Canada 3D Global Sports: Paying the Price for a Canadian Dream

Day 1 of training camp. Canada 3D will compete against Team Philippines today.

While the U-19 Canadian boys were making history last weekend, I drove out to the deep fields of Kitchener, on a Saturday night, to watch a group of grown men practice in a high school gym.

There were no shooting machines, no fancy training equipment, and no reporters in sight — just heart and hustle. Players wore practice jerseys with “Toronto 3D” splashed across them. They were united under a high school gym roof to prepare for the William Jones Cup, a basketball tournament in Taiwan that’s in its 39th year. It will be televised throughout Asia, and is steeped in history — M.J. had once played in it.

Canada 3D Global Sports will fight against national teams like China, Japan, and South Korea. They are less than twelve hours away from playing against the Philippines. No 3D player will be paid to play, but all are competing in hopes of padding their basketball resumes, and attracting potential offers from professional teams overseas. Like many other millennials, they too lack job stability and must hunt for opportunities in the off-season.

Bouncing from contract to contract is a reality that floor general, Joey Haywood, knows too well (IMO: the VICE short doc is as touching and riveting as the classic Hoop Dreams). “This is my second chance,” says Joey, referring to the doors that William Jones will open up. At 32 years old, he is doing everything it takes to put food on the table for his family back in Vancity. He came back from a streetball tour in China and Japan, and will return to China again after the tournament. But this is the price he must pay to continue doing what he loves.

In the interview, he repeats the same line from the VICE documentary: “I’ve been playing this game since I was seven,” asserting that basketball is all he knows and he has no intention of hanging up his Jordans now.

Other players are in a similar position. Diego Kaplan has spent seven years in the top European leagues and is playing on the same Summer Pro-Am team as Jamal Crawford. Michale Kyser has bounced around the D. League, Dwayne Smith has won championships on Latin American teams, and Tramique Sutherland — still 23 years old — is one of Toronto’s hidden gems, fighting for his recognition.

Every 3D player once had self-expectations as big as R.J. Barrett’s. Though their playing careers are far from Cindrella sports stories, they all have one commonality — the relentless pursuit to keep their dreams alive. They continue to push, to grind, and travel the world to hone their craft.

Teddy Tochev, the founder of 3D, understands the patience needed to make a dream real. “This is all just hustle and heart. It’s all grunt work,” says Teddy who has transformed this program from a men’s league team to one representing Canada at the international stage. It took five years to get here, and he bartends, flips homes, and juggles several online marketing ventures to fund the flights, accommodation, and practices for his players.

Canada 3D will continue to evolve as they chase their dreams in Taiwan, a weekend after our U-19 boys made history. Continue to celebrate our birthday month by watching them strive for the William Jones Cup.