Coming out of high school, Henry Tan had the world at his feet.
Heavily recruited and fielding offers from Division I schools, Tan was among Canada’s top emerging basketball stars. But then injury took his toll, and facing surgery to repair a torn ACL, the offers began to dry up.
But, as they say, when one door closes, another opens, and in Tan’s case, it’s led him to Thunder Bay, where Lakehead University coach Scott Morrison on Saturday named him the first major recruit in the nation to commit for 2012-13.
The six-foot point guard who will have surgery on Nov. 2 and require up to eight months to recover, said it’s not going to be easy to sit on the sidelines, but he’s trying to look at the positives for now.
“It’s going to be pretty tough, but I’m going to stay positive. I know I’m going to have all my teammates and all the fans supporting me. I’m just going to take my time and really take the rehab seriously and do it correctly and I can’t wait to play next year,” said Tan a two-time provincial high school champion with Thornhill’s Vaughan Voyageurs who scored 23 points in the OFSAA AAAA final against Eastern Commerce last winter to secure the second title.
The Thunderwolves are in desperate need of standout players to fill a coming void. Yoosrie Salhia, Greg Carter, Ben Johnson and Joseph Jones are all hitting the real world next spring following graduation.
But with a solid base of younger players, like British import Joseph Hart and former NCAA guard Dwayne Harvey already in the fold, and potential all-Canadian Ryan Thomson back for a final season, adding someone with Tan’s pedigree is a great way for Lakehead to continue its recent string of success.
Tan thinks he’s up to the task.
“I’m a player who’s a pass-first point guard. I like to get my teammates the ball first and if I need to score, I can do that as well,” he said Saturday.
“I also like to get up and down in transition. I like to create tempo, bring defence, bring energy on the defensive side of the court.”
The disappointment surrounding his injury still lingers.
He knows he could be playing south of the border right now, but he’s not dwelling on what ifs.
“I think everything happens for a reason … It’s a learning experience,” said Tan, who had interest from Princeton and Northeastern, to name just a couple of schools that came calling.
Morrison said it’s a testament to the LU program that someone of Tan’s calibre would consider the school, injury or not.
“I think our program is in a state where we should be able to attract the top players, but still there are some natural recruiting challenges that we have. And to get a guy like Henry this early in the recruiting season, not only is he a great pick-up, but I think he’s going to build us some momentum heading into the winter trying to get some guys around him.”
As Morrison said, the Wolves have to rebuild no matter what, but would like to follow the seamless transition model favoured by perennial contenders Carleton and the University of British Columbia.
“If we want to be considered with the Carletons and the UBCs, we have to be able to replace guys without missing a beat. And the key to that is bringing in a few first-year guys that will be able to make an impact without the experience,” Morrison said, happy with the surgeon’s prognosis for Tan’s recovery.
“This is the first step.”
Beyond the arc: The Wolves are hitting the road for the remainder of the preseason and heading west. They leave on Wednesday for Saskatchewan, where they’ll play in a tournament against Concordia, Regina and Saskatchewan. Next up is the west coast, where they’ll play the University of Victoria next Wednesday, then take the ferry to the mainland to play Fraser Valley, Northern B.C. and UBC.
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