Waterloo basketball star Murphy Bernatowski enjoys ‘the best of both worlds’ as player and coach

Murphy Bernatowski is closing one phase of his football career while preparing for the next.

The Waterloo native returned from knee surgery and earned a spot on the roster with the Edmonton Stingers in the NBA Championship. Meanwhile, he is in his second year as an assistant coach with the Dalhousie Tigers of Atlantic University Sport, a position that allows him to take part in drills and stay nimble to enter the Canadian Elite Basketball League (CEBL) in the Champions League.

“I have a fiancée (Carmen), we’re getting married this summer, and I have a great German Shepherd, so it’s hard to go places,” said the 31-year-old, who lives in Halifax. .

“This is the best of both worlds, as I am only away from home and guys in Dalhousie for a week or two at a time. I am really happy to partner with both.”

The Stingers captured the CEBL Championship for the second time in a row in August, but with most players from that team now competing elsewhere, the current roster is a pool of players able to gather occasionally to play in the 12-team Champions League. Top club teams from North, Central, South and Latin America compete in the FIBA-sanctioned league, with Edmonton in Group A against Real Esteli Nicaragua and Kangrigueros of Puerto Rico.

The Stingers opened the tournament in Nicaragua last month with a win and a loss and will travel to Puerto Rico later this month for matches February 1 and 2 at Coliseo Roberto Clemente in San Juan.

The third and final window will be hosted by the Canadian Elite League in March in Calgary, with the top team advancing to the next stage.

Bernatowski’s basketball career, which has included stops in Asia (Vietnam and Thailand), Europe (Poland, Czech Republic, Switzerland and Cyprus), and North America (St. John’s and Hamilton) came to a halt with the arrival of the COVID-19 pandemic in early 2020. The six-foot-seven forward was playing With an Indonesian team in Thailand’s top league at the time, the shutdown allowed former Sir John A. Macdonald High School student to rest his left knee. He has a problem for some time.

The goal was to resume his career later that year but the “wear and tear injury” did not heal on its own. He eventually consulted doctors, had the surgery done in April 2021, and was allowed to resume training in September. Bernatowski was approached by Stingers coach Jermain Smalls shortly thereafter and asked to consider joining the team in the Champions League.

Bernatowski seized the opportunity and was in the starting line-up when the Stingers faced Real Esteli in the opening game of the tournament, nearly 20 months after their last competitive game.

“It was definitely emotional, a lot of emotion. I didn’t know when I first started talking to Small if I was going to be a player on the bench or see instant minutes, so I ended up starting and hitting three times (three points) in the first five minutes of The match.. said Bernatowski, who played NCAA Division I basketball at the University of Maine and Colgate University.

“I don’t know if it’s the excitement of it all and I’m just mentally focused or some stupid luck. Whatever it was, it was a great experience overall, and it felt really good to be back on Earth.”

The Stingers spent one week in a training camp in Toronto before leaving for Nicaragua and will meet again later this month in Puerto Rico to prepare for the second window of the games.

Bornatowski said his time with the Stingers could be his last as a player, but with gas still in the tank, he’s not ready to officially do it.

“I was older than I used to be, a little slower, a little less athletic, but I think basketball is mostly a mental sport. I know that’s a cliched thing to say but I really believe in it, as long as I can get up and get off the ground, I guess That I have something to offer the teams.”

“I’m just really focused on helping these people while I’m here and putting 100 per cent into those games and trying to win an international CEBL tournament. Other than that, I haven’t really thought about the next step.”

Bornatowski is resilient due to his coaching duties with Dalhousie, a position he spoke of in 2020 when he moved to Halifax to be with Carmen, the family doctor. He was offered a coaching assistant after reservations with Tigers head coach Rick Plateau and Dalhousie’s sporting director Tim Maloney.

Bornatovsky, who hopes to be a coach in the future, said the experience has been anything but positive.

“I get to play with the guys a little bit, jump into rehearsals and things like that, so it’s good for me to stay in shape and that was great for them, as there was a guy who was out there and played at a level that a lot of these guys hope to play with it “.

“I want to train for a living, that’s the ultimate goal for sure, so it’s great that way too. I’ve played for a lot of good coaches, I’ve played with a lot of bad coaches, so I saw what worked and what didn’t work from a player’s perspective.”

Bornatowski joined the Canadian National Elite Development Academy after SJAM and later played for the Canadian junior national team, helping the team win a bronze medal at the 2008 US Under-18 Basketball Championship.

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