did not have anyone rambling on and going-off topic.

“CouchLife was the result of me realizing that there were a lot of other people around me who knew and did a lot for the game, and they all possess interesting perspectives that needed to be shared publicly”

Akil does not have children, but as I sat there and worked with him on this project I can truthfully say that this was his baby. He took pride in making the only true, Canadian basketball show. He spent every penny he had on equipment and rearranging his downtown apartment to make the perfect set.

“CouchLife was the best three months of my life. Every night my place was filled with love and people. My sister even came once.”

After a successful three months, NBATV Canada wanted to move this series to the big screen. CouchLife became The Hangout and it blew up. The NBATV Canada office on the corner of Parliament and Lakeshore had built a full set for the show, consisting of couches and jerseys hanging from the wall. The two-minute videos became 30-minute time slots.

“The dream I have for this is so huge that I don’t think we will ever reach it, but I am interested in seeing how far we can take it. The fact that we got this far is amazing and the act of actually doing the show is probably my favourite part of the whole thing!” Dream hard, work harder. Break Barriers!

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1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Paul Storey

    April 11, 2017 at 14:56

    Akin’s story is an inspiration to me. I’m now dreaming hard and working harder.

    I dream of my own similar path in basketball commentary.

    I would love to write for Basketball Buzz. I am university educated and a huge Canadian Basketball fan.

    I am currently setting up a Canadian basketball blog to express my opinions and insights in a humorous way. Next to my family, this is my main passion.

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Off Court

Six teams, Six weeks One crown!

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Notice a lack of energy last Friday? Well there was, and that was due to the Nike Crown league coming to an end. The hundreds of fans that’s been planning their Friday’s according to The Nike Crown League schedule will now have to find something new to entertain them for the rest of the summer. Let’s be real, that it is not happening. Nothing’s been more enjoyable than being a part of watching the 6 teams battling out for 6 weeks to be proclaimed as a royalty. Only one team however could’ve own the throne, and everyone will tell you it was a classical finale. With the usual 6 teams taking action on Fridays, the finale only included four teams, as the Northern Kings and 1LoveTo failed to qualify in this memorable finale. The showdown of the Nike Crown League finals started off just as entertaining as it could possibly be. Team 9Now took care of business to earn the 3rd spot after destroying the CIABounce team. But the action was only getting started as the last game was easily one of the best game of the whole tournament; the fans felt apart of the game & the players fed off the energy in the building. It was clear that team ACE was LOOKING FOR REVENGE – All Summer 16, after coming up short last summer they rectified that by beating team M.A.D.E in a classic battle to be throne royalty! A group of people who took the Summer 16 Revenge motto just as hard, or maybe even a little harder than team ACE was the Nike Crown League Staff. They took pride in giving fans and players the best possible place you can watch or play basketball in Canada during the summer. The Nike Crown league staff set standards for what excitement, organization, planning & fun looks like. They solidify that there has not been anything more enjoyable than Friday nights at Ryerson’s Kerr Hall Gymnasium during summer 16 (Sorry Caribana). What made this the highlight of the summer in Toronto was that it was the most consistent fun that kids, adults, players, media members had during the summer. After all it lasted 6 weeks! Proving to everyone that nothing represented the 6 any better!

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Like always, the line-up was extremely long at Ryerson University. People might think a game for 3rd place would not be hyped or entertaining. Well the first two team to take the court that night proved it to be false. It had the crowd on their feet from the start. Team 9Now controlled the game from the very beginning – to the end. Toronto 3D’s and CIS All-Star Greg Morrow started the game on fire finishing with a game-high 30 points. Christian Kabongo took the torch later on and ran with it, as he single handily managed to make the entire gym scream every time he got the ball as he went on a tare for about 3-5 minutes of the game with his scoring &  passing, while doing it in a spectacular way. Luckily for fans since the game was not close – the last couple minutes of the game the players gave each other space to do a dunk showdown for the fans.

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Christian Kabongo’s known as CK, took honors of winning MVP of the game as he finished with 22 points & 13 assist. Leading his team to a 98-74 win over CIA Bounce.

CK took the time to talk to BasketballBuzz after the game saying “ The game went well, I just let the game come to me. My teammates showed me mad love – we just played fun basketball and it just so happens that thanks to God I happened to be the best basketball player in tonight’s game. I’m grateful for this tournament, thanks to coach NiKo & Banana (OVO Members) for giving me a chance to play – there’s no words to describe how grateful I am. As far as Crown league I think it was a beautiful experience, I think it’s a beautiful league and I still feel a lot more pros should play, it would be nice for the city. ”

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The last game was by far the most full the gym has been. There was no more seats left, but fans kept coming. The more they came, the more it fuelled both team. Despite there only being 1 winner it’s been a joyful ride for both. But certainly for team ACE who was crown as the 2016 Nike Crown League champions. They’ve had the fans on their back since the very beginning, giving fans something to remember every Friday they got on the court; it also didn’t hurt that couple local stars like Tyrone Watson, Daniel Mullins, Myck Kabongo and many others played for them. This final game represented everything the Nike crown league stands for; it was fun, competitive & every fans energy in the building – was off the roof, Jamal Murray and others ballers even came to watch that classic final game. These Local Stars received a lot of buzz after the game from Basketball fans all over Canada! And all the hype that surrounded them was all well worth it

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Vikta Paulo tweeted about the MVP of the final game Daniel Mullings who finished with 14, 10, 10

Another men who had as much Buzz as anybody who came into the gym; yes even as much as NBA players who played this year, was Myck Kabongo. He took the time to speak to BasketballBuzz after his team won the championship.

“ Today it was a hard fought win, we came together as a team. We trailed a lot of the game, but we did it as a team, every guy on the team had a part in the run we did in the second half. God only knows what is next for me – I’m just bless, I get to do what I love everyday and that’s playing the game of basketball. But I am thankful to win this tournament especially in front of families and friends. There’s a lot of talent here in Toronto as you can see in the NBA with the Tristan’s, the Corey’s the Wiggins and it’s going to keep rising just as this tournament keeps rising. And there’s going to be a lot of spotlight for players out here.”

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Who knows if every Canadians in the Olympics are inspired by the basketball scene in the county, but they should be! The basketball scene has been doing somewhat of a re-lay of their own as programs & teams keep passing the torch to one another, making in sort for basketball to not slow down. From Raptors, to Toronto 3D, to Ovo Bounce, to the women’s national basketball team, to Crown League – basketball just does not take a break in Toronto. It’s clear that with the growth that Canada has done with it’s basketball scene and the help that Raptors Global Ambassador ‘Drake’ and his ovo members has done to help, it’s been clear that despite of starting from the bottom – we are now here, with our own summer league! The crown league showed that it is just as hype as Los Angeles’s Drew League, San Francisco & Seattle Pro-AM, New York’s Nike pro-city basketball etc.

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