Despite skyrocketing COVID-19 numbers in the United States, many Manitoba athletes still headed south of the border to chase their athletic careers. One of those players is Winnipeg’s Kyler Filewich who’s a freshman, playing NCAA division one hoops at Southern Illinois.
Filewich always dreamed of playing division one basketball at a big U.S. school, but this is certainly not the way he envisioned it.
“It’s a bit different than what I expected my whole life what college is going to be,” Filewich said.
“With the COVID stuff it’s been different with online classes mostly. I have a few in person classes but most of my stuff is online. And it took a while to adjust to it really.”
His new team already had a positive test but are now COVID-free, although with quarantine rules, there’ll be no trips home at Christmas this year.
“Our whole team will be here for pretty much the whole year,” he said. “It’s different. It’s weird, but it’s a sacrifice we’re willing to make cause we’re really trying to build something special.”
In his senior year in high school, the six-foot-nine-inch 250-pounder led the Vincent Massey Trojans to the AAAA provincial basketball championship, but he also excelled on the gridiron, helping the Trojans to a football title, as well.
He turned down football offers to both the University of North Dakota and the University of Manitoba to pursue basketball, playing a year at Orangeville Prep where he got noticed by the Salukis, who have never had a Canadian in their basketball program before.
“They were recruiting me pretty hard,” said Filewich. “Once they started recruiting me, I kinda did my research into it. And with just the way the coach was trying to sell it to me, I really loved what they were trying to sell and I bought into it.”
Choosing basketball over football really shouldn’t be a surprise as hoops runs deep in his blood. His mom and dad, Arlyn and Keon, both starred for the Bisons from 1988-1993, while his sister, Keylyn, is the reigning Canada West women’s basketball player of the year.
“Everyone in our family loves basketball,” Filewich said. “It’s definitely a huge part of who we are as a family.
“There were times I thought football is what I wanted to do as well. But deep down in the back of mind, I really knew it was basketball going forward.”
The 19-year-old is now eyeing the Salukis backup centre job, and while they won’t play their first game for another three weeks, Filewich has been practicing on campus since early July.
“I feel like we can compete,” he said. “And hopefully make a run to the NCAA March Madness tournament which has always been my dream growing up.”
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