Young Anthony Maxwell is a phenom with lots of potential
Down at the third floor gym of James Lyng High School, a group of young, aspiring ballplayers are going through their drills, first conditioning then working with the ball: dribbling, control and techniques.
For the young players it’s the usual course of action at this summer basketball camp, as they eagerly go through their paces following the urgings of the athletic therapists, trainers and coaches that are in their midst, looking at their every move.
Even to the untrained eyes it seems obvious that the campers know that there’s something to be gained from being part of this program.
You see, they are surrounded by some of the best players Canada has seen in the recent past, including Wayne Yearwood, a former Olympian and Trevor Williams, one of the most recognizable names in basketball in Quebec. He famously played for Canada against the USA Dream Team of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan and company back in the day.
This camp is a collaboration between Williams and The West End Sports Association, a program that helped a young Williams and multitude of Montreal youth attend university in the U.S. and some into semi-pro and professional leagues around the world.
Bob White, who has been a lifelong mentor to many of the star players that emerged from the southwest region and across the city, is a daily presence at the camp. Although these days he is sitting more than walking, he still exacts authority over everything and everyone at the gym, making sure that every one knows his or her role.
He has seen it all before. He has also had a hand in grooming some of the best, so he knows. And he has no problem telling anyone who would listen.
“There’s no other camp like this in Quebec, or Canada for that matter,” he growled at the reporter who knows very little about the game or the goings-on. “See those three young people. They are athletic therapists, and although they are still at university they have the knowledge and ability to make sure that these young players are well conditioned.”
Emily Hickson is a healthcare professional working with the camp this summer. She is from Ottawa and in the tail end of a five-year program at Concordia University.
She told the CONTACT that she’s thrilled to have this opportunity to share what she has learned so far with the young campers, because she’s quite aware how easy it is for them to get hurt if they are not properly prepared.
“It’s so important that they understand the basics because prevention is much better than having to deal with injuries.”
White is also high on the caliber of training that his camp is dishing out.
“We have two of the best and most experienced players Canada has ever seen, Wayne Yearwood and Trevor Williams, who have played against the best in the world. Where else can students get that level of expertise to learn from?”
Those who know Bob White either from his lifetime in Montreal or from his columns on the pages of The CONTACT know that he has seen it all.
Except, he is now the first to say: He has never seen a young Basketball phenom like Anthony Maxwell, a 13-year-old student from Lakeside Academy in Lachine.
“He outplays kids who are 18 and 19-years-old,” crows Bob. “At his age, Anthony is one of the best I’ve seen… even better that Trevor (Williams) or any of them at the same age.”
Bob White and his WESA organization has sent more Quebec ball players to Division One schools in the U.S. than any other individual or group, so that kind of commendation demands a little conversation with Anthony.
You see the youngster and you think of Stephen Curry of the Golden State Warriors. Not too tall for his age, but overflowing with confidence and a mischievous smile that never leaves his face. His two diamond-stud earrings tell you that he is at a higher level of cool.
“I think I was interested in basketball since I was a child, but I’ve been playing since I was about six or seven and I love the game,” he lets the reporter know.
That particular morning and every day for that matter, he is at the gym at least an hour before everyone else with his father Tony Barksdale-Maxwell, running through his drills and practicing his game.
“How good are you?”
“Really good…” he says, dribbling two balls with two hands at the same time, effortlessly, and looking at the reporter with an ear-to-ear smile.
“Who is your favorite player?”
“Derrick Rose of the Chicago Bulls…”
“Not Steph Curry?”
“Nah… he’s my dad’s favorite…”
“Why do you like Derrick Rose?”
“I like his style and the way he plays…” he says as he cozied up close to his dad, to take some photos.
Barksdale-Maxwell saw the potential in his son early, but it wasn’t in basketball.
“Around six years of age, the kid was absolutely fearless… doing no-hand flips over park benches whenever we were at the park…
He was so good at it that I decided to put him in soccer just to see how he would do, he was already playing a little basketball.”
It wasn’t long before Anthony’s abilities rose to the top. As the team’s goalkeeper, his amazing reflexes made it absolutely difficult for anyone to score on him.
His dad just couldn’t believe it: “Even at a higher level they couldn’t score on him.“
However, it wasn’t long before young Anthony decided we wanted to forego soccer and just play basketball.
Dad wasn’t too happy, but he promised Anthony that he’d work with him to make him as good as he can get. He started by helping Anthony with the fundamentals such as strengthening his “other hand” and dribbling and shooting.
Within a few months, what he saw blew him away.
“Look, I played some ball and I was pretty good playing against guys like Trevor Williams and Wayne Yearwood, but when I look at my son, I was amazed at how much better than me he is. The truth is, he would blow me or any of us, out of the water, when we were his age.”
Barksdale-Maxwell says when Anthony plays around Montreal other players and coaches are also amazed at his abilities, and most people are taking it for granted that the kid is headed straight to the pros.
So he has taken it upon himself to manage expectations and at the same time nurture Anthony’s God-given talents.
“What we as parents want (Anthony’s mom Micheline Gibson is also very involved in his development) is for him to get a good education and not leave school owing the government for his education.
A good education is our biggest wish… everything else is gravy.”
But Barksdale-Maxwell is also keeping his eyes on the prize, knowing that his son’s talent is beyond anything he has ever seen.
“My task is to encourage him and prepare him for the future. I tell him it’s not going to be easy, if it was everybody would be doing it. Thank God he knows and accepts it and doesn’t shy away from the hard work. That’s why I can say that: God’s willing, if everything goes well you’ll hear the name Anthony Maxwell.”
After almost forty years of grooming and mentoring young players in basketball and football, Bob White is excited again when he observes the energy between Barksdale-Maxwell and his son.
“Reminds me of Richard Williams, the father of Venus and Serena.”