Coach Stephan Barrie didn’t expect to check out the intramural league when he was recruiting for the men’s basketball team. But that’s where he found Michael Farine, his current shooting guard.
After first-years Scott Morrison and Seth Evershed left the team early in the season, Barrie and assistant coach Chris Aim were desperate to fill the empty roster spots.
Aim — who knows Farine’s family from youth basketball in Toronto — suggested that the team check him out.
“They came to watch me play intramurals in the fall,” Farine said. “I guess they liked what they saw.”
The coaching staff decided to pick up Farine and guard James Asefa — two upper-year students who hadn’t tried to play varsity basketball at Queen’s.
Farine said some of his old intramural teammates aren’t happy with the decision.
“There’s one guy that I personally recruited [for intramurals],” he said. “Every time he sees me, he’s always saying, ‘You ditched me, bro.’”
Farine’s story gets better — he used to play for the Queen’s football team. He was a backup receiver in 2008, but quit after that season. Farine said he set his expectations too high and couldn’t get used to being a practice player.
“I wasn’t prepared [for training camp], didn’t run well and got buried in the depth chart,” he said. “When all the veteran receivers committed for another year, I decided to leave the team.”
Although Farine’s route to varsity basketball was unconventional, it’s no fluke. He played on top-level teams throughout high school.
“I grew up playing basketball … In Grade 10, I travelled throughout the U.S. [with a competitive team],” he said. “But in high school, I had this insane year of football and not the best basketball year and got recruited to Queen’s.”
Basketball is also a Farine family trait — his older brother, Simon, now plays professionally in Israel for Maccabi Haifa.
As a first-year basketball player but a fourth-year student, Farine is the newest and oldest addition to a young, rebuilding team. But he said it’s better late than never.
“I used to go to Queen’s games, watch them, and think, ‘That should be me’ — I missed … playing in front of the crowds,” he said. “When the opportunity came, I couldn’t pass it up.”
Even though he won’t be at Queen’s to see the current squad develop and mature, Farine said he can still play a constructive role.
“The way [Barrie] positioned it was that I would act as a band-aid that they could rely on,” he said. “I’m just here to help out where I can.”
The team is 0-10 and routinely gets blown out of games — but Farine said he’s seen enough to know this team will develop.
“[Second-year guard] Ryan Golden is one of the budding stars in the OUA,” he said. “The growing pains are tough, but you’ll see major improvements in their record in the next few years.”
One thing is certain — three years of intramural basketball didn’t prepare Farine for physical demands of OUA basketball when he joined the team in November.
“The start was a mess. I was completely out of shape, dying in practice,” he said. “In games, I was nervous and shaky.”
But Farine has quickly established himself as a regular contributor — although he initially came in to back up the starting guards, a recent injury to Golden allowed him to take a starting role. In Sunday’s loss to the Toronto Varsity Blues, Farine played a team-high 31 minutes, scoring 17 points.
Farine said he’s enjoyed the return to the competitive environment.
“Student life was lots of partying, not that much direction,” he said. “When I had the chance to play, I thought, ‘I’ve done the normal student life, I want to see what this is like again.’”
Farine said he wasn’t sure what to expect from the other players after “waltzing” onto the basketball team halfway into the season. He said it didn’t take long to fit into the team’s tight-knit culture.
“Because there were so many people on the football team, it was tough to establish close relationships,” he said. “But with basketball, there are 13 guys that you’re with all the time.”
Barrie said he decided to pursue Farine because the team needed a player who could contribute immediately.
“We have a couple younger guys who may develop later, but who aren’t quite ready,” he said. “But when it comes to [Farine’s] maturity level and his overall presence, he seems like a fourth-year guy.”
But Barrie doesn’t chalk up Farine’s multi-sport ability to his athleticism.
“He’s not more athletic than the other guys, but he’s pretty smart, pretty savvy, pretty crafty,” he said. “I would assume that there was some of that in how he played football.”
Barrie said Farine makes the team environment more competitive.
“He’s poised, he doesn’t get rattled on the floor, and he’s improving steadily as he goes,” Barrie said. “He’s a good example of using what you have to make yourself the best player possible.”