ABBOTSFORD — Peter Wauthy never got a chance to play basketball at the Envision Financial Athletic Centre, yet after this weekend, fans of the Fraser Valley Cascades men’s basketball team will be reminded of one of their past heart-and-soul hardcourt heroes each time they pass through the mezzanine of their home gymnasium.
On Friday, prior to its 8 p.m. tip-off against Langley’s visiting Trinity Western Spartans, UFV will honour its 2018 Cascades Hall of Fame class, and among that richly-deserving group will be Dr. Peter Wauthy, 35, who over his three-year career at the school came to define a style of no-frills, straight-from-the-heart play which was heavily rooted in physical tenacity.
For Wauthy, who helped lead the former University College of the Fraser Valley Cascades to the 2001-02 CCAA national title, the honour is overwhelming.
So giving him some permanence within the school’s gymnasium complex during its current era as a U Sports member is fitting, because like so many of the program past greats, their experience in Cascade togs came amidst a more spartan era.
In fact, as Wauthy tells it, he might not have become a collegiate basketball player had he not attended Abbotsford’s smallest high school, St. John Brebeuf Regional Secondary.
“Ultimately, when I came out of high school, I had a number of offers to play volleyball, but just one to play basketball, and that was from Fraser Valley,” Wauthy begins.
“I was at this small high school but I was lucky, because at the time, Fraser Valley didn’t have a gymnasium. The university was there but there was no physical space to practice or play games, so they rented our high school gym.”
That of course meant that UCFV head coach Pat Lee, who would lead the Cascades to three CCAA national titles over his career, would watch a lot of St. John Brebeuf practices as his collegians waited their turn to step on the floor.
“I was always looking for kids with heart, the kids with the passion to become good players,” Lee remembered on Thursday morning. “And Peter in high school had this unreal athletic body and was mature beyond his age. I fell in love with that right away, and I just said ‘We have to go after this kid no matter what.’”
THE DOCTOR IS IN
Wauthy’s life followed a distinct upward trajectory throughout his university career.
After prepping with SJB’s Bears, under the guidance of head coach Byron Green, the 6-foot-3 Wauthy flourished for three seasons at UCFV under the generalship of Lee.
In 2001-02, en route to a national title, he was picked the MVP of BCCAA (now PacWest) championship tourney.
In 2002-03, he averaged 16 points and 11.9 rebounds and was selected CCAA national Player of the Year.
UBC Thunderbirds’ head coach Kevin Hanson recruited him to play at the CIS level for the final two years of his career, and offered this memorable account of Wauthy’s value to a team: “We just can’t take him off the floor. He just does so many of the things that people who don’t understand the game of basketball may miss. And those are the things that bring us together as a team.”
The comment is enlightening, and taken in a broader context, mirrors the ways in which Dr. Peter Wauthy approaches medicine, the great passion in his life.
“I think from my playing days, one of the things I took away was hard work, your work ethic… and I definitely bring that to medicine,” says Wauthy, who after studying kinesiology at UFV and later medicine at UBC, has spent the past three-and-a-half years as an emergency room physician at Abbotsford Hospital.
“That and the fact that you are constantly learning,” continued Wauthy, whose wife Erin is also a doctor. “And definitely, the team work. In the ER, you have a whole team that you work with. You’re in a leadership role, but it’s always a team thing. So yes, there are huge comparisons.”
All of that is comfort to the ears of Lee, who using Wauthy as a prime example, pinpoints a key change of philosophy which helped turn the Cascades into a national power.
“I would look at all of the top talent that was coming out of this area and we used to try to recruit all of the top ones,” Lee begins. “But then I came to realization that it wasn’t about getting all the top players that would make you a national champion. It was more about the character of the kids that you recruited.
“I wanted kids with potential who wanted to play for Fraser Valley, not the kids I had to talk into it. Around that time I realized Peter was the perfect fit for the type of player I was trying to recruit. He didn’t care that we didn’t have our own gym. He just wanted to play.”
BASKETBALL MIRRORS LIFE
Assume that Wauthy’s biggest career memory was winning the 2002 CCAA national title and you would be wrong.
“In sports in general, you look at what was the highest moment and of course you think of championships,” says Wauthy, a father of two young boys, “but the highlight of the whole process for me at UFV was being with the guys in practice, grinding it out and working hard.”
And now, alongside former UFV women’s basketball star Denise Rehman (now Tuchscherer), longtime soccer coaches Scott Fast and Ken Fernstrom, and the 1995 Cascades’ men’s soccer team, Wauthy gets to take his place in the UFV Cascades Hall of Fame.
“It’s just something I never imagined, being a kid from a small Single A school,” he says of his induction. “I am humbled by the honour but it’s so hard to put into words what it all means. I just want to recognize all my teammates who helped push me along the way, and the guys who coached me in Byron Green and Pat Lee.”
On a personal note, back in my days at The (Vancouver) Province, I would regularly honour the best players in the Canada West’s B.C-only Pacific Division with a set of awards I dubbed ‘The Howies’, and in 2004-05, my Top Defensive Howie went to Wauthy.
I reminded the doctor how great of a defender he was when we spoke on Thursday, and Wauthy was quick to pass the credit there to Lee, whose practices were legendarily draining.
It had been almost 13 years since Wauthy and I had last spoken, but in a lot of ways, it seemed like last week.
At the end of our chat, I asked him if there was one thing he took from trying to be the best basketball player he could be that has transferred into helping hi be the best doctor he can be?
The answer told me why he is, in the broadest sense of the term, a Hall of Famer.
“You have to be goal-oriented,” he began. “In the transfer from sports to my work, a huge aspect gets missed, and that is the mental side of things.
“Before every shift I work in the ER, I go through a mental process, a certain preparation to get me into the right mindset, ready to work, and to be as sharp as I can be. And it is the same idea as when I played basketball.”
Yes, we all love this beautiful game, and for a myriad of reasons.
Today, we’re reminded of yet another, and it’s perhaps the most important one of all.
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