Linden soars towards the bucket in Germany. Contributed photo

Linden soars towards the bucket in Germany. Contributed photo

Maple Ridge exchange student playing pro basketball in Germany

Mats Linden spent a year training with the Westview Basketball Academy

By Katie MacLeod/ Special to The News

Mats Linden came from a small German town to spend a year training with the Westview Basketball Academy last year.

The exchange student hoped to improve both his basketball skills, and his English language skills in a nurturing environment in his year away from home.

School District 42’s basketball academy at Westview did not disappoint.

“I met teammates who will be my brothers for life,” Linden said.

His father, Markus, added, “We will welcome these boys to Germany any time. They have been Mats’ family this year.”

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Mats and his family were pleased with his basketball skill development, along with being impressed with the amount of time the basketball academy student-athletes are able to be on the court and in the weight room, practising, playing, and training.

Mats was able to join the academy student-athletes in fall and spring leagues, along with playing on the senior boys team at Westview during the official basketball season.

The academy, which operates out of Westview Secondary under the direction of principal Darren Rowell and Katie MacLeod, has become a destination for many youngathletes from all throughout Maple Ridge, the Fraser Valley, and the world.

The program began in September 2017, and has welcomed international student-athletes from Austria, China, Italy, Japan, Switzerland, Turkey, and – of course – Germany.

“The Westview basketball academy helped me become the player I am today,” Linden said.

“Playing every day, with other players who love basketball like I do, and who want to become great players, made it a competitive environment every day. We all improved because we pushed ourselves, and each other, to get better.”

The experience made Linden physically stronger, as he spent time training with the academy’s trainer, and working out in a weight room for the first time; and mentally tougher, with early mornings, high-level training sessions, and competitive games.

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Upon returning home to Germany, Mats was selected to play with the Dragons Rhondorf Professional Basketball Club.

He made his season debut with the men’s first division team early in December 2019.

Despite being just 17 years old, and too young to officially sign a professional contract, Mats played with both the men’s first- and second-division teams last season. Currently, as a gradual return to sports happens across Europe, Mats is preparing for his first full season as a professional basketball player.

A Dragons Rhondorf jersey with Linden’s name on the back now hangs in the Athletics Hallway at Westview, providing inspiration and a reminder to all the student-athletes in the basketball academy to continue to dream big.

“We put in so much time working in the gym together at Westview,” said Linden. “I loved all the hours of sweat and hard work. It was worth it!”

– Katie MacLeod is a teacher and basketball coach at Westview Secondary

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