by ACAC Sports Writer Curtis J. Phillips
For many kids, their dad is someone they look up to.
Even if they have surpassed them in height.
Isaac Gray remembers the first time he beat his father Wayne Gray in a basketball game of one-on-one.
"I was probably 15 or 16 when I beat my dad one-on-one," recalls Gray, 20, and now into his second year of Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference (ACAC) men's basketball, suiting up for the Ambrose University Lions in Calgary, Alberta.
"There were a couple of times when he would let me win. But this time he didn't let me win. I actually won. I was getting faster.
"It felt nice. It felt like I was finally growing up and I was able to beat my dad...the person I looked up to. He probably just said, "I'm getting too old," and laughed."
The sport of basketball brings smiles to father-and-son as Isaac is a second-generation ACAC hoop star.
Wayne had suited up for the SAIT Trojans during their seven-year ACAC title run from 1980-87 with Wayne part of the 1983-1986 units.
Dribbling his way to 1985-1986 ACAC All-Conference status, Wayne would find tournament MVP honours at the 1986 Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association (CCAA) Men's Basketball Championships held in Burnaby B.C. as the Trojans captured gold defeating the Sheridan College Bruins 76-55.
Isaac is following in his father's sneaker steps as the Lions were ranked as high as No. 12 in recent CCAA national polling.
"That has been my highlight at Ambrose so far," said Isaac, a 6-foot-0 guard, of the national recognition. "We have good chemistry and it is starting to pay off."
Averaging 18.5 points per game while hitting the court for nearly 30 minutes, Isaac's 2018-2019 stats line at the half, also includes windexing the boards for 5.1 rebounds per game while dishing out the ball for 3.4 assists per game.
Not bad for a young man who three years ago was working at Tim Hortons and playing pickup ball at Dalhousie Station outdoor courts.
"I took one year off after high school," recalls Isaac, who started at St. Francis High School. "That spring there were some open runs at Ambrose and eventually the coach (Neil Nystrom) offered me a spot on the team.
"The first year was a huge learning year for me as we had a lot of older guys around and I was learning the game and how to compete at practice.
"The beginning of the season I was averaging around six-to-10 minutes and by the end of the year I was averaging around 20-to-22 minutes."
"I guess it had to do with a lot of hustle and my defence and I was starting to become more comfortable on the court and it showed in my game."
A game in which his father Wayne has Larry Bird as his favourite NBA star while Isaac looks to Dwayne Wade.
"My dad said that you should play like Larry Bird," said Isaac of the Boston Celtics icon. "Bird was a pretty quiet guy and kept to himself and so my dad says you should be pretty humble on-and-off the court."
Of his future goals, Isaac said he would like "to help at risk youth."
At risk youth that have been child soldiers.
"I want to help at risk youth around the world, especially those in third-world countries. Kids that were child war soldiers, mainly in Africa. I just want to make the world a better place."
It was the 2015 war drama film Beasts of No Nation that continued to spark this future vision for Isaac.
The storyline, according to the website www.imdb.com and written by Bennie Carden, "Follows the journey of a young boy, Agu, who is forced to join a group of soldiers in a fictional West African country. While Agu fears his commander and many of the men around him, his fledgling childhood has been brutally shattered by the war raging through his country, and he is at first torn between conflicting revulsion and fascination. Depicts the mechanics of war and does not shy away from explicit, visceral detail, and paints a complex, difficult picture of Agu as a child soldier."
Isaac says, "I read the book when I was younger. Here in this country we have such a good life. There, their lives are extreme. It definitely could be risky to go there. My grandmother doesn't want me going over there as it could potentially be a dangerous situation. But we should all have an equal chance at being happy."
N.B: According to Wikipedia there are possibly more than 100,000 soldiers in state and non-state military organizations around the world and in 2018 the organization reported that children were being used to participate in at least 18 armed conflicts