VIdeo Spotlight - Denny McDonald

LANGLEY, British Columbia - Trinity Western’s Denny McDonald is as Jamaican as they come.

There’s no doubt the culture, personality and athleticism of the Caribbean island where he was born and lived for the first five years of his life oozes from the pores of the talented 6-foot-5 Mississauga, Ont. raised basketballer.

The third-year wing player has that stereotypical happy-go-lucky, laid back Jamaican persona. He’s a people person with a reserved and humble attitude. And he’s as athletic of a basketball player as the Spartans have seen in some time. If not, ever.

Oh and he’s a pretty impressive cook too. While he can probably make his delectable jerk chicken in his sleep, his teammate, roommate and fellow Ontarian Mark Perrin says his pancakes are also something special.

So when it all comes together on the basketball court, his chef-like precision included, it all makes sense. He is just a Jamaican trying to make it on the hard court. And doing a mighty fine job.

Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, McDonald remembers growing up “just running around with my cousins and going to rivers and beaches” on the northwest coast of the island largely known for Usain Bolt and Cool Runnings. But when he and his mom decided to move to Canada, and specifically Mississauga, McDonald was happy for a new start.

“I was excited to leave because the things I heard about Canada were so overwhelming that I couldn’t wait to experience them for myself,” said McDonald. “It gave us a better opportunity and a fresh start. It was a great move.”

Once in Canada and surrounded by that basketball community that is Toronto and its nearest suburbs, it didn’t take McDonald long to fall in love with the hoops and the hard court.

With Vince Carter in his glory days with the Toronto Raptors, a young and impressionable McDonald was infatuated with the flashy dunker and the game itself.

Thus began his pursuit of basketball that would take him all across North America on a rather winday highway.

Blessed with a build not far off his famous compatriot Bolt – they’re both now 6-foot-5 and actually have a similar frame – McDonald was always the star of his basketball team. For that matter, he was also the star of his volleyball and football teams too, but basketball was his first love.

He started to get serious about basketball in Grade 8 and by the time he was in Grade 9 and attending St. Joan of Arc Catholic High School in Mississauga, he was already considering prep schools in the United States.  McDonald ended up staying at St. Joan of Arc until after his Grade 11 year, when he finally got a chance to go Brehm Preparatory School in Carbondale, Ill. for his final year of high school.

While at Brehm Prep, a school that attracts international students from a variety of countries, McDonald had a chance to develop both as a basketball player and as a student. And along the way, he got to play against legendary basketball programs like Findlay Prep, which, at the time, featured Canadians Tristan Thompson, who was selected fourth overall by Cleveland in the 2011 NBA Draft, and Cory Joseph, who went 29th overall in that same draft to San Antonio.

“I got to play against a lot of high quality teams,” McDonald said of his experience at Brehm Prep. “That was when I proved to myself that I had what it takes to play at that level and I started believing in my skills and talents.”

Following his graduation in 2010, his path took him from Carbonedale, Ill. to Moberly, Mo. where he attended Moberly Area Community College.

But after just a year at Moberly, he was released and found himself back in Ontario looking to land at what would be his fourth school in four years.

That’s when he found Sheridan College in Oakville, Ont. and his path started taking him towards the CIS and the Spartans.

“At first, it was disappointing (going to Sheridan) and I wasn’t really enthusiastic about it because I wanted to play in the States,” said McDonald, who is now studying communications at TWU. “But it was probably one of my best decisions to go ahead and play college ball.

“I was contemplating taking a year off and train by myself in an effort to go back to the States, but it was probably my best move to go to Sheridan. I was able to develop more as a player. I had a great year and it allowed me to be here at TWU. Things happen and through adversity you have to fight through it and learn from it and here I am likely in a better situation than if I had gone to the States.”

After an impressive year playing at the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association – one in which he averaged 16.6 points per game and 8.5 rebounds per game and was named an OCAA West Division Second Team All-Star – TWU coach Scott Allen came calling.

“I knew he was one of the best athletes in Canada and he would have a great opportunity to step in and be an impact player with us. His character is outstanding and he’s a caring individual who I knew would fit into our program well.”

And that’s exactly what he’s done.

That laid back attitude that he says is “definitely in my culture,” has endeared himself to his new teammates and his ability on the court has Allen excited about both now and the future.

Through his first six games at the CIS level, he has averaged 12.3 points per game and 5.2 assists per game and for McDonald, playing in his fifth different basketball environment in five years, he’s just getting going.

“I think right now he needs to play more intense and do so consistently,” Allen said. “He got away with a lot of things by just being so athletic at the college level. He’s got to dial it up a bit. But there’s no doubt his heart is in it to become better and he’s working really hard to get there.”

Simply put, at times, he just needs to be a little nastier on the court.

He needs to channel his Yul Brenner and “don't take no crap off of nobody.”

“Scott says I am too nice and I need to be meaner on the court,” said McDonald, who as a child got his yellow belt in karate but that’s about as far as his aggression, or lack thereof, took him. “I’m working on it.”

Allen prefers to use the word intensity. But no matter what word is used, the Spartans coach is confident that, “once he gets that, he’ll turn into one of the best players in Canada.”

And being at the top of a particular athletic endeavor, well, that’s also pretty Jamaican.

Last Updated: 2012-11-23
Author: Mark Janzen