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Dane Quest: Unbreakable

University of Toronto Varsity Blues star, Dane Quest, discusses his basketball journey, all he’s overcome and what’s next.

Toronto Varsity Blues Dane Quest gets past his defender in a preseason matchup against NCAA opponent Towson Tigers. - Photo: Aru Das
Toronto Varsity Blues Dane Quest gets past his defender in a preseason matchup against NCAA opponent Towson Tigers. - Photo: Aru Das

I think It’s more than what you do on the court, field or ice, it’s what you do off of it and how you’re able to impact other people through your sport. Dane Quest

Dane Quest is living his dream of playing basketball at a high level, but that doesn’t mean it came easy. Through navigating trials and tribulations, while being a student-athlete, Dane never gave up on himself or his dreams. I caught up with Dane to discuss his career, his personal journey, who he is outside of basketball, what’s next for him, and more.

Tell us a little about yourself?

My name is Dane Quest, I’m from Scarborough, Ontario. Born to Jamaican parents. I was raised by my mom and my stepdad who is Croatian.

Basketball was not my first love; it was actually martial arts. I did that from the age of 4 or 5 until around 12-13. I grew up playing multiple sports, and my parents always wanted me to stay busy, stay involved, develop bonds and friendships and not stay in the house.

Once I started growing, and my interest in taekwondo waned, I decided to transition over to basketball. There was a gentlemen at the Scarborough YMCA where I would go almost every weekend, who said “How tall are you man?” I said “5’10, 5″11”. I was pretty tall for my age and he told me to go play for this team called Fire basketball in the OBA. I had no concept of OBA, Fire basketball or anything like that, so I just went to a tryout and the rest was history.

Here I am today, many states later, high school and university programs later [laughs] at U of T (University of Toronto) living my dream of playing collegiate sports. That’s pretty much me in a nutshell.

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What was your experience like playing away from home, and how does it feel to be back?

It was amazing. It forced me to grow up, to be independent, and self-sufficient. Of course you miss family. You miss the home cooking, the Jamaican food [laughs] everyday.

You go from that – having your parents kind of overseeing everything, watching over you to making adult decisions, at such a young age where you feel you shouldn’t have to. This is the reality of the life that I chose, but it’s what I signed up for. I wanted the opportunity to play division one basketball – that was my ultimate goal.

Seeing Canadian players like Andrew Wiggins, Cory Joseph, Tristan Thompson, Anthony Bennett, Tyler Ennis, all those guys who paved the way for myself and provided a blueprint for success in this game, which was leaving home for a chance at getting a scholarship at a collegiate level.

After two years of playing High school basketball in Toronto, I felt like going down there was the best thing for me and my development. I went to three different prep schools – Aspire Academy, South Kent School and Lake Forest Academy. I am grateful for these experiences. I was able to grow not only as a player, but as a person.

I was so hell bent on going division one, because that’s what I sacrificed for. So much so, that I had to skip high school prom to play in a couple AAU tournaments during the April live period. I was able to get a call from Tennessee Tech one day. There were 3-4 junior college guys that they were looking at as well. I didn’t think that they were going to take a chance on me. I got the vibe that they were looking at high impact guys in college. Fortunately, the head coach offered me a scholarship. I accepted the offer and made my way down south for summer training.

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I was at Tennessee Tech for three years, transferred to division two, Western New Mexico, stayed there for a year. After my year there, I had one more year of eligibility, and I said let’s run it back, let me go back to the city, U of T, let me build something over here, maybe compete for a championship, and maybe do something special, and I feel like we did that.

To be back in the city there’s no better feeling. Feel rejuvenated, a weight lifted off your shoulders. Getting to reconnect with family and friends, enjoy home cooked meals, and just embrace the city. I’m telling you, no better feeling.

Dane quest on the court
Dane Quest on the court against the Queens Gaels – Photo: Toronto Varsity Blues

I see that you’re from Scarborough, what did you think of the Shooting Stars championship?

I was just so excited that we had a team in Scarborough. Me and my boys have been to a few games, and it’s like a reunion! You see everybody from every corner of Scarborough. Guys that you played at the Scarborough YMCA or at Jack Goodlad with, or just who you seen in high school when you were mall rats at STC [laughs], it’s such a great experience of being in that gym supporting the team.

They lost the championship to the Honey Badgers the first year, and you just felt it. You felt the weight of the city because everyone from the east rallied around the team, and we wanted them to do well. But with how tight the team was and how well they played together over the summer, we knew a championship was within our reach.

There was just an immense amount of pride to see our team win. It was a feeling I couldn’t really describe, you just walked around with a certain level of confidence “Like yeah, this is our city. We’re running this, nobody can chat to us. We’re going to run it back”.

The amount of kids that look up to these guys, it gives them hope, gives me hope, that one day we can play here and make a career out of playing basketbal for the ends.

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What do you think makes a great athlete?

I think what makes a great athlete is their ability on the floor, their ability to impact winning, their charisma, their desire for getting better. I also think a great athletes have tremendous focus, resilience and poise, supportive of their teammates and celebrates their success. The ability to be adaptable and willing to learn. Attention to detail is another important quality, I’d say. So, those are some of the things that make a great athlete.

Also, I truly believe it’s more than what you do on the court, field or ice, it’s what you do off of it and how you’re able to impact other people through your sport. I’m a huge fan of the late Nipsey Hussle and he has a saying “you should measure your success by how many people you bless.” That’s something I try to live by everyday, and what every athlete should live by as well.

Obviously, if you’re able to wow people with your ability, that’s awesome, that’s a blessing, but I think an even bigger blessing is to be able to use your platform as an athlete to inspire people to do better in whatever walk of life that they decide to go down. I think that’s what makes a great athlete.

Positive aspects of playing basketball are often highlighted, what would you say are the hardships of being an athlete?

A hardship of being an athlete is dealing with the daily physical and mental demands that we face. We push our bodies through practice, lifts, individual skill sessions and of course, games. The physical demands can lead to injuries, pain and other health issues.

Mental strain is equally as difficult to withstand. We, as athletes, have to deal with high levels of stress, pressure and expectations from ourselves and those around us.

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On top of all this, you’re having to balance school. Between our intense workout schedule, class, study hall, and travel for games, we must ensure that our academic standards are maintained throughout so that our eligibility is not jeopardized.

A hardship that often gets overlooked is dealing with uncertainty. Injuries can oftentimes shift the trajectory of our career. The thoughts of ” will I be the same?” or “is this for me?” circulate our minds. Or maybe, you’re an athlete wanting to play pro. This pathway is not for everyone, but we’re forced with the daunting thought of our careers coming to an end shorter than what we anticipated.

A big part of playing basketball is discipline. How do you stay focused, especially with things such as social media being so popular?

It’s tough [laughs] literally my phone is flooded with messages, whether it’s text messages, or social media because of the success that U of T has had this season. It can be overwhelming. Of course, I am grateful for the amount of love and support I’ve received, but sometimes those things can become distracting. I try to remind myself that there is always more work to be done, and that sort of anchors me as I continue to pursue my goals.

Establishing a daily routine helps me stay focused – this is when I need to work out, this is when I need to go to class, this much time with friends, and etc. It’s not always going to be perfect, but remaining consistent can help maximize our productivity on and off the floor.

Dane quest with teammates
Dane Quest with teammates during the annoucement of the starting lineups – Photo: Toronto Varsity Blues

Currently, who is your favourite basketball player?

Kawhi Leonard. His two-way ability, his ability to play exceptional and also guard the best players on any given night. For me in my journey, I think my greatest strength in basketball is my defense. I take pride in slowing down the opposing team’s best player every night.

I just love how he gets to his spots on the floor and keeps the game simple. Never seems rushed, just always in control. Those are things that I’ve tried to implement throughout my career.

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How would your teammates and coach describe you?

I think they would describe me as somebody who is selfless. I care for the next guy; I want them to succeed more than me. Their success is my success.

My humility is another quality they would probably highlight. I think for someone like me, given the places that I’ve been and the opportunities that I’ve had, it’s easy for someone to just come into any situation and act like “I’m that guy” and rub people the wrong way. I try to be where my feet are and embrace everyone around me.

I’m pretty reserved, quiet, that’s something else they would probably say. I don’t say too much, I speak when necessary. I lead by example, work hard, and most of all, I’m all about the right things.

What has been your biggest success playing ball so far?

I think my biggest success so far would be doing things that a lot of people thought couldn’t be done. Getting opportunities to play basketball at a high level, while also getting a free education. Seeing different parts of the world and broadening my perspective on life is something I do not take for granted.

The relationships I’ve been able to form not only with my teammates and coaches, but people outside the realm of athletics. Academic people, admin, or just the student body. I’m fortunate basketball regularly allowed me to cross paths with some amazing people along the way. I’m still in contact with a lot of these people and they continue to check in and celebrate all I’ve accomplished.

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There were times when I couldn’t go home for holidays, and faculty and staff would invite me over to their home and embrace me with open arms. That’s the biggest success – just having those relationships. If I were to ever need something, I know they would be there for me. So, I’m proud of that more than anything.

How do you handle a big loss?

Oh my goodness! [laughs] This is tough because we literally just had one, two days ago. That’s a great question. How do I handle it? I’m still handling it right now! [laughs]

I think I try to put myself in a place of gratitude. With me, being a person of faith, a believer of God, he’s given me the ability to play this game, and for that, I am so thankful that he has given me a platform to showcase my ability.

Of course it hurts. You have to deal with the hurt, the disappointment, the frustration, the what ifs, what could have been, what you could have done differently, but then in the aftermath I just think about the journey and how blessed I am to have had that chance.

At the same time, big losses deepen our appetite as athletes to do better. I attack what’s next with so much force, with so much energy, just thinking about not being in that position again. Being on top, being a winner, because we play to win.

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Do you believe training, exercise, and nutrition are important when it comes to playing basketball?

All three are very important, however nutrition is one aspect that is often overlooked. Obviously, guys love getting in the gym, working on their craft, weight room, that’s important but sometimes what we’re consuming isn’t taken as important as it should be.

Even myself, if I’m on campus, or staying late at the library, I’m probably not eating the best. And when I was away from home, you don’t have family there with you, and it’s all on you. Sometimes you indulge on things that you know you shouldn’t.

Overall, I think those three things build the foundation. How you train, how you exercise, how you go about things with your body. It’s important to note that training and preparation are not just the physical, it’s also mental. Whether it’s meditation, visualization, positive self-talk, all those things are a few ways we can train ourselves to be the best.

I’m a firm believer that how you do anything is how you do everything. You might be training all the time, but is how you attack your training and your exercise the same way you attack your nutrition? Or is your nutrition great, but how are you training? One can’t suffer because of another; everything has to be worked on equally.

Dane quest locked in
Dane Quest locked in and attacking the basket – Photo: Toronto Varsity Blues

Most athletes are always trying to improve their game. What do you do to make sure you’re always growing and improving?

I think it begins with self-awareness. Understanding who I am as a basketball player, my strengths and weaknesses. I am trying to work on those things. Truth be told, I am not the best three-point shooter, so I try to be around guys who are great shooters so I can work out and compete against them. Everyone has something that you may not have, so I discover what makes them great at that skill and add it to my game.

Also, I know I am not the most physically imposing guy. I might be tall, but I’m still skinny. [Laughs] I try and lift and do pushups. I’m not saying that I have to be super strong, but if I can hold my own on the court, it would be good. I want to guard multiple positions, but as I said it all starts with self-awareness, and having an understanding of where you’re at and need to be.

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Seeking feedback and constructive criticism from peers and coaches. Anything they see I try to take it and implement moving forward, because I don’t have all the answers.

What do you enjoy outside of basketball?

I am very family oriented, so I always enjoy being around my family and my friends, hanging out and experiencing different things.

I love watching movies. I also enjoy shopping. I think fashion and sports go hand in hand. As a hooper, you got to have the latest sneakers or trending street wear and styles. It’s only right. [Laughs]

I love music, listening to different kinds of music. I enjoy exploring nature. When I was in Arizona, my team and I would go out to the mountains and hang out, hit the trails, take walks and just bond together. Had some of my fondest memories just being in those environments with those guys. No hoops, just vibes. It’s something I’ve continued to do as I’ve gotten older. I’ve been interested in content creation as of late, so I’m trying to get involved in that and provide glimpses of what life is like as an athlete.

What’s next for you?

I would love to play pro in the CEBL this summer, compete against pros and just be a sponge. After that, I would love to go overseas and further my professional career.

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Psychology, I’m majoring in psychology right now and hoping to continue my journey in education by going to grad school and then start my career. Whether that’s at the amateur, collegiate, or professional level, I want to help athletes become the best versions of themselves.

Is there anything else you would like the readers to know?

I really want people to know the realities of college sports. People look and see the good things, like “wow look at him, he’s doing this” but nobody understands what it took to get to this point. It’s like “man he must have been lucky”. This is all God’s doing.

This is not a slight to any coach or anybody who has been a part of my basketball journey, because I would not be where I am without each and every opportunity. That being said, some of the things I’ve been through are gut-wrenching. I wouldn’t want any kid coming up in this game to go through what I been through. That’s why I feel like I got to pull back the curtain and talk about these things.

When I was at South Kent in Connecticut, I found out that my head coach that I had ultimate faith in, was going behind my back telling college coaches not to take a chance on me. He was calling me lazy, saying my attitude was bad, and devaluating me as a player and a person, (I still have the text thread in my phone) It was disheartening to find out that someone I put my trust in would do such a horrendous thing behind my back.

I’ve had coaches who I thought were going to have my best interest at heart. They have you on a team and say all these great things and then once they feel you’re no longer any sort of benefit to them, they wither away and find another athlete to support. You’re left to figure things out by yourself. You’re left wondering “What’s wrong with me” or ” am I good enough?” Your confidence is shot. As a young 16–17-year-old, these are tough things to deal with.

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Another example at Tennessee Tech, I went through long seasons of fluctuating playing time. Before my third year I decided to sacrifice the whole summer working on my craft. My guy Mike and I worked out together two times a day, preparing myself for what I hoped would have been my breakout season. After a long summer, I was met with a conversation from my head coach after a tough practice saying that he notices the improvement, and he sees how much I work, but I’m an injury or covid test away from playing, which meant I was out of the rotation and had to bank on one of my brothers being sidelined so I could play.

That was a painful reality to accept because you’re thinking of all that you had to go through. Doubt, confusion, and inadequacy begin to pile up brick by brick. Despite all this, I still wanted to stay. Crazy right? I was loyal and thought we had a chance to do something great the following season. I sat in the head coach’s office for our end-of-year meeting, and he said, “I don’t see you playing next year” And I got the feeling that it was time to move on. You put your blood, sweat and tears into the program, and it didn’t matter.

There were times when I wanted to give up, straight up. All the bus rides, the trips, you’re just wondering, is this worth it? All the work I’m putting in? Should I stop? or should I keep going. After coming back home and having the season that I had with the guys this year, it made it all worth it.

I just wanted to shed light on what it can be like, shed light on what I had to go through to get here, nothing came easy. It’s been a hell of a journey and I’m thankful to God for the blessings that he’s been able to give me. I’m really proud of myself and how far I’ve come, but I’m excited for what’s ahead.

Dane Quest is a true example of resilience, hard-work, and betting on yourself. He has overcome every obstacle that has been thrown at him while still remaining, humble and grateful. While talking to Dane, it’s not hard to pick up on his amazing, contagious energy, as well as his passion for the game and most importantly the impact he leaves on others, and with all these qualities, he is bound to go far.

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2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Trey S

    March 8, 2024 at 2:06 PM

    Great Article

  2. Destiny

    March 8, 2024 at 2:19 PM

    I love Dane 😉

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