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 Sudbury’s hoops legend Eli Pasquale passes away at 59

Eli Pasquale was inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003. He is survived by wife, Karen, sons Isiah and Manny, brother, Vito, sister, Luciana and mother, Adriana.

 

 By Randy Pascal for sudbury.com

 

Sudbury native Eli Pasquale was a great basketball player when Canadian players weren’t taken seriously by the pros, but his drive and talent propelled him to two Olympic Games and earned him Hall of Fame honours.

Pasquale passed away in Victoria, B.C. on Monday. He was 59. The man whose inner competitive streak drove him to a pair of appearances at the Olympics, on the heels of a stellar career at the University of Victoria, succumbed to a year-long battle with cancer.

His connections to this area remained strong, even after leaving home upon graduating from high school to follow former Laurentian Voyageurs head coach Ken Shields, as the pairing teamed to help lead UVIC to five straight CIAU championships.

It was there that the fifth-round draft pick of the Seattle Supersonics (1984) would connect with LU head coach Shawn Swords, the two sharing a bond that reached well beyond the fact both were one-time members of the Canadian national men’s team.

“My first experience of knowing him would have been watching him on the national team and just seeing how good he was, aspiring to be the player that he was,” said Swords. “I wasn’t in that same era of him, playing, but from what I heard, he was in the gym all the time, always working on his game.

“He was putting himself through hours and hours of work to get better, and I don’t think that was necessarily being done at the time in Canada with basketball,” added Swords. “He really set the tone there.”

Before long, Swords, himself a member of the 2000 Canadian Olympic men’s basketball team (Sydney, Australia), would garner a first-hand knowledge of the drive Pasquale possessed, one that remained with him long after his playing days.

“His competitive spirit is something that we don’t really see these days,” said Swords. “He was trying to win, every single possession, every single game. I witnessed it when the boys came to visit (a recruitment visit) and the four of us played basketball together.”

“It was such a battle, all four of us trying to win a two-on-two game in the middle of the summer. It was fun to play in, fun to witness. That was about 10 years ago and he was nearing his fifties, and there was definitely a competitive spirit.”

Inducted into the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame (2003) and the Sudbury Sports Hall of Fame (2008), Pasquale was garnering words of praise right across the basketball world on Tuesday, the level of his talent not lost, in the least, on his friends in Sudbury.

 

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