By Karen Kelly
Photos by Valerie Wutti, Blitzen Photography

“Latiff for threeeeee!”

That’s the call each time basketball star Wazir Latiff sinks one of his signature three-pointers in the Ravens Nest gymnasium. And he sank a lot of three-pointers, along with two-point field goals, and the occasional dunk–legs dangling from the hoop.

The 6-foot-2 Bachelor of Global and International Studies (BGInS) student from Vaughn, Ontario was a clutch player on the men’s basketball national championship team this year, with 249 points for the season. He brought not only immense skills, but a sense of energy and joy every time he stepped on the court.

He says his love of basketball was nurtured on a club team hosted by the Youth Association for Academics, Athletics and Character Education (YAAACE), a community organization in Toronto.

“The whole idea of working every day to get better, I really liked that and the competing as well,” says Latiff, who earned his chops on the Toronto club circuit. “I just got some type of joy out of it that I didn’t get anywhere else so I thought, ‘Hey, this is for me.’

Latiff’s basketball skills attracted attention from a number of universities in both the U.S. and Canada, but in the end, he felt that Carleton was the best fit for him.

“It was definitely tempting to go to the States, but I felt like I was needed more here, and they really wanted me to come here and be part of what they had. As for Canadian schools, why would I go somewhere else to lose to Carleton when I could come here and get better with them?”

Ontario University Athletics Quarter Final Men's Basketball game between Carleton University and Wilfrid Laurier at Carleton University on Feb 26, 2023.

Ontario University Athletics Quarter Final Men’s Basketball game between Carleton University and Wilfrid Laurier at Carleton University on Feb 26, 2023. Photo: Valerie Wutti, Blitzen Photography

Latiff was also drawn to Carleton’s BGInS program, where he is the third-year student, specializing in Global Development. He plans to pursue the program’s international experience requirement online, to accommodate his basketball schedule.

“I liked the idea that I can help others who may be suffering with poverty or educational issues,” says Latiff. “I want to see the world for what it is and help others who need it. That means a lot to me.”

In terms of his courses, he’s found there are certain ones “that will stay with me for the rest of my life.”

Perhaps the most impressive feat for student athletes is the balance they maintain between academics and the demands of an elite sport. The basketball team practices six days a week, 2 ½ hours per day. Homework is squeezed in whenever there’s free time, including on the bus and in hotel rooms. As with basketball, Latiff says hard work pays off.

“You have to be disciplined or it won’t work. Sometimes I want to just chill out, but sometimes you really can’t,” he says. “You have to work hard at things you’re not as good at and keep doing it, and you will get to where you want to be.”

Playing Under Pressure

As members of the reigning championship team, Latiff and his teammates are the tall poppies of Canadian university basketball. After Carleton suffered back-to-back losses during a trip to Toronto in October, commentators were cheering.

“Having Carleton on our chest: it’s a target. People are bored seeing us win every year,” says Latiff. “Losing those two games really showed us that maybe we weren’t working as hard as we thought, so we had to humble ourselves and come back to our core values.”

The teamwork gelled in the winter term, culminating in the national championship game in Halifax, Nova Scotia against St. Francis Xavier University. The epic game went into double overtime.

“I was so exhausted, I felt like I could’ve passed out at any moment. But it was the last game and I was literally giving it everything. I didn’t want to leave with any regrets.”

In the end, it was the high point of the season for Latiff.

“Seeing all the hard work pay off as well as the emotions of all of my teammates, it just felt amazing. Plus, I was happy that the girls’ team won as well.”

Lucky for Carleton basketball fans, Latiff has at least another year on the team. Practice starts again in July with exhibition games against American teams. Four players on the starting lineup are graduating, ensuring Latiff will play a leadership role in the coming season.

Ontario University Athletics Regular Season Men's Basketball game between Carleton University and Guelph at Carleton University on Jan 15, 2023.

Tuesday, May 2, 2023 in
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