Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Coach Profile: Grâce Lokole

Coach Profile: Grâce Lokole

It isn't very often at any level that you see a head coach younger than some of his players, let alone at the professional level. For the Niagara River Lions and Interim Head Coach Grâce Lokole however, it's something that has worked in the team's favour. When the Lokole took the helm of the River Lions, the team was 5-14. Since then, the River Lions have gone 7-5, including 7-2 within the Central Division.

Get To Know Grâce Lokole:

Favourite Hobby: Editing videos.
Favourite Song: Cocoa Butter Kisses-Chance The Rapper.
Favourite Movie: Rocky III.
Favourite Memory: First and only time I dunked on someone.
Favourite Sports Team: LA Lakers.
Dream Vacation: Hawaii.
Interesting Fact: Has lived in 3 different countries and 2 different continents.
Career Goals: To keep coaching.
In 3 Words: Work, Work, Work.
On the NBL of Canada: It's staff and ownership group, teams, players, and team staff members are working hard to provide Canada with a respectable sustainable league that would not only benefit Canada basketball, but also the markets in each city that would have host teams. Everyone involved with NBL of Canada is trying to live out some sort of life long dream and there are even more Canadians not involved who share those same dreams. I myself am very thankful for the NBL of Canada.

Grâce Lokole played basketball at Notre Dame high school in Welland, about a 20-minute drive from the Meridian Centre in St. Catharines, home of the Niagara River Lions. After a successful time at Notre Dame, he went off to the University of Guelph to play for the Guelph Gryphons of the OUA. Lokole only played one year there. It was shortly after this he started to write for different websites and media outlets about basketball. This is what got him more familiar with the basketball scene in Canada. Thanks to his writing, he met CFL defensive end and Top Prospects Canada CEO, Shomari Williams. Top Prospects Canada is what was really the jump start for Lokole, as he soon started doing work for them shortly after meeting Williams. Interacting with coaches from the NCAA and CIS lead to very good connections for Lokole as well. Lokole used these connections to find out what careers paths they all took and gain advice from people who have been coaching for years. Through Top Prospects, Grâce was able to go to more high-level basketball tournaments and study the sport even more thoroughly. After graduating from Guelph University, he landed a job as an Assistant Coach for the Niagara College Knights Men's Basketball team, back in the same city that he played high school ball, Welland.

Lokole went back and started to help out with Notre Dame's basketball program once again in any way he could, while continuing to be a key member of the Knights coaching staff at Niagara College. After his first season, he came back for a second with Niagara College, but also saw an opening with another team. That team being the Niagara River Lions. With Ken Murray already being announced as the coach of the NBL's newest team, there was an opening for an assistant coach. Lokole knows Ken Murray's son Scott, who was on the Brock Badgers 2008 CIS Championship winning team, and Scott put a good word in for Grâce, and it lead to an interview. Ken Murray really liked some of the things Lokole had to offer, and he was hired as the River Lions assistant coach, while still holding the same role at Niagara College.

Fast forward 19 games, and Ken Murray is relieved of his duties as Head Coach, and Grâce Lokole was given the role on an interim basis. Lokole wasted no time getting to work as they had a match up with the Central Division-leading London Lightning just days later. The River Lions would win the match up, and a new era in the team's short history had begun. Since taking over, Lokole has lead the River Lions to a 7-5 record, but more notably, 7-2 in the Central Division with just 2 losses to the Windsor Express.

Lokole brings a defence first approach to the game, and wants to make every second count. He has been known to make substitutions with seconds remaining in a quarter to ensure that his team doesn't give up points that could be so huge towards the end of a game. Lokole also likes to run 2 full rotations to ensure that nobody ends up playing huge minutes in a game, and really likes to give all 12 players a chance to shine on the floor every night. The future for Grâce Lokole looks bright, as he is considered one of the best young basketball minds in Canada, and he is proving it every game with the River Lions.