“Why do we have to wait 119 days until March 12?”
That was the question that two-time National Basketball Association NBA champion Bill Walton asked those in attendance at Thursday’s ticket launch for the 2015 Canadian Interuniversity Sport men’s basketball Final 8 tournament.
Walton was at the Mattamy Athletic Centre to help promote the event that Ryerson University will host from March 12-15, 2015.
A first-overall draft pick in the 1974 NBA Draft, Walton won NBA titles with the Portland Trail Blazers and Boston Celtics in 1977 and 1986.
He says that it’s special for him to be a part of the history that is the event.
“What is going on here (at Ryerson) is so fantastically special,” Walton said. “It’s a dream come true for me, to be part of the jump ball at the beginning.”
It is the first time a Toronto university will host the event since its inception in 1963.
The Ryerson Rams will have an automatic bid in the eight-team tournament. Through four games this season, the Rams are 4-0 and are the No. 3 ranked team in the country.
The last time Ryerson was in the CIS Final 8 was in 2012 in Halifax when they had their best finish in school history, placing sixth.
“When I took this job six years ago, I said ‘You know what, I really believe that this university and this program was a jewel in the city’s crown,’ and I wanted to put some shine on it,” Rams head coach Roy Rana said.
“To be here six years later, in this building, speaking about the national championship, about hosting a national championship, is incredibly powerful. It’s an emotional moment for me. This season is going to be a very special season for our guys.”
Ryerson’s Ontario University Athletics (OUA) rival, the No. 1 Carleton Ravens, have dominated the event over the last decade.
Since 2003, the Ravens have won the W.P. McGee Trophy 10 times, including the last four-straight seasons.
In 1946, Maple Leaf Gardens was the site of the first game in NBA history. Now, known as the Mattamy Athletic Centre, the building has hosted the OUA Final Four championships for the past two seasons. A basketball court will be constructed in the arena, with increased seating for 4,000 spectators.