Sacre, Father On Opposite Benches For Basketball Opener
Nov. 11, 2010
SPOKANE, Wash. - Opening night always brings with it a certain excitement - the excitement of a new season, new teammates, new goals and new hopes.
But for Gonzaga University's Robert Sacre, the regular-season opener Friday against Southern University will take on a little special meaning.
Gametime is 6 p.m. in the McCarthey Athletic Center.
His father, Greg LaFleur will be in the stands. And, no different from other fathers, he'll be hoping for his son to have a solid game. But LaFleur will probably be sitting behind the Southern bench, rooting for the Jaguars. He is, after all, the athletic director at the school, a position he has held since 2005.
Sacre is looking forward to the contest.
"Kind of a rivalry game I guess between me and my father but I'm just playing basketball and helping our team win," Sacre said when asked about the opener.
But he admitted there was some excitement among the family when the game was announced, something that had been in the works since Sacre arrived on the Gonzaga campus four years ago.
"I was excited, my family was excited, one of those things where my dad and mom were laughing and kind of making funny bets. It's one of those things where everyone is just going to have a good time," he said.
Sacre looks up to his father, a former NFL tight end from 1981-86 who, in November, 2008, donated a kidney to his father, Gervis.
"My dad was one of those guys who always wanted me to be respectful and become a man earlier than I needed to be," said the easy going, fun loving 7-0, 260-pounder from North Vancouver, B.C. "He kind of put that on me and I looked up to him as a professional. I've always been that way, but maybe make it a goofier side of professionalism."
With his father's background in the NFL, and with Sacre's size, one might think football would have been his sport of choice. But he said his parents never pushed him.
"My dad and mom never pushed me into any sports I didn't want to do so I chose basketball. If I wanted to quit basketball today they would be supporting me. It's one of those things they support me and they've never pushed me with anything," Sacre said.
Has Sacre ever played football?
"Nope. Why does a Ferrari do off roading? It doesn't make any sense," the personable Sacre joked.
He chose instead, to follow in the footsteps of his mother, Leslie Sacre, who is from Vancouver, B.C., and still resides there.
Leslie played basketball at LSU from 1981-84 and still ranks seventh on the all-time rebounding list for freshmen with 207 for a 6.5 rpg average in 1981. Her senior season the Tigers went 23-7, made their inaugural trip to the then 32-field NCAA Tournament and posted a first-round victory.
LaFleur had finished his NFL career before Sacre was born, so he has no recollection of LaFleur's gridiron days.
"My dad was out of football before I was born. I've seen highlights and that's when he had hair. That's the biggest key. He's more proud of him having hair then he was having played football," Sacre jokes of his dad.
Sacre said his dad was supportive when foot problems sidelined him early in his Gonzaga career.
"He was a great dad and supported me. He told me to keep working and to keep focused on what you need to do to be successful. That's basically what I've always stuck to," Sacre said of the advice his father gave him to get him through the foot injuries that plagued him as a freshman and sophomore.
Sacre is looking forward to the season, and he thinks his game has improved. He played for Canada in the FIBA World Championships in Turkey this past summer, gaining a little more insight into the sport.
"More detail things," he says when asked how he has fine-tuned his game. "I'm trying to clean up my footwork, my touch around the basket has improved and it's one of those things where I've just incorporated more detail to my game," he said.
And he still has the hook shot that has become somewhat of a trademark.
"It's even better than last year, and my left is getting better," he said, almost a warning to opposing players.
The experience he gained in Turkey has also helped him to come to appreciate the game even more.
"I think FIBA helped me with the aspect of holding myself accountable and being more professional when it comes to playing basketball. I was playing with adults, older men, and they showed me how to hold myself accountable, be respectful to the game and how to be respectful to my body."
As for the upcoming season, he's got high hopes.
"I think we can be successful. We have the keys to unlock all the doors.
We can do it. We just have to push each other and be successful on and off the court," he noted.
Widely recruited, he's glad for the decision he made to become a Zag.
"Most of the Pac-10 (Pacific-10 Conference schools), LSU, Florida, Wake Forest, Notre Dame and Michigan," he says when asked for a list of who was interested in him.
And yes, Southern "got a look."
But in the end he liked what he saw at Gonzaga and in Spokane.
"I knew nothing about Spokane, but the family environment of Gonzaga" is what drew him to commit to the Zags. "And Spokane is such a great city I think that's the best thing about it. It's a great family place and I'm glad to be a part of something special in this city."
And opening night will be something special, even though his dad will be rooting for the Jaguars.
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