Langley athlete takes his place in professional basketball

Connor Platz is starting his pro career with the Vancouver Bandits in the same town where he first took to the court

📷 Trinity Western University Athletics

Connor Platz will soon take his first professional basketball shots — and he won’t even need to leave his hometown to do it. In fact, he won’t even need to leave his gym.

After three years playing for the Trinity Spartans at the Langley Events Centre, Platz has the Vancouver Bandits, the professional basketball team that also plays and practices at the Langley Events Centre.

It’s unusual for a newly minted pro athlete, who would ordinarily have had to travel across the continent or overseas to pursue their dream. And Platz is grateful for the opportunity to stay put.

“I'm definitely a homebody,” he said. “So it'd be nice to stay with my family and live at home while still playing with [The Bandits].”

The Bandits didn’t just choose Platz for his proximity. They drafted the 6’11” centre for the 2024 season as part of the team’s goal of producing more local talent at the professional level. But his record-making playing style could also help move the team out of its 2023 last place standings.

With 70 blocks so far this season, the 20-year-old athlete leads all of Canadian university basketball. (The next best blocker in university basketball, New Brunswick’s Javordo Mitchell, has only made 59.) And in February of this year, he almost scored a coveted quadruple-double — an achievement that only four NBA players have ever completed.

The Current talked to Platz about his move into professional basketball, his athletic connection to Langley, and how close he came to getting one of the most elusive feats in the game.

Fraser Valley Current: How did your family react when you told them that you had been drafted to the Bandits?

Connor Platz: My parents and siblings were very excited. My mom's very over the top. She was crying, and she was so happy for me.

FVC: Do any of your other siblings play basketball at all? Or are you the only one in the family?

CP: My younger brother plays basketball. He's only in Grade 6though. He really looks up to me and wants to play basketball at the university level one day as well.

FVC: So how did you get into playing basketball? Where did you first start?

CP: I started in Grade 6. I kind of just started playing because everyone was like, ‘You have to play basketball’ because I was taller than everyone. So I just started playing basketball. And then I fell in love with the sport and then just played all through high school.

FVC: What about the sport did you really enjoy?

CP: I'd say I really enjoy the team aspect of it. Like, working with other people and making new friends and getting close with those people. And also just the hard work of basketball that you have to put in to get to the next level.

FVC: Was there a particular game or practice when you realized that it clicked for you and this is something that you really wanted to continue?

CP: I wouldn't say there was a game or practice, but it was in Grade 10 where

one of my high school coaches, he pretty much said that he thought that I can go to the next level and I should strive towards a scholarship or university. And then after that, I started taking it a lot more serious.

FVC: Which coach was that?

CP: It was Coach Derek Baker [at Walnut Grove Secondary School].

He was my coach since around Grade 7. He really influenced me to fall in love with the sport and start playing. And yeah, [he] kind of just influenced me to actually start working harder and like training more because I was like, ‘I can actually make something out of this,’ you know?

Platz joined Trinity Western’s basketball team in 2021, and has played the last three seasons as a centre. In February, Platz came within three blocks of recording an ultra rare quadruple-double. (A quadruple-double means getting double digits in four of the five main statistics categories: points, rebounds, assists, steals, and blocks.) Only four NBA players have ever recorded a quadruple-double, and no one in Canada West university basketball has ever done it. Platz posted 13 points, 11 rebounds, 10 assists, and seven blocks in the game.

FVC: How did it feel to almost have made that record?

CP: It felt good. Obviously, it kinda was like, ‘Oh, I wish I got like a couple more blocks in that game.’ But it was, it was still like a really good feeling after the game, and we got the win that night. So yeah, it was a good feeling.

FVC: For your own personal style of play, like how would you describe the way you are on the court?

CP: I'd say I'm like a stretch big, which means I'm a big man that can also shoot the ball from the three-point line and I can also go inside. So I kind of have a bit of both. Obviously, shot-blocking is one of my best attributes on defense.

FVC: Were you expecting to get signed to the Bandits at all?

CP: I wasn't expecting to be drafted at all. I didn't really hear much about it. But obviously, it was one of my goals for the past couple of years after one of my teammates … [Mason Bourcier] got drafted to the Newfoundland team. And he also played on the Bandits a few years ago. So I was kind of like, ‘Yeah, I'd like to do that.’ I think it's a great opportunity, but I wasn't expecting it.

But it was just like a normal day. I was just sitting in my house and I got a text from my assistant coach, who's also an assistant coach on the Bandits. And he was just like, ‘The Bandits want to draft you.’ And I was like, ‘Okay,’ and then a few minutes later, the head coach called me and was just like, ‘Yeah, we're interested in drafting you. We think you have some potential.’ Then I just accepted the offer.

The Spartans played their last game of the season in February. The Bandits’ season begins May 23 and will run until the Bandits’ away game in Montreal on July 28. The team will play 10 home games at the Langley Events Centre. After his season with The Bandits, Platz will be returning to the Trinity Spartans for the 2024-2025 season.

FVC: How are you feeling about that summer season coming up?

CP: I'm very excited to play with such high-level professional players and high-level coaches that the Bandits organization has. It will be great for my development. And help me improve for my fourth year at Trinity. I'm just excited to do whatever I can to help the team succeed and come in every day and just work hard.

FVC: I understand that Trinity's athletics play out of the Langley Event Center — and so do the Vancouver Bandits. You'd be playing home games in the same space. Do you anticipate that the kind of the atmosphere is going to be different?

CP: Most of our practices for the Bandits are in our gym where we play our games at Trinity. So it's cool to get to go in there and just stay with the same routine. It feels similar going into that gym every day, like I did like throughout this whole year. But yeah, it's definitely gonna be different playing against higher level players that have the experience playing professional, and in Europe, and overseas, and some NBA guys. So it'll be different with that aspect.

But I think it'll be nice to just stay in my home court and be able to still live at home while I'm playing with them. Because that's something that not a lot of guys who are getting drafted into the CEBL [Canadian Elite Basketball League], kind of get. They don't necessarily get to stay in their hometown and still play at that level.

FVC” What's that opportunity like for you?

CP: It makes me happy because I get to stay and live at home and be with my family all the time. And I'm just like a five-minute drive from the Langley Events Center. I get to go to practice every day and then just come back home. So it'll be nice to stay. I'm definitely a homebody. So it'd be nice to stay with my family and live at home while still playing with them.

FVC: Do you think your little brother will come to watch games or practices?

CP: My family's probably going to be at every game. They're very supportive of me and come to all my Trinity games, and they're excited.

FVC: In the release that the Bandits put out, it sounds like your head coach is very excited to have you back after your season with the Bandits. But going forward after university, what do you see for yourself? What are you hoping for your basketball career?

CP: Yeah, after my two years left at Trinity, I'm hoping to play in Europe or overseas for a few years, as long as I can. And then just finish off my basketball career then. Then I was thinking of going into physiotherapy or an athletic therapist job, but I'm not 100% sure.

FVC: For young kids who are getting into basketball, like your brother, what advice would you have for them as they kind of move on in their athletic careers?

CP: I would just tell them to follow their dreams. No matter if people tell them it’s out of reach, or you're not going to make it, I just say work hard and believe in yourself. If you make it, you'll do it.

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