ENTREPRENEUR, FATHER, DREAMER
When what they call a phenom suddenly appears in the sports world, the first question is usually, “Where did that kid come from?” Get used to the answer being Orangeville, which just sent two graduates of the Tipping family’s Athlete Institute to the National Basketball Association (NBA). Former ballplayer Jesse Tipping runs the Institute, which includes Canada’s first elite basketball training school, as well as a five-star fitness facility and programs for locals. Like his father, Jesse saw only positives about Orangeville’s possibilities, summed up in a “build it and they will come” attitude. Only this is no dream, but a place where they’re coming true for the athletes, their families and the community, which is playing a bigger role in it every day.
So you brought 27 NBA teams to Orangeville in 2016?
In a way, yes. We started the Biosteel All Canadian High School Basketball Game a couple of years ago, to showcase all the best kids in Canada, get them in one area for NBA teams to review. The Americans already have an event like this, and it gives our elite Canadian players something to strive for.
And it’s putting Orangeville on the map.
We’re always trying to bring more attention to the area and our facility. The NBA teams love it. We had 27 NBA teams represented this year, watching the game, scouting the Canadian players. GMs, Scouts. It’s a three-day event: practices, skills competition, a junior game, they’re all held at our facility, and then the actual game is held in Toronto.
Your family could have done this anywhere. Why plant that stake in Orangeville in such a big way?
Well, first off we’re Orangevillians, through and through, over 20 years now. My dad had a gut feeling that this was the area that our family was supposed to be in. We started with a facility for basketball. It operated for 10 years here as a form of rec centre, and when I took over six years ago, we decided to bring it back to the roots of what we always wanted to do, and we introduced an elite basketball academy.
Everybody said it couldn’t be done, Orangeville is a hockey and a lacrosse town — nobody’s ever going to come to Orangeville to play elite basketball. It’s hard enough to keep kids in Toronto, because they end up going to the States. But this is not the case anymore. We’ve got the best players in Canada right here, and people are knocking on the door to come play in Orangeville I said, if Kevin Costner can do it, like in Field of Dreams, then I can do it. And this year, our Institute had two students in the top 10 of the NBA draft.
What’s made Canada’s basketball talent explode over the last generation?
I think it’s a layered answer. The Raptors generation of kids who really bought in are now adults and playing in the NBA, so the new breed had people to look up to in their back door. And Canada’s got a great influx of multiculturalism, and the countries that people are coming here from love basketball, so nothing’s changed for them when they get here. They play the game in Lithuania, Asia, Spain, they’ve been playing this for generations.
The players’ families love Orangeville, I’ve heard.
We’ve got some kids who are coming from some tough areas, and their parents see it as a great opportunity to protect their kids from bad influences, and keep them safe, in a safe area,
Well, they might sneak out to drive a tractor at three in the morning…
Well, we’ve had a few raccoon incidents, but nothing like that. Smart parents see it as a positive, being able to let their kids focus on why they’re here. The boys integrate into our local environment, they’re fully immersed into high school life: prom, homecoming, football games, which is exactly what we wanted them to do.
We’re actually finding that after coming to Orangeville to play, their families are moving to the area after they’ve graduated! They’re up here so often, seeing the area, that they’re relocating here because they like it so much.
And the local community has really gotten behind it.
So many people. Lavender Blue Catering in Orangeville does all the kids food, Orangeville Kia is a really big supporter, they help out in lots of ways, including with vehicles, Soulyve restaurant is a big supporter… I can’t list them all.
And you’ve also brought a pro team here, The Orangeville A’s.
It’s just been a year, so we’re really brand new. Orangeville’s very excited about having them here, and there’s going to be some things happening in the next couple of years to help Orangeville residents really take pride in the fact that there’s pro sports in their community.
All the games are very exciting, we had some good turnouts. It just takes time to build a culture. There’s a long-time culture in Orangeville’s great lacrosse team, and the A’s need time to do the same thing.
Clearly, you’re not busy enough. So where do you like to unwind up here?
I love the natural parts. Forks of the Credit, Mono Cliffs, the Bruce Trail, Island Lake, there’s lots of spots in the area that are unique to this area and Ontario. The area’s building itself up, taking pride as certain unique attributes it has — the horses, the businesses, the lake, trails, cliffs… I think that’s great.
Does your young son get a kick out of basketball?
He’s been dribbling since was four months old, he won’t stop.
He’s named Nash. Is that a nod to someone famous, basketball-wise?
Let’s say that wasn’t the reason we named him that… but it didn’t hurt.