Trace Canada's current golden age of basketball back to its roots and the name Eli Pasquale will keep coming up.
Pasquale, a two-time Olympian who played at four world championships over his career, died Monday of cancer at age 59. The Canadian Basketball Hall of Famer from Sudbury, Ont., reached national prominence as the point guard for the University of Victoria Vikes, where he inspired a new generation of players.
"If you asked Steve Nash who the best point guard was in Canada, he would say Eli," said Ken Shields, who was head coach of the Vikes when Pasquale led them to five straight Canadian university titles. "He had a huge impact on Steve. Had Eli been playing today, he would have been in the NBA. There's no question."
Pasquale led Canada to a fourth-place finish at the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. He returned to the Games four years later in Seoul and helped Canada to a sixth-place showing. According to Shields, who also coached Canada's national team from 1990 to 1994, Pasquale was on track to return to a third Olympics when he was sidelined by an injury.