East York Basketball Club named first Canada Basketball Verified club in Ontario

Written by David Grossman

Anything worthwhile is worth the effort.

That goes for the sport of basketball, too.

Invented by a Canadian, James Naismith, back in 1891, basketball receives a considerable amount of hype and ballyhoo these days. For the most part, it’s focussed on the men and women competing for the accolades of awards at the highest levels: the Olympic and World championships as well as fame in the professional leagues.

Often lost, is the spotlight shining on thousands of youngsters who simply don’t get the notoriety, but whose performances get filled with exuberance, fun, and that tenacious appetite to learn.

Go no further than to examine the success story, one of accomplishments and prosperity that nurtures instruction, discipline, and enjoyment at the East York Basketball Club (EYBC).

Just in case you haven’t heard about this organization, it’s tucked away in the centre of Canada’s largest city and has a strong house league program with 700 players, as well as a rep system of 22 teams. Toss in more than 50 coaches – all volunteers.

Expansion can be an issue because of a lack of facilities in the community with players having to share evening time at a local secondary and high school. Home base has been the gym at Cosburn Middle School.

There is a saying, often heard in playgrounds and gyms, that basketball is more fun when you’re playing better. At the EYBC, a club that started back in 2005, it’s all about helping youngsters between the ages of six to 18, do just that.

There may very well be some infatuation with the pros, but coaches and staff focus on teaching proper skills, giving the right guidance and motivating youngsters to grasp the experience.

Some players may one day advance to the university and college game, or even benefit from a scholarship, but the overwhelming majority see the opportunity to build on teamwork, friendship, social and life skills.

Humble beginnings are often transformed to high performances that go beyond the hardwood – leading to a pathway of encouragement, incentive, and self-confidence.

“The biggest championship for me is watching kids play and have fun,” said Gerald Rozario, President of the East York Basketball Club. “It’s about raising the bar – and the thrill of seeing kids take the time to improve. At the end of the day, it’s about becoming a better player and person.”

Ever humble and unpretentious, Rozario has coached the game of hoops for almost 20 years and has been instrumental in being part of a group that brought prosperity to the club.

A senior executive with a Toronto property management company, and a family man, he also spends countless hours with the not-for-profit club focused on helping youngsters in a multicultural community develop life-long friendships.

“I have often told these young people to focus on getting an education – and that the game is fun and not necessarily a career.” added Rozario, who played the game of hoops when he attended Neil McNeil High School.

“Basketball has helped many young kids in various ways. I have seen it. We don’t run these programs for the money, but we are here to facilitate opportunities and tell every young player to just go out and try their best.”

Helen Lawson lives in the East York community. Lawson used to travel outside her neighbourhood to a basketball club that she thought would help her daughter play at a higher level.

“We realized that (the other club) wasn’t the perfect spot, came to (the EYBC) and started a new team in 2021,” said Lawson. “This has become more than a team of players, it’s a team of friends.  Girls are welcome to join, learn the game, and the reality is this has become a place to have fun.”

Rozario says the EYBC has a strict set of guidelines that help protect the safety and well-being of all players – and highlight technical skills. Administrative measures are monitored, and proper procedures followed.

Ontario Basketball has high praise for the EYBC because it was the first one in the province to join the Canada Basketball Verification Program – one that has committed to providing the best athlete experience for all participants.

“We filled out form after form, spent weeks making sure we were transparent and worked very hard to ensure that we were in line with everything in the (verification) program,” added Rozario. “As we were going through our objectives, policies, we realized that everything that was listed was what we had already been doing.”

Strong governance is crucial to the success of an organization like the EYBC.

Nick Moutafis is one of the nine members who comprise the club’s Board of Directors.

“It’s about making sure that we support a structured program and people are in it for the right reason,” said Moutafis, a business management consultant and, also, the EYBC’s vice president.

“Look, I am passionate about basketball and am a strong believer in giving back to the community. “Everyone understands our expectations as an organization. We are geared around development and having fun. It’s about success, experience, good times, and friendship.”

Tayshaun Francis knows, very well, how being associated with the EYBC has helped him in more ways than dribbling a basketball. He’s been with the East York club for 13 years – as a youngster, and now as an instructor and referee.

“At first, I was a young kid, six years old, and not tuned in on this club – and what it could do for me,” said the 20-year-old Francis. “Now, (the EYBC) has become my extended family because I learned a great deal about basketball, my skills improved, I got to know and appreciate the staff and I feel more caring and wanting to help others.”

Francis had won a basketball trophy while in grade 7 at St. Brigid Catholic School and later, in grade 12 at St. Patrick Catholic Secondary, he was the recipient of a sportsmanship award. At the EYBC, Francis was the recipient of the club’s annual Ryce Community Scholarship Award.

At the EYBC, it’s measuring great achievements that go beyond counting trophies and awards.

The Canada Basketball Verification Program is available to all basketball clubs, associations, and community groups across the nation. The program raises standards to guide all associations across Canada towards best principles and practices for organizational development. The Verification Program integrates important aspects of coaching, Safe Sport, and organizational leadership. Becoming Canada Basketball Verified encourages basketball providers to add accountability to their mandates and provides a welcoming, safe, and developmentally appropriate environment for all players and members.

Three Ontario clubs currently hold Canada Basketball Verification: East York Basketball Club, Brampton Minor Basketball Association, and Huntsville Hurricanes.

Click here to learn more about the Canada Basketball Verification Program


David Grossman is a veteran multi award-winning Journalist and Broadcaster with some of Canada’s major media, including the Toronto Star and SPORTSNET 590 THE FAN, and a Public Relations professional for 45+ years in Canadian sports and Government relations.