When it comes to student athletes, they say studies come first, sports second.
Eighteen-year-old Sir John Franklin High School graduate Talston McQueen is about to find out if that’s true after making the men’s volleyball team at Grande Prairie Regional College (GPRC). So far, he likes what he sees.
“I’m a little rusty but I’m being forced to get better and that’s what I like about being here,” he said.
The team has been practising since late August under the watchful eye of head coach Mitchell Schneider, who is the reason McQueen got the chance to play for the Wolves.
“Mitchell likes to give young Northern athletes a chance and he was the one who offered me a shot,” said McQueen. “It’s a really good team and it’s a great bunch of guys to be around.”
McQueen has been one of the best young volleyball players in the city for a number of years and made up a formidable trio at Sir John Franklin alongside Devon Fillion and Braden Johnston, collectively known as the Three Amigos.
In Grande Prairie, though, it’s the other way around and McQueen finds himself as the new guy trying to break in, which he admitted was tough getting used to at first.
“It’s different because back home, I was the guy who everyone looked to and was one of the best players out there,” he said. “Down here, there are guys ahead of me who are more experienced and so I just have to work at it and take my chances when they come.”
College athletics gives an athlete five years of eligibility and there are fifth-year players ahead of McQueen at the present time.
“One of the strong-side hitters is in his fifth year and another is in his third year,” he said. “In a way, I’m at the bottom of the barrel so I just have to hit the gym and see how I do. I might get to start next year but we’ll see how that goes.”
The regular season for the Wolves doesn’t start until October but there will be exhibition games leading up to opening night. One of those games will be against the Canadian men’s sitting volleyball team. There’s a Yellowknife connection there as well with Austin Hinchey, who once called the city home, playing on the national squad.
“It’s going to be an actual sitting game so we’ll probably get our butts kicked,” said McQueen. “It’ll be good and we’ll have fun. Austin is an amazing player, sitting or standing.”
Someone who knows McQueen better than most is Chad Hinchey, who coached McQueen at the Canada Summer Games last month as well as in the Senior Cager tournaments with Sir John Franklin.
He said McQueen has matured greatly over the years and become a leader.
“He had some small bad habits, like all young athletes, but he’s managed to overcome those and became a great leader,” he said. “He’s a leader on and off the court and that’s big for him especially now that he’s left for school.”
While McQueen is at school, he’s hoping to get a business degree with a major in administration.
Whether he gets that at GPRC is still up in the air.
“I may transfer after two years but I’m still undecided,” he said. “Mitchell is the kind of coach who tries to keep his players together so they can become a better team so I don’t know what I’ll do. I’m just focused on this season.”