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New Huskies men’s hoops coach benefits from early start in basketball

Jamie Campbell is settling into his new role as head coach for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball program.

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Jamie Campbell began learning — as a future basketball coach — pretty much in diapers.

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Yes, he was born into this gig.

Grew up with it.

Live and breathe basketball.

His dad, Peter Campbell, coached at both Laurentian University and Wilfrid Laurier University.

“My dad did it for 36 years,” says Campbell, who is settling into his new role as head coach of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies men’s basketball program.

“There are pictures of me, probably two or three years old, out on the basketball floor. I grew up with it — I don’t know anything else.”

Now at age 36, Campbell joins the Huskies after stints with Ontario Basketball (technical director), the Carleton University Ravens (assistant coach), Ottawa Blackjacks (assistant) and Wilfred Laurier Golden Hawks (assistant).

But it was tagging along with his dad that proved to be just as valuable of an experience.

“I liked going to recruit with him,” recalled Campbell. “I liked going to see people play. It was just something we did. It took some special people, my mom probably the most. Everybody just became part of our family. That’s the way I look at it.

“It’s our program, our team. That’s everybody — the people who are there now and the people who were there before. And you’re trying to have that environment of that loyalty, that trust among different age groups and gaps.

“Those people came into our lives and they are people who, when we were going away at Christmas time, I wasn’t hanging out with parents. At 12 years old, I was hanging out with a bunch of 20-year-old guys.”

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Campbell hasn’t been in Saskatoon that long, but he wanted to get here as soon as possible to get familiar with the program and university.

His initial impression?

wow.

Two team rooms and practice gyms?

Double wow.

“You should have seen my face the day I walked into this facility,” Campbell gushed. “It was, like, ‘wow.’ It’s ‘wow.’ In Canada, this is ‘wow.’ It’s been a whirlwind tour, obviously, but it’s been amazing — the support, the excitement from people, alumni and people reaching out.

“So much positivity and just to walk in here and see the type of support Huskie Athletics has, as a whole — overwhelming is not the right word, but it’s awesome. It’s not something you see all the time in Canadian university athletics. To see a school and a community that supports an athletics program, like it does here, it’s amazing to see.”

Campbell is a former U Sports athlete, playing basketball at both Laurentian and Wilfrid Laurier.

His coaching experience with the Carleton Ravens gave him the chance to work closely with legendary coach Dave Smart, as well as current Ravens head coach Taffe Charles.

“It’s hard to leave the people,” admitted Campbell, “that are your great friends and mentors, but when they tell you that you’re ready to do something and this is what you’ve been working to and striving to do … When they tell you it’s time to take that next step, it’s time to take that next step.

“We accomplished a great deal while I was there and I feel so fortunate to have been there and to be able to learn from Taffe (Charles) and Dave (Smart) and I can name name after name there. It was a great experience for me and it’s people I know I have looking out for me, continuing, thankfully in a different conference most of the time, but I’m looking forward to the chance to compete with them whenever we do.”

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The Ravens have had a strong influence on Campbell.

“To have that ability to work with Dave Smart — I’d say he’s the best Canadian basketball coach in history. You look at the success they’ve had. It changes the way you look at things. You think you’re working hard, but you’re not working hard enough. You think you care, but do you care enough?

“It just really changed my mindset on things. Taffe is the first person to win both a national men’s and women’s basketball championship and he brings a different passion and compete level, care level. It’s just something you feed off of and you get to learn from. Getting to learn from both of them, work with both of them, I consider both of them great mentors and friends. It was amazing.”

JACOBSON STAYS ON

Campbell will have lead assistant coach Chad Jacobson to lean on with the Huskies.

“For me, it’s a huge help,” said Campbell. “He understands how things happen. Every university is run differently, with admissions, gym time, running camps, community relations, scholarships — all those things are different.

Ontario is different than Canada West. Having someone who’s been here as long as Chad has, with that experience and his relationship with him with the guys and people in the community, that will only ease the transition for me.

The last basketball coach to come to the U of S from Ontario was Lisa Thomaidis, who has since won a pair of U Sport national women’s basketball championship titles.

“Pretty good company,” Campbell agreed. “You look at all the success they’ve been having over the last number of years, Saskatchewan has become one of the premier, if not the premier women’s basketball program in the country. You’re talking about someone who’s coached our national team, coached at the Olympics.

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“I talked about getting to work with Dave and Taffe and now I come here and I get to work with Lisa. You can’t be luckier than that, considering the people you’ve gotten a chance to work with and around. To have an opportunity like that, and be able to talk to her, and us work together, will be something that, in the end, will only help me get better and I can’t wait to get started that way.”

HAPPY-GO-LUCKY

Campbell is a jovial, happy-go-lucky guy away from the court.

“I’m smiling right now because it’s all new and exciting,” he said.

“I loved my job at the OBA (Ontario Basketball Association), and I was very grateful for them to hire me and it was a tremendous opportunity that helped me grow in different areas, but I missed competing. I’m super competitive. I’m very driven to succeed and I missed that and I missed that team aspect.”

On this particular day, Campbell is wearing Ontario Basketball colours. He was still waiting to get more gear from Huskie Athletics.

“I brought four shirts and we’re on Day 6,” laughed Campbell, “so I’ve got laundry to get back into my Sask. stuff. Today I went Ontario; I had nothing else. I’ve got to do laundry.”

dzary@postmedia.com

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