NBA player Kelly Olynyk speaks at TRU

Olynyk made a special trip home for the event, which raised $100,000 for WolfPack scholarships

Kelly Olynyk spent the majority of his life in Kamloops before mov­ing to Boston in 2013 to begin his professional basketball career with the Boston Celtics.

Kelly Olynyk and TRU president Alan Shaver pose for a photo during Olynyk’s visit to the university. (Thompson Rivers University)

Kelly Olynyk and TRU president Alan Shaver pose for a photo during Olynyk’s visit to the university. (Thompson Rivers University)

The morning of Sept. 25, 325 guests enjoyed a buffet of scrambled eggs, French toast, hash browns and yogurt parfaits in the Cam­pus Activity Centre. The theme of Olynyk’s speech was “It takes a vil­lage to raise a child.”

The event raised $50,000, with TRU matching the funds raised. The total will go towards athletic scholarships for WolfPack athletes.

“I know the importance of hav­ing a scholarship,” Olynyk said. “To give these kids the opportuni­ty to do something they otherwise wouldn’t be able to do is big.”

“It’s tough when you have to take out loans or if your family doesn’t have the funds to go to school. Scholarships are a benefit and allow you the opportunity to do some­thing special.”

Olynyk moved to Kamloops with his family in 2003 when his father, Ken Olynyk, was hired as TRU’s athletic director.

“I spent a majority of my life in Kamloops. TRU has been an in­strumental part of my life in get­ting me where I am today, helping me with basketball and giving me the opportunity to play.

“Although you don’t realize it, [many people are] lending a hand. Just stop and realize that and give thanks to those people and appreci­ate where they’ve gotten you.”

After graduating high school in Kamloops, Olynyk went to Gonza­ga University on a full scholarship. He graduated after three years in an accounting program and started his masters, but left to pursue his basketball career when the oppor­tunity came.

“I was going to be drafted in the NBA, which is like a dream when you’re a kid. Every kid who plays basketball has a dream to play in the NBA. I had that opportunity, it was there and I felt like it was the right time to take it,” he said.

Olynyk was selected by the Dal­las Mavericks and immediately traded to the Boston Celtics in 2013.

“It’s always different moving to a new city, but it was an adjustment that was exciting and fun. Boston is an amazing city. It’s a big city, but it’s really a small knit city. Everyone knows each other.”

The seven-foot-tall centre has played 70 games and has a free throw percentage of 81.1 and av­erages 8.7 points-per-game. His career high was when he scored 21 points against the Atlanta Hawks.

When asked what his backup career choice was, Olynyk said, “I always wanted to be a chef. I always wanted to go into culinary arts. So maybe that. But I took accounting at Gonzaga, so probably the busi­ness side of sports.”

Olynyk gave advice for aspiring student athletes: “There’s going to be adversity everywhere in life, whether it’s on the court, off the court, in the classroom. It’s not how you get hit with adversity it’s how you respond. Do you get back up? Does it make you stronger or does it shut you down?

“Things are going to go well, things are going to go bad, but you’re never as good as people say and you’re never as bad as people say. You’re somewhere in that mid­dle and trying to improve every day.”

His parents, both involved in basketball, are the reason Olynyk pursued the sport.

“It was kind of cool to have both of them there so excited about the game of basketball. It was definite­ly something that really impacted my decision to play.

“When you’re younger you want to do stuff to make your parents proud, and that was something that they loved,” Olynyk said.

The story of Olynyk’s career is not without its setbacks, however. Last year, he injured his back and ankle, but is hopeful going forward.

“You have to listen to your body to make sure you’re not breaking down. I’m healthy going into the season, so looking forward to a good year,” Olynyk said.

When asked what he would do while he was back in his home­town, Olynyk said he was going to visit his parents and family and try to relax and maybe grab some sushi.

“Oya Sushi, my favourite restau­rant. Gotta go there every time I come back,” he said.

But the real reason Olynyk came back was to support and speak at TRU’s athletic scholarship break­fast.

“It’s just a way to give back for me and give thanks to what they’ve done for me,” Olynyk said.