After a successful basketball adventure in Turkey, Abbotsford’s Marek Klassen has returned home for the summer and wants to give back to the community in a big way.
The first-ever Abby Made Basketball Camp is set to take over the University of the Fraser Valley gym on June 2 and 3, and Klassen said he hopes his creation can bring the local basketball community together.
The completely free camp, open to 100 male and female players aged 14 to 17, will be as close to a professional atmosphere as possible, Klassen said.
“When I first had the vision for the camp I wanted it to be a collaboration of some of the Abbotsford basketball community, coaches, club teams and players,” Klassen said. “It’s a great opportunity for some of the youth to work with some professionals and get some experience and understanding of what that feels like.”
Klassen is coming off an excellent season with Bakirkoy of the Turkish Basketball League. He was the only TBL player last season to average over 15 points, six assists and five rebounds per game. Bakirkoy narrowly missed out on the playoffs, and Klassen said it was a year to remember.
“It was a really good season for me personally and we finished tied for a playoff spot but missed because the other team beat us in head-to-head play,” he said. “We finished above teams who had four or five times our budget, which is unheard of in that league, so I think we were pretty happy overall.”
Klassen will be joined by fellow local professionals Kayli Sartori and Joel Friesen as coaches at the camp. Sartori, who starred for many years with the UFV Cascades women’s basketball team, recently completed her first professional season in Lebanon. Friesen, a former star with the Yale Lions and in the Canada West, helped lead the London Lightning to their second straight National Basketball League title earlier this month.
Klassen said he was fortunate to be exposed to the pro mindset early on, and thinks it could help develop more pros in Abbotsford.
“When I was younger my dad brought so many professionals around me because he coached with Athletes in Action,” he said. “I got to see how they train and work and that’s what helped drive me to have that dream and passion to become a pro. We want to help give those 100 kids that experience.”
The camp will see a combination of drills, station work and scrimmages. Klassen said he also wants to help create more of an identity for Abbotsford basketball and create recognition for those chasing their dreams.
“Right now with these kids someone from Abbotsford Senior competes against guys from Yale and against MEI and so on,” he said. “But what they don’t realize is that when you’re all 20 or older and you hear that the guy you played against in high school is now playing pro then you will root for him. We need to take pride in the people from our city that have made it.”
Klassen plans to return overseas to play professional basketball next year, but added that he’s potentially interested in suiting up for the Fraser Valley team in the new Canadian Elite Basketball League. That team is set to tip-off in the summer of 2019, and the league’s schedule will be designed to not conflict with European and overseas leagues.
“Those types of summer leagues are all over the world but just not in Canada,” Klassen said. “If I make a big jump to a higher league next year then I probably would want to rest my body and may not be interested. But I’d love to chat with them. Playing in Abbotsford is so intriguing to me.”
As of press time, the free camp had 11 spots remaining. For more information and to register for the event, visit eventbrite.ca/e/abby-made-basketball-camp-tickets-44303906176.