Jaxon Smith (left) and his brother Jaydan both played for team Nova Scotia

One of our YMCA’s young and gifted basketball players, 14-year-old Jaxon Smith, is leaving his mark on the basketball courts throughout Canada and the United States. He was part of the Nova Scotia Under-15 Boys Basketball Team that beat Team Quebec at the Canadian National Basketball Tournament earlier this year in Winnipeg.

Chances are that the players on those teams, like the players before them, had perfected their free throws and fast breaks on the courts of community centres across the province. Jaxon perfected his skills at the Community YMCA in Halifax’s North End, home to the Community Y Panthers Basketball Team.

“You become pretty close to your teammates and we spend a lot of time together here at the Community Y,” said Jaxon. “It is great to travel to tournaments. You get to show your basketball skills, but you also get to see some other really great players from all over.”

One of the tournaments the Community Y Panthers participated in this year was the “Elite Sports Battle in the Valley” in Hartford/Canton, Connecticut. With the location of the tournament a mere two-hour drive from New York City, the trip organizers made adjustments to their plans in order to arrive in time to do some sightseeing. They got to visit iconic sites and landmarks such as museums, the Apollo Theatre and, of course, Times Square.

“I had been there before but some of the other guys had never been to New York or to Times Square,” said Jaxon. “It was pretty cool to see the expressions on their faces when they saw it all for the first time!”

Panther players also had a chance to do a little shopping. After all, it is difficult to go to New York and avoid the temptations of so many good deals.  It is not surprising what item Jaxon and many of the players had their hearts set on: buying a new pair of sneakers.

The tournament allowed the players a chance to demonstrate their basketball skills as well as pick-up a few new ones. It also gave them an opportunity to play at a higher level against some of North America’s most talented players. This year, the Panthers played against some stiff competition and were the only team from Canada in the tournament.

Jaxon has his sights on playing high-school basketball and gives a nod of agreement when asked if he “eats, sleeps and breathes” basketball.  Jaxon comes by his passion for the game and his athletic prowess on the court naturally. His older brother, Jaydan, 17, plays for Citadel High School and both of his parents were high caliber athletes. His mom, Sherry, was an All-Canadian basketball player at Kings College in Halifax. His dad, Wade, played for St. F.X. University and is an inductee of the Nova Scotia Sports Hall of Fame.

Wade, who also grew-up playing basketball at the Community Y, knows what it means to take an annual trip with the Panthers.  He took a similar trip in 1979 to Hempstead, New York. He recalls that the trip is something former players often reminisce about when they see each other. For most of these players the Community Y was a second home and holds some wonderful memories.

“It has come full circle for me with Jaxon taking the trip as well. Everyone who has been on the annual trip has that bond that they share and talk about together,” said Wade. “Being part of the Community Y is a whole lot of fun and you make friendships that last a lifetime. You wouldn’t get that anywhere else.”

Currently, the cost of the annual trip is covered through fundraising. The hard work and dedication of the players, coaches, managers and volunteers as well as local businesses means that there is less of a financial burden on the families of players. The YMCA and our Panthers players are grateful for the incredible community support.