Growing up it was every kid’s dream to play at the Metro Centre (now Scotiabank Centre). It was the biggest stage for kids like myself to see players from around the neighbourhood compete. I remember first watching STFX play when they had Jordon Croucher, Denny Oliver, Fred Perry; those were the stars in my eyes. The atmosphere at the time had so much energy; it felt like I was in the game even though I was just watching from the sidelines. Then came along the second wave of Locals such as Tyler Richards, Christian(T-bear) Upshaw, and Will Silver. At this time I was attending high school, so I had more of an understanding of the game. I would always bother T-Bear for tickets, so I made sure I didn’t miss a game because the Metro Centre was the place to be when it was Final 8 weekend. Watching all of this as a kid, then growing older watching these local guys go to STFX, made it easy for me to focus on where I wanted to attend university. During my high school years T-bear and I remained close, I began going to STFX camp, then before I knew it, I was a camp counselor at STFX before I  finished high school. After completing grade 12, and capturing one high school title (should have been two), I decided to play a year of prep school in Oakville Ontario as I knew this would help me get prepared for the university level. That year in Oakville went by pretty quick, but it was one of the funniest years of my life because it was something different and I was on my own with 12 other guys.

It was August 2011; I arrived in Antigonish to work basketball camps, but this time as an official member of the Men’s Basketball Team. I was just coming off of surgery on my toe, so it took me a while to get used to things. By the time September hit I was ready to go.

My first year I lived in residence and didn’t know what to expect. I never talked to anyone, just went to class and practice that’s it. As the year went along and we started playing games, I began making friends in residence and more socially outgoing. Our team that year was really good. We went 16-4 and were ranked 3rd in the Cis (Now U SPORTS) for a bit. A few guys on that year’s team helped me as I was a rookie and wasn’t playing much such as Will Donkoh, Tyrell Vernon, Jeremy Dunn, and Ellis French. These guys always talked to me whenever I was down on myself about playing time. They always told me to stay focus and be ready.

I’ll never forget my first time playing at the Metro Centre. That year we earned the bye, so we faced Cape Breton in the semi-finals. The game was going back and forth until we gained a little bit of momentum. I remember this particular time when TV (Tyrell) was walking up to the scores table to sub me out.  I just made a few 3s before then, so he just walked back to the bench and told Coach K to leave me in. That meant a lot to me as a first-year player because that showed that our team had so much trust in each other, even in the rookies.

We ended up advancing to the AUS finals and lost to a red hot Acadia team. I’ve never seen a team shoot that well in a long time! Since Nationals were in Halifax, we ended up getting a wild card and competing at the Final 8. We finished 3rd that year, beating Fraser Valley in the bronze medal game. That weekend there was double the energy in the building then there was at the AUS weekend. From then on, I knew the Metro Centre was one of the best places to play CIS basketball.

One year past after sitting out then here I am at SMU, in my hometown Halifax. My first year at SMU was special because that year we ended up winning an AUS title (Just so happened to be against STFX). That year we went to Nationals in Ottawa and ended up losing our first game, and we eliminated. Even though we lost, these were the moments that helped me created memories that would last a lifetime with the players and coaches from that AUS championship team.

Losing only made me work harder as a player in the off-season to prepare for the following year to try and get back where we were, the Aus finals. During my years at SMU, Coach Taussig helped me to evolve as a player and let me play my style of game. This to me, showed that he had faith in me and my abilities of what I was able to do on the court.

A lot of memories will be left at SMU which I will forever remember. From the 245+ practices to the long road trips (especially Cape Breton), and the feeling of playing at home (especially when I hit the game winner to end my career at SMU). With this being my 5th and final year, my goal is the go out the way I came in, and that is to get another AUS title and get to the Final 8 one last time.

To be at nationals for my 5th year would mean so much to me because it feels like a story that was meant to be. A story where I come in as a rookie, go to nationals at the Metro Centre, then I leave as a senior and go to nationals one last time. Playing in front of fans, friends, and family has helped me play my best basketball at the Scotiabank Centre. To be able to be in a position to win another AUS title and get back to the biggest stage in Canada would be a blessing. This would allow me to thank everyone who supported me throughout my entire career and would give me the opportunity to show out for the Uniacke Square and the city of Halifax one last time!

Marquis Clayton,

Saint Mary’s Men’s Basketball Team

Halifax, Nova Scotia