Chances are Jason Meehan, the high school basketball player in Mount Pearl back in the early 1990s, probably let his mind drift every now and again and envisioned doing something with the game.
Most young athletes do. It’s human nature, but then reality eventually sets in, and they move on with real life.
But sometimes, things work out in a funny way.
Meehan is 46 now, with a wife, child and another on the way, but he’s still involved with basketball. And a nice gig it is.
He’s home this week, with the national senior men’s basketball team for which he’s serving as an athletic therapist.
It’s a great time to be involved with Canada Basketball and the men’s team, which has qualified for the 2019 FIBA Basketball World Cup next September in China.
From that tournament, seven teams will go directly to the 2020 Summer Olympic Games in Tokyo.
The Canadians beat Chile 85-46 Thursday in their next-to-last qualifying game. They meet Venezuela 4 o’clock Sunday afternoon at Mile One Centre.
“It’s a very exciting time to be with Canada Basketball,” Meehan said following practice this this week. “The ceiling is very high for these kids and the organization.
“There were 13 Canadians on opening-day NBA rosters, we have the potential to have five kids drafted this summer, we have some 45 kids in NCAA schools, hundreds of Euro players.
“The talent pool is massive, and it’s extremely exciting.”
Meehan played hoops and soccer at O’Donel high in Mount Pearl — that school’s done pretty good producing people who’ve made a mark in sports, namely Olympic gold medalist and Brier champ Brad Gushue, ex-NHLer Ryane Clowe, two-time Paralympian Liam Hickey and former NCAA basketballer Hannah Jardine — before heading to Memorial University where he suited up for the varsity soccer squad.
In 1995, he left Newfoundland to study massage therapy in Ontario. Following that, he attended York University where he completed an honours degree in kinesiology and athletic therapy.
After graduation, he did some therapy work for the CFL’s Toronto Argonauts, and the arena league’s Toronto Phantoms. After working in private practice, Meehan landed some work with the Toronto Raptors and it was there he met Jay Triano.
And so, in keeping with an age old practice of pro sports (you know a guy, who knows a guy …), Triano brought Meehan into the Canada Basketball fold when the former was signed as the national men’s team coach.
Meehan still has a day job, as an athletic therapist at the University of Toronto, where he works closely with the swim team and Olympic medalist and world champion Kylie Masse.
But the university is “very forgiving” to Meehan, allowing him time off to attend to his Canada Basketball duties.
The basketball team’s medical group includes Meehan and Sam Gibbs, along with strength and conditioning coach Charlie Weingroff, who all work under Dr. John Philpott, who has family ties to the province’s west coast.
“We’ve been together since 2010, and our goal has always been 2020 (Tokyo Olympics),” Meehan said.
Meehan has witnessed first-hand the growth of basketball in Canada. He recalls heading to SkyDome (now Rogers Centre) to watch the Raptors play in a building that was half-empty, except when Michael Jordan and the Chicago Bulls were in town.
Now the Raptors have carved their own niche on the local and national landscape. They might not be as popular as the Leafs, but the Raps aren’t far off.
“I think you also have to take into consideration what the Vince Carter effect had on the kids across Canada, and the Steve Nash effect.
“I’ve known Carl (English) the last 10 or dozen years, specifically with Basketball Canada, and I know he’s helped grow the game back in Newfoundland.
“The game’s grown substantially. Even this week, we had local coaches come out and watch our practice.
“A lot of doors have opened for kids playing basketball. They have way more opportunities today.”
As for Meehan, he’s had his shot at joining the pros full-time. But as anyone who’s been around professional sports will tell you, the equipment guys and the athletic therapists punch in long days, and longer nights.
“There have been many discussions,” he said. “People think I’m crazy when some opportunities have knocked. But I’m not 25 anymore. I have a family.
“This is a grind in itself, and we’re only gone two weeks at a time.”
In August and September, the national team will be out of the country for six weeks, to China and the FIBA World Cup.
Goes without saying Meehan and everyone else even remotely connected to the squad hopes another trip comes up after that one — to Tokyo in 2020.
Robin Short is The Telegram’s Sports Editor. He can be reached by email firstname.lastname@example.org Follow him on Twitter @TelyRobinShort