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Nothing but net

A family of Concordia basketball stars looks back at their Stingers days — and life lessons they hope to pass on to a new generation
May 1, 2024
By Jordan Whitehouse

A triptych of vintage photos showing three former Concordia Stingers basketball players Alumni Gaetan Prosper, Jay Prosper and Guylaine Blanchette were all-star basketball players when they represented the Concordia Stingers as student athletes in the 1990s.

They all remember it like it was yesterday.

June 22, 2023. The Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The NBA draft.

Guylaine Blanchette, BA 00, and Gaetan Prosper, BA 96, were there with their son, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, a highly touted, six-foot-seven forward out of Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wis.

Olivier-Maxence’s uncle, Jay Prosper, BA 99, was there, too. Olivier-Maxence was expected to be one of the first 30 picked by an NBA team, but that didn’t make the wait any easier, remembers Jay, now an assistant coach with the Concordia Stingers men’s basketball team.

“There are commercial breaks and interviews between every pick, so it felt like three days of waiting,” he says with a laugh. “Just very painful.”

Then, after 23 players had been selected, NBA Commissioner Adam Silver took to the mic and said it: “With the 24th pick in the 2023 NBA Draft, the Sacramento Kings select Olivier-Maxence Prosper from Montreal, Canada.” Olivier-Maxence smiled wide and pointed to the sky. His dad let out a big exhale. “I was just so, so proud of him and filled with joy because I know how much he worked to put himself in that position.”

Olivier-Maxence’s first hug went to his mom.

Two adults flank a young athlete wearing a "DALLAS 18" basketball uniform, all smiling proudly for the camera in a studio setting. “I was just so, so proud of him and filled with joy,” says Gaetan Prosper of his son Olivier-Maxence, who now plays for the NBA’s Dallas Mavericks. They are pictured with Guylaine Blanchette. | Photo: Dallas Mavericks PR

Blanchette’s smile was the picture of pride. “We have some basketball knowledge and had always been honest with him about what he had to do to get there,” she says. “And he did it. His path was not easy. But he persevered. And when you see somebody else notice what you’ve seen, you’re like, ‘Ah, finally.’”

“Some” basketball knowledge is a slight understatement. Olivier-Maxence may be the first in the family to make it to the NBA, but his mom, dad and uncle were all Concordia Stingers basketball stars. His sister, Cassandre, among the top five under-17 players in the world, was the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association’s League Most Valuable Player for the 2021-22 season, as well as Finals MVP in 2022. She currently plays guard for the University of Notre Dame women’s basketball team.

But it’s not just basketball know-how that Olivier-Maxence and Cassandre’s parents and uncle have tried to pass down to them. The three have also tried to be models for the types of life lessons that can come out of playing a sport you love.

“There’s a saying that goes, ‘Make sure you use the game and don’t let the game use you,’” says Jay. “I would say that our family has definitely made sure we take full advantage of the game, and now every opportunity we have, we try to give back to it.”

All-star origins

Today, aside from Jay’s coaching duties, the family remains connected to the basketball programs and athletics in general at Concordia. It’s not rare to find Blanchette, Gaetan, Jay and even sometimes Olivier-Maxence attending games and walking the hallways of the Department of Recreation and Athletics.

“We hope our long-standing connection encourages others to do the same,” says Jay.

Looking back, all three say that although their basketball success with the Stingers was life-changing, they picked up a lot more than wins, including a few key lessons they’ve tried to pass on to their kids and players.

Number one was all about relationships, they say.

A family group is standing in a gym, with one member wearing a black basketball jersey with "BIOSTEEL 8 FUTURES" on it, and the others smiling and wearing casual clothes. From left: Guylaine Blanchette, Olivier-Maxence Prosper, Geatan Prosper, Cassandre Prosper and Jay Prosper

“Just being around teammates and having a common goal that we all had to sacrifice to achieve was huge,” says Gaetan. “That experience really helped us to become better people and parents in the real world.”

Blanchette agrees. “Being part of a team gives you so many tools,” she says. “It helps you understand how everybody’s different — we all bring our little touch to what we’re trying to accomplish and we don’t have to be the same to be successful.”

One of Jay’s first lessons in developing those people skills came during his third year with the Stingers. He was warming up before a game at a tournament in Halifax when legendary Stingers coach John Dore pulled him aside. “Go over and say thank you to that gentleman,” said Dore, pointing to a tournament organizer sitting on the sidelines. 

Jay did, and he still remembers the man’s reaction. “His eyes went so wide, and he was so grateful.”

It was a simple thing, says Jay, but it made him realize the impact he could have on others. “It’s not just about the sport. It’s about the people.”

It’s those types of skills that Jay and the current Stingers coaching staff try to instill in their players today, he says. “The goal is to make sure that students leave with a degree, but more importantly, that they leave as better people.

“For me, it’s about being able to build and nurture relationships, but it’s also being ready for the real world,” says Jay. “And competition on the court can really help with that.” 

‘It takes a village’

An individual in a white basketball uniform labeled "CONCORDIA 14" listens intently to a coach during a discussion on a basketball court with bleachers in the background. “The goal is to make sure that students leave with a degree, but more importantly, that they leave as better people.” – Jay Prosper, BA 99 (right)

Olivier-Maxence and Cassandre grew up in Montreal watching their parents compete in senior basketball leagues, yet Blanchette and Gaetan say they never pressured their kids to play basketball or any other sport. “It was just important for us to expose them to sports and for them to do something,” says Blanchette.

“They could see how much fun we were having, working hard, working with lots of different players. And they could see our attitudes and how we behaved, like not complaining to the refs all the time,” she adds. “Those kinds of little things, I think, helped them understand how to behave when they’re playing or when they’re having difficulty on or off the court.”

All these years later, as Cassandre excels at Notre Dame and Olivier-Maxence settles into the NBA, Blanchette and Gaetan couldn’t be happier. “We’re proud because they truly want to do it,” says Gaetan. “They’re not doing it because Mom and Dad say so. They really put in the work to get to that level.”

Thinking back to that June night in Brooklyn at the NBA draft, Blanchette is still filled with joy. “It feels surreal,” she says. “But we’re so grateful and so thankful to all the people around Olivier-Maxence who helped him get there.

“It’s never just one thing or one person. It takes a village.”

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