by Derek Cassoff
Jay Prosper is flattered every time he hears the comparisons to his older brother, Gaetan. Who wouldn't want to be likened to one of the top Concordia basketball players in recent history? In truth, though, there are very few similarities between the two.
Gaetan was already a polished player when he arrived at Concordia, having been a star at the high school and CEGEP levels. Jay only started playing basketball at Dawson College and was still a raw talent when he first landed a spot with the Stingers.
Gaetan had explosive speed and was best known as a solid perimeter player, able to hit shots from long range. Jay is a more physical player who prefers to use his size to drive close to the basket.
Gaetan also capped his four-year career at Concordia in 1996 by leading the Stingers to a Quebec Student Sports Federation (QSSF) league title and a berth in the Final Eight national championship in Halifax.
Jay, a rookie on that 1996 squad, would love to follow in his brother's footsteps. "If we can avoid injuries and stay focused as the playoffs approach, we can win the title," he said in an interview.
A league championship might have seemed like a lofty expectation at the start of the season, when some experts pegged the inexperienced Stingers to finish last in the four-team QSSF. But midway through the regular season, the Stingers are ranked eighth in the country and sit alone atop the Quebec league standings with a 8-2 record, a game ahead of the reigning national champion Bishop's Gaiters, the consensus pre-season pick to repeat as Quebec league champs.
"Bishop's has a lot more experience than we do, but we know we can compete with them," said Stingers head coach John Dore. "We have a very young team, but the potential is there. Now it's just a question of how far we can climb."
Dore doesn't have to look beyond Prosper to spot the main reason for his team's unexpected success. The 24-year-old co-captain, a fourth-year Sociology student, has evolved into one of the top power forwards on the Canadian collegiate scene.
He is averaging 18.3 points and 9 rebounds a game and is on pace to cop a second straight QSSF player-of-the-year award. He has also led the Stingers to victories in three tournaments, winning most-valuable-player honours each time. Some, including Dore, think Prosper has a good chance of being selected as an all-Canadian.
"He has a great nose for the ball and he likes to use his body to get into traffic," Dore said. "He's put in a lot of practice since he's been here, and he's a good example to others that perseverance and commitment pay off."
It's been quite a climb to the top for Prosper, who only took up basketball while at CEGEP, after his promising hockey career was derailed by the escalating cost of equipment. He chose basketball as an alternative, partly in deference to his older brother, whom he credits with much of his current success.
"Not only did he get me started in the sport, but he's always been someone I could talk to when things haven't been going my way," he said.
Prosper is scheduled to graduate in the spring, and says he is unsure whether he will return to the court for a fifth and final
college eligibility. He would certainly like to carry the Stingers to a league title before he hangs up his running shoes, so the team's performance in the upcoming playoffs could have a big influence on his decision.
"It's not really something I want to think of just yet," he said.