How Coach Serresse has built a great basketball program focusing on the “game of life”

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“In everything that we do we want to make sure that we excel. We want to be successful in all aspects.” 

Coach Justin Serresse has made the most out of every opportunity he has had in Canadian basketball and has continued to do that in his five plus years with Laurier. 

Serresse has built an incredibly successful program both on and off the court since he was hired in 2016 taking over for Hall of Fame Golden Hawk coach, Peter Campbell. 

Becoming the youngest head coach in the country back when he was hired at the age of 29, Serresse has done a remarkable job carrying forward the on-court success of Campbell’s basketball teams having made the playoffs in each of his seasons and recording back-to-back OUA semi-final appearances most recently. 

What may be more impressive however is the off-court success and versatility that Serresse has brought to Laurier, developing a great culture. 

“What I’m very proud of is how we were able to build a program together that is not only focusing on one thing,” Serresse said. “I’d like to think I’m a versatile person and the program needs to be versatile in a way that your players are not only focusing on being successful in games,” he added. 

Serresse has always spoken highly of the connections he has developed over his time at Laurier. Spotlighting his relationships with the student-athletes, not only in a basketball sense but also talking about the “game of life.” 

“I always talk about the game of life and the guys kind of make fun of me sometimes,” Serresse joked.

“The players got to believe that they have to be successful in practice, in the classroom and in the community,” Serresse says. Although there was no basketball competition this past season due to the pandemic, Serresse found that this year has allowed him to connect with his players better, and help lead them to a successful path, whether that be basketball or not. 

“Every morning I’ll text the group of guys and start a conversation. Just trying to make them feel like we are here. Not just me, but the whole coaching staff,” Serresse said. 

Serresse grew up in the small town of Rouen, France where he fell in love with basketball and moved to Canada with his dad to play. Making the most out of his opportunities, Serresse was able to play for the Laurentian Voyaegeurs and worked his way towards landing a job as a lead assistant with the Ottawa Gee-Gee’s —  one of the best university basketball programs in the country. 

At Ottawa, Serresse led the team’s offense which was consistently ranked as one of the best in the country while also leading their student development program, helping the team win the OUA championship in 2013. 

Moving onto Laurier in 2016, Serresse has continued to help develop players which he believes is one of the most rewarding aspects of his job. 

Fourth-year guard, Ali Sow remains one of the top players in the OUA and was drafted professionally to the CEBL last summer, while fifth year forward, Ntore Habimana was recently selected to the Rwandan national team and recent graduate, Kemel Archer signed with a Spanish professional team last fall. These are just a few of the many players who have excelled under Coach Serresse. 

With Waterloo entering the red zone of the COVID-19 framework last month, Laurier’s team has returned to a limited training on campus and remain focused on competing in the fall. Coach Serresse noted the importance of the OUA resuming their season after a whole calendar year without playing. 

“It’s safe to say we should be able to run some type of season. We have to play, and all want to play,” Coach Serresse said pointing to some of the optimism regarding the vaccine rollout. 

“We can’t go two years without a season. I think that would be devastating to the league and players,” he added. Last summer Serresse was concerned of a “scary trickle-down effect,” that could occur by keeping players consistently off the court. 

With many sports leagues having long been resumed, there is increased pressure on the OUA to deliver as many of its players have not played in a game in well over a year. While the competition will look different, the league must surely realize the importance of delivering on a schedule as Coach Serresse noted. 

With his versatile approach these past six seasons, Coach Serresse has built a great team culture and continues to add to the success and strong reputation that the Golden Hawks’ basketball program has maintained the past several decades. 

Staying true to himself, Serresse views his favourite moment at Laurier as “the next one. The one we haven’t done yet.”

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