By Dan Plouffe
It just had to end the way it did. Tyson Hinz completed a remarkable five-year career with the Carleton Ravens holding the Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball championship and tournament MVP trophies in front of a hometown crowd at the Canadian Tire Centre.
Five years earlier, it was a similar scene, when Hinz and his St. Matthew Tigers hoisted the OFSAA provincial high school boys’ basketball trophy in Ottawa. The audience was certainly bigger at Canadian Tire Centre, but staying and starring on the local courts meant that many of the same faces that were present for the final in 2009 at Lisgar Collegiate could be there to see Hinz triumph once again.
“It’s pretty cool when you can see all your family and friends, and people who supported me through my high school career, and at Carleton,” reflects the 22-year-old. “Sharing the moment with them after the game was definitely a special feeling.”
The stage was far smaller yet, but Hinz’ first taste of victory still remains a sweet memory. Coached by mom and dad – Susan Butler and Will Hinz – a 10-year-old Hinz and his Gloucester-Cumberland Wolverines were eager to play in the club basketball provincials fifth division (meaning almost 40 other squads had earned higher rankings and competed for bigger prizes).
“There were all sorts of teams that were better than them,” recalls Will Hinz. “But we were the kids from Gloucester, nobody expected us to win, and they went down there and surprised all the Toronto teams. So even though it was Div. 5, that was still the first time he went to a provincial championship, and he said for a long time that was his favourite memory.”
In his senior year at St. Matthew Catholic High School in Orleans, Hinz was part of a star-studded lineup, so much so that current Raven Gavin Resch was actually a bench player behind five seniors who all joined university or college programs.
Perhaps to foreshadow the future, Hinz poured in 23 points the OFSAA final, calling his team’s victory at the time “the greatest feeling.”
Like the Ravens’ run of five-straight titles from 2003-2007 announced to the world that Ottawa basketball was for real, the Tigers’ OFSAA title spearheaded respect similarly for local high school teams.
“It was a really special time,” reflects former St. Matthew coach Jason Wren, noting top OFSAA results continued with St. Patrick and other schools consistently challenging for the podium. “When I was in high school, if you made it to OFSAA, that was the best thing that could ever happen to you. No one ever thought of winning OFSAA. Now when they start out, they can aspire to win an OFSAA championship.”
After giving a hard look to McGill, his father’s basketball alma mater, Hinz settled on joining the Ravens after several years in coach Dave Smart’s Ottawa Guardsmen feeder club. The rookie made an immediate impact, earning a starting role on the best university team in the country, and then winning player-of-the-year honours in second season, which came as a shock even to his biggest fans.
“We were all in awe of the Carleton program,” details Will Hinz, saluting the likes of Osvaldo Jeanty and Aaron Doornekamp. “Dave Smart kept telling us Ty’s got some real talent and not to worry about it, but never, ever did we think in our wildest dreams that Ty would be player of the country in his second year. And I’m not sure, if you ask Dave, that he really did either.”
There is perhaps no player who embraced Smart’s coaching better than Hinz. It’s a curious contrast to see Hinz – so relaxed and easy-going away from basketball – bring such intense fire and focus to the court at all times. When the Ravens carried a cozy lead against a lesser opponent and Smart was still screaming mad at his players for a small detail missed, Hinz was a mirror image of Smart’s frustration, understanding and embracing his quest for perfection.
“You’ve got to want that style,” Hinz explains. “If you’re trying to avoid him yelling at you or getting in trouble, you’re going to have a long five years at Carleton. If you want to be held to the highest standard, if you want him to push you, then he’ll do that. That’s the real key to success.”
After a defeat in the national semi-final in his rookie season, Hinz has experienced nothing but titles since then. The fifth-year forward’s final crowning performance came on March 9 against the arch-rival University of Ottawa Gee-Gees, when he produced a tournament-high 30 points to earn championship MVP honours for the second time in his career, and a tourney all-star selection for the fourth straight year.
“The way that he played the last game – really just put everyone on his back – I was really impressed,” Wren indicates. “It couldn’t be a better end.”
Hinz concurs with his old coach’s assertion.
“You couldn’t write a better script,” he smiles. “It definitely added some emotion with the overall aura of the game being against Ottawa U, the two Ottawa teams, Ottawa U beating us the week before.
“I often get asked to compare the titles, and usually I say every year is special because it’s with a different group of guys, which is true, but I think that last one was something different – knowing it was my last game, knowing it was my last time wearing a Carleton jersey.”
Hinz quickly corrects himself on the last point, explaining that he will again pull on his singlet for a tour in Italy early in June. Part of the purpose for the trip is to allow senior players to be seen by European scouts and coaches to open up professional opportunities, which Hinz would most definitely like to see in his future.
“I still have a lot of processes to go through in terms of getting an agent and all that jazz,” he notes, stating that earning a spot on the national team some day is another objective. “I definitely need to improve to get to that level. I need to get bigger and stronger. It would definitely be a goal of mine, but I’m still a ways away from that, I think.”
Still practicing daily with his team, the upcoming tour is delaying the reality that his CIS career is complete. But there was a moment with fellow senior Kevin Churchill after Carleton’s victory where it began to hit him.
“We looked at each other kind of in disbelief that it’s over,” Hinz recounts. “But there’s so much joy going through your body that you won. It’s a weird feeling because you know that’s the last time, and it adds some extra emotion. There were some mixed feelings going on for sure.”
Days before championship games, Hinz would often get a call or a message from past Raven legends such as Jeanty and Doornekamp. He’s now looking forward to the day when he’ll get to call the next generation of Ravens chasing greatness – a generation that will undoubtedly be in awe of the lasting legacy left by the homegrown star.
“The whole culture with the connection between current players and past players is pretty special. I don’t think many other universities have that,” Hinz highlights. “I don’t think I could have got anything better than what I got at Carleton.”
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