Former All-Canadian Surmacz returns to Lancers to serve as men’s basketball assistant coach

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The University of Windsor Lancers men’s basketball team should get some professional help this season.

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With a 12-year professional career now behind him, former Lancer All-Star Greg Surmacz will join the coaching staff later this fall as he continues his graduate studies at university.

“It’s always great to have alumni coming back and even more important if they can be part of your staff,” Lancers head coach Chris Cheng said. “Greg was one of the greats in Windsor. The career he had as an athlete and pro will only benefit the players of today and tomorrow. “

The Lancers began chasing Surmacz under former head coach and now athletic director Mike Havey when he was a notable high school player from Peterborough. Chris Oliver followed him for two years while playing college in the United States and eventually brought him to Windsor as a transfer in 2006.

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“It’s the best decision I’ve ever made,” said Surmacz.

He helped Windsor win his first OUA title in 28 years that first season and the Lancers were 69-38 overall in his three seasons as he was named to the All-Star Team twice. Canadian and two-time OUA All-Star as well as West Division Player of the Year and Olympic Shield as Athlete of the Year in Windsor.

Professionally, he performed in Canada for the Windsor Express and in London before heading overseas.

“I have traveled all over Europe, parts of North Africa and Asia,” Surmacz said. “I got to see a lot of different places.

He still receives calls to continue playing, but at the age of 36 and with two young girls, Surmacz and his wife, whom he met in Poland, are ready for the next chapter.

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“The first thing I wanted to do was get my foot in the door and try to train and what better place than my alma mater,” said Surmacz. “I spoke with (longtime Lancer assistant coach) Barry Amlin and then with Chris, who welcomed me with open arms.”

When Surmacz dominated the field with the Lancers, then six-year-old Thomas Kennedy looked impatiently into the stands.

“My Wednesdays and Saturdays when I was a kid were always at Center Saint-Denis,” said Kennedy, now 21, who is in his third season with the Lancers. “I saw him play a lot and in my recruiting process at Windsor his name was often used as the position Chris Oliver wanted me to play.”

Kennedy has previously secured professional playing time with Hamilton in the Canadian Elite Basketball League as well as time with Canada’s National Under-19 Team.

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“He’s playing a very similar (position) and has done two things that I want to do,” Kennedy said of Surmacz. “First, he finished a long and successful professional career and he was a Canadian star and it’s on my list.

“Although he is a great man, he was one of the first to be able to stretch people outside of painting. Personally, this is part of my game. He can help me in the paint and around the bucket, but also outside the wrench.

Surmacz said it’s one thing to be coached, but it’s another to hear and learn from someone who’s been through what he’s been through during his time as a player.

“I don’t know if I want to be a head coach someday,” Surmacz said. “I want to learn from Chris and what he goes through every day. Thomas Kennedy and others have aspirations and want to play pro and I think I can help with that.

Surmacz is currently completing some online courses, but has already started looking to buy a home in the Windsor area and hopes to be in town by December.

“I always feel like I have a connection (with Windsor) and keep in touch with some guys I’ve played with,” said Surmacz. “Coach Oliver and I speak quite regularly and Coach Amlin has always kept a close bond. (Windsor’s) just a tight knit community and I want to try this and this is the perfect opportunity.

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