Summerside native Brian Finniss is about to embark on a new chapter in his life.
The Three Oaks Senior High School graduate returned to his hometown earlier this week from Australia, where he played semi-professional basketball and worked as a strength and conditioning coach with a professional soccer team.
"I've worked the last six or seven years as a strength and conditioning coach with Olympic athletes all over the place," said the 28-year-old son of Mark and Gail Finniss. "I started doing that when I was 19 or 20 and still in university. It was part of my degree in kinesiology. . . When I went out to play basketball at (the University of) Calgary, I got into it quite a bit more."
Finniss, who also starred with the Acadia Axemen's university basketball team, played one season of basketball in Australia from February to August 2010.
"A couple of teammates I played with are on the Australian under-23 or under-19 national team, so they play in the world championships each summer," said Finniss. "Some of the guys from the top professional league, most of them in fact, play in the league as well because it is their off-season.
"It is classified as semi professional, but most of the players have been professional at one point or another."
After a visit home following basketball season, Finniss returned to Australia in October 2010. He did not play basketball this past year, and focused solely on his strength and conditioning work.
Remain in Canada
Finniss and his girlfriend, who is from Victoria, B.C., plan to remain in Canada, although it is uncertain at this point where they will call home.
"To be able to stay in sport at a high-performance level is something I want to continue as long as I can," said Finniss, who added he has also had talks with Canada's two Major League Soccer (MLS) franchises in Toronto and Vancouver about potentially doing similar work with them as he was in Australia.
However, Finniss did admit the "Island" team in the fledgling National Basketball League of Canada has "peaked my interest a bit more."
The team will be based out of Credit Union Place in Summerside, and will begin play in early November.
"Personally, I think it's great," said Finniss. "I really hope it's able to succeed.
"Obviously, we don't have a professional league here in Canada, and any time you can bring something like this in it's going to be a great thing for kids playing nowadays to look at it and say, 'Maybe we can make a career out of this.'
"I got to travel around Europe for a bit at a stage in my life that if I didn't have basketball I may not have been able to do that."
Finniss has already spoken with "Island" team representatives, including co-owner Duncan Shaw, about possible involvement with the club.
"I think it's going to be a lot higher calibre basketball than people are expecting," said Finniss. "They're going to have a lot of players who are ex-Division 1 players in the U.S., and ex-NBA players."
Jason Simmonds is sports editor of the Journal Pioneer. The "Islanders Away" feature appears every Thursday. If you would like to suggest an "Islander Away" for this feature, please do so by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.