© Submitted photo
Chris Dobbin goes to the basket against Yukon as a member of the Newfoundland and Labrador squad at the 2013 national Under-15 basketball championship. The Corner Brook native is a member of this year's provincial Under-17 male squad.
CORNER BROOK Christopher Dobbin figured out a longtime ago he can only get better on the hardwood if he competes against guys bigger and stronger than him.
He loves a challenge so he should be feeling just fine right now.
He feels his stock will improve with his next challenge ‚ÄĒ suiting up for the provincial Under-17 male basketball team that will represent Newfoundland at the 2014 national Under-17 tournament July 25-31 in Edmonton, Alta.
Dobbin is a six-foot-five forward who is the only player from the west coast to crack the 12-man roster for coach Mark English.
Size is certainly in his favour, but the fact he won‚Äôt turn 16 until June 7 means he finds himself surrounded by a talented group of hoopsters who are older, bigger and more experienced. It‚Äôs a different scenario than the one he was immersed in one year ago when he was a dominant force for the provincial Under-15 team.
Bring it on, said the fierce competitor who tips the scales at 170 pounds.
‚ÄúI‚Äąwant to play against people who are better than me,‚ÄĚ he said, noting the west coast doesn‚Äôt provide the level of competition he needs to bring his game to another level.
Dobbin was one of the top players on the Under-15 team that competed at nationals and he thoroughly enjoyed the experience of battling against the big boys from coast to coast. Now, he‚Äôs ready to find his niche with an older group of guys who he was impressed with when he went for his first tryout with the squad.
It‚Äôs an environment that he hopes to thrive in as he forges ahead with his development, which will include packing a suitcase for the east coast June 27 where he will train with the team until the journey to Edmonton.
‚ÄúThe group of athletes out there at the tryouts was way beyond the level that it was last year,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúThe older guys are just absolutely incredible and for me to be a part of it just feels awesome.
‚ÄúIt feels awesome. I‚Äącan‚Äôt wait. Summer is going to be awesome,‚ÄĚ he added.
He‚Äôs not one known to rest on his laurels so basketball will be his priority for the next few months. It‚Äôs been a strong work ethic that has impressed his coaches all the way up through the ranks so he doesn‚Äôt plan on slowing down.
‚ÄúBasically I just got to work my butt off in practice and we got a few tournaments and I will just play as hard as I can for as many minutes I‚Äąget,‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe said.
Coach English doesn‚Äôt think Dobbin will have any trouble adjusting to the challenge that awaits him. A former hoops star at Memorial who is now an assistant coach with the men‚Äôs basketball program at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, English said the big guy came into training camp on a mission and he accomplished it with being named one of the 12 to wear the provincial colours.
‚ÄúHe did what he did. He rebounded. He was tough, he played defence and he ended up finding himself a spot on the team,‚ÄĚ English said.
He‚Äôs a physical presence on the floor with his big frame and that‚Äôs something English said is rare in this age group. He believes Dobbin has the potential to do great things on the hardwood, but it‚Äôs up to him to put in all the work.
‚ÄúMost kids who are 6-6 are gangly and falling all over themselves like he‚Äôs not,‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe said.
Dobbin is eager to play on the national stage again because it pushes him to see how he stacks up against the best in the country. But, really, being in that environment is what drives him to be his best.
‚ÄúThey‚Äôre going to be massive and I‚Äôm going to get thrown around like a rag doll, so I‚Äôm going have to turn into a small forward instead of a centre,‚ÄĚ‚Äąhe said of what‚Äôs in store at nationals.
Yes, he played on the national stage last year and enjoyed every bit of the experience. But, this year, it appears there will be an even bigger reason to be at the top of his game as it was recently announced that the national tournament will be a sanctioned event for the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) so there will be scouts in the stands looking for those who stand out among the rest.
This opportunity has him more anxious than ever to put it all on the court.
‚ÄúI can‚Äôt believe it. I‚Äąwant to go play in the NCAA. That‚Äôs my dream,‚ÄĚ he said. ‚ÄúTo think that this is the first time as well is just a golden opportunity for me and I just hope I can go up there and impress a few of them.‚ÄĚ
English has seen enough of Dobbin to feel anything is obtainable if he continues to improve his game from year.
‚ÄúHe is willing to to put in the work to continue to get better,‚ÄĚ he said.