PORT MOODY — It’s been a few years since Gavin McMahon was able to open his eyes and see the world in all of the comfortable ways he grew accustomed to as a child.
Yet spend any amount of time speaking to the senior point guard with Port Moody’s Heritage Woods Kodiaks about the way fate handed has him a most challenging view of life, and all you can think about is his singular focus …even when almost all he sees is double.
“I’ve had a ton of questions about it, and everyone always asks me ‘Are you seeing two of me now?’” begins McMahon, who back in the summer of 2016 was knocked unconscious on the soccer pitch after taking a knee to his right eye during a collision. “The answer is always ‘Yes.’”
It’s been that same affirmative response to life by the now 17-year-old McMahon which has allowed him to confound the most basic requirements of his sport, like pristine focus and depth perception.
“My heart goes out to this kid,” Heritage Woods head coach Chris Martin says. “He never complains. He never asks for special treatment. You ask him to do something, and he does it. How cool is that?”
McMahon pretty much hung up his soccer boots following his injury, suffered between his Grade 9 and 10 years while playing for the Port Moody AC Selects U-16 squad. Yet basketball, the sport he’s played since the age of five, remains a passion.
On Wednesday evening (8:45 p.m.) in Vancouver, he’ll be right back on the floor with his teammates as the Quad-A honourable mention Kodiaks clash with North Delta’s Seaquam Seahawks in the opening-round of Sir Winston Churchill’s annual Bulldogs Classic.
Gavin McMahon’s sight may have taken a big hit a few years back.
But if his literal vision isn’t perfect, thankfully his figurative vision is.
A GUTSY RESPONSE
It’s certainly not his favourite topic, yet the 5-foot-10 McMahon doesn’t shy away from the details of the day he suffered his injury and the tough days he’s since endured.
“I was on a breakaway and the ball bounced up in front of me and (the goalie) came from the blindside,” McMahon begins. “The goalie’s knee hit me in the eye and I was knocked out for about 30 seconds. I went to the hospital, but they thought I had a concussion and didn’t think anything was wrong with my eye.”
That right eye remained swollen shut for about a week, and when it finally opened, McMahon experienced double-vision for the first time.
“The doctors told me that it was somewhat normal and that it would go away in another month or two, but it never did,” he continued.
As close as McMahon can come to describe what happened, a part of the muscle of his right eye was pinched in the fractured bone of the socket. Surgery released the muscle and allowed the bone to heal, yet there was enough scarring to the muscle that his double vision has remained to this day.
That singular vision to play the game, however, has thankfully won out.
McMahon, who played PoCo North club basketball from fifth through eighth grade, and was coached by the legendary Don Van Os along the way, had no other options but to figure out a way to adapt on the court despite his shortcomings.
“It depends where I am on the court,” he explains. “In the very middle of my vision, I can see normally. But if I go a little up or a little down, then it starts to go double. So if I am far enough out, and I am looking straight on, it’s single (vision). But if I turn my head or look up, it’s double.”
McMahon of course can’t make his basketball world to order.
He, like every other player on the court, is at the mercy of the game’s flow.
And thus, his greatest challenges have included finding ways to make plays regardless of his position on the floor and the line of sight he happens to have been given.
“I think about it from time to time, but I don’t let it bother me because there is nothing I can do about it,” says McMahon, who actually took a mean poke in that right eye and was sporting a noticeable shiner over the earlier part of this season. “I just feel like sticking with things, and coming back from something like this is going to help me later in life.”
HEART OF A KODIAK
It’s the final day of the last month’s Tsumura Basketball Invitational at the Langley Events Centre, and on the consolation side of the draw, Heritage Woods is facing the Hurricanes of Abbotsford’s Rick Hansen Secondary.
McMahon is introduced as the team’s starting point guard, and if you weren’t aware of his adversity, you would never know based on the way he plays the game.
Driving, dishing, shooting.
“Oh my God, what a kid,” Martin continues. “And what is amazing is that he plays point guard. I watch the way he makes passes, the way he runs the pick-and-roll, and the fact that he’s a pretty decent three-point shooter.”
Look at the latest Varsity Letters’ B.C. Big 10 Quad-A rankings, and a young Heritage Woods team, of which McMahon is one of only four seniors, sits on the bubble as far as getting out of the Fraser Valley and finding a spot at the B.C. championships this March.
McMahon just wants to do his part to help his team get there.
“Personally, I just want to provide more offence,” says McMahon, whose career single-game high at the senior varsity level is 18 points. “And defensively, whomever I check, I want to hold him to as few points as possible.”
Beyond this season?
At the conclusion of Heritage Woods’ own Kodiak Classic invitational on Dec. 1, the host school handed out a $1,000 Heart of the Kodiak scholarship to a player who had overcome significant adversity.
“It was pretty emotional,” admitted Martin, who did his best to keep a dry eye while presenting the scholarship to McMahon.
And of course, that scholarship is going to be put to great use.
“I am probably going into business,” McMahon says of the academic path he hopes to continue next year at a school like UBC or Western. “I’m not too sure (about a profession) but it will probably be something entrepreneurial. Something adventurous. Something out of the ordinary.”
After meeting him, how could that not be the case?
Gavin McMahon, now more than ever, can clearly see where he wants to go.
And while each day has no guarantee of being easy, it’s fair to say he’s been blessed with a singular vision that keeps everything in focus.
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