The University of Victoria has scored one of Vancouver Island’s best young basketball players.
Ucluelet First Nation member Jaden Touchie will pull on a UVic Vikings jersey in the fall.
The son of acclaimed local basketball legend Evan Touchie, Jaden has been playing basketball for as long as he can remember and he’s excited to continue pursuing his passion while receiving a post-secondary education.
“School is really important to me,” he told the Westerly News. “The education part and getting the basketball is the coolest part of going to UVic this year.”
The 6’ 2” 18 year-old point guard recently graduated from Victoria’s Oak Bay High School where he excelled under the leadership of coach Chris Franklin.
“I was working on my game everyday and I had a great coach,” he said. “He pushed me to do the best I could and eventually got me to that point where i was good enough to play post-secondary basketball.”
Touchie has lived in Victoria for the past 14 years and he’s excited to stay in his hometown and help the Vikings squad he’s been cheering for win games.
“I’ve been watching them since I was a little kid, so it will be really cool to actually start playing for them,” he said. “I’m excited to get started. It’s a whole new level of competitiveness and I’m pumped.”
Touchie said his speed and defensive abilities will be his biggest asset to his new team and added that he likes the high-speed program coach Craig Beaucamp runs at UVic.
“He’s running a pretty fast-paced team, defending end-line to end-line, and it’s the same thing on the offensive end; trying to get up the court as fast as you can,” he said. “I’ll bring a lot of energy.”
He said support from his family and the Ucluelet First Nation helped him stay focused on the sport and compete at a high level.
“They’ve supported me with everything,” he said. “It’s a mental thing. You know they’re there and you can always go back to them. With your family and your Nation, you always have a home waiting for you. Knowing they’re always supporting me is great because I know, going into all my games, that all my Nation is behind me and I just feel well-supported when I play.”
Ucluelet First Nation president Les Doiron said a variety of support sources and scholarship opportunities are available to the Nation’s young achievers and has consistently supported Touchie’s efforts, most recently with a $1,500 donation from the Nation’s Interfor Relationship Agreement..
“As a Nation, it is important that we support all of our youth. I am a big believer in education. It is the key to a more prosperous future for our Nation,” Doiron said.
“For some of our youth, like Jaden, athletics is the key to a University Education. Whatever we can do as a Nation to help kids like Jaden achieve their dreams we will do it. I can’t say enough how proud our Nation is of Jaden’s achievements.”
Touchie plans to take social science and business classes during his first year and his mom Katy Gregg is thrilled that her son will be staying in Victoria to pursue his post-secondary education.
“We’re excited that he’s going to be pretty much just in our backyard,” she said. “We’re really proud of him. He’s overcome a lot of adversity in his short years and he’s soldiered through that and been really successful.”
Jaden was just eight year’s old when his dad Evan suffered a fatal heart attack at 33.
“That was quite a blow,” Gregg said. “He was very, very, courageous getting through all of that and I think it was basketball that got him through it.”
She added she loves watching her son play.
“I see a lot of his dad in him. He’s a different player than his dad was, but it’s like watching a ghost out there on the court,” she said. “He is the spitting image of his dad physically. When he gets into his stance, he looks just like his dad, but his dad was definitely more of a firecracker on the court…Jaden has a sense of respect for the officials, whereas his dad just felt like he was at war with everyone.”
She said Jaden’s calm presence makes him a solid leader for his teammates to emulate.
“He is super chill. He’s very laid back and keeps his cool. He’s a great leader. He definitely was the spirit and the soul of his Oak Bay team this last year,” she said.
She added her son’s success has been well-earned.
“He’s got drive. He always has since he was a little guy,” she said. “He’s worked really hard to get where he is and he deserves it. He’s worked hard in school. He gets really good grades. He’s earned the respect of a lot of players…He’s worked really hard to get there and he’s really happy.”