Soccer runs deep in Brandon Bassi’s blood.
Following in the footsteps of both his father and his older brother, the 17-year-old North Delta Secondary senior first took to the pitch when he was six years old, though it was anything but love at first sight.
“When I was younger I wasn’t the best, I didn’t want to go to practice, I didn’t want to go to games,” Bassi said. “Then as I got older I started loving the game more and more, and it just became something that stuck with me.”
All those years of hard work — even the reluctant ones — payed off this week as Bassi signed on to play NCAA soccer at Simon Fraser University.
“It kinda feels unreal because my brother also went to this school (both of them actually, [NDSS] and SFU), so it kinda feels like I’m following in someone’s footsteps.”
Bassi began his career playing with the North Delta Soccer Association before joining Coastal Football Club, where the six-foot-four centre-back has been captain of his club teams since U13. When he was 15, Bassi spent a season playing with the Vancouver Whitecaps’ residency program, and represented B.C. on the national stage.
“He’s done everything,” said Steven Duffy, a senior staff coach at Coastal FC. “He’s played at national championships, he’s played for the Whitecaps, he’s played for a bunch of teams, got a scholarship, so as far as soccer stuff goes he’s kind of ticked every box.”
Duffy, who has known Bassi for four years, coaching him at BC Soccer’s provincial program and at the club level from U14 to U16, praised the young defender’s maturity and consistency of play as part of what makes him such an integral part of his teams.
“He’s an absolute leader,” Duffy said. “You have kids that excel at a young age and they make all these programs and their heads swell and they get a little cocky and they have some ego; he’s never been that kid. He’s just one of those guys that’s super down to earth, really hard working, comes from a great family, and yeah, he’s just a stand up guy.”
“He’s one of those guys where you know what you’re going to get from him every week. He’s one of those players, if you’re going to rate him out of 10, he’s always going to be like an eight out of 10 every single week week, no matter what. He’s one of those guys that you can always rely on.”
Duffy said Bassi has always sought to understand and improve his game, communicating well with both his coaches and teammates and helping the team work together
“He’s just extremely vocal. He helps, he communicates, he organizes. He used to ask tons of questions when I was his coach, and as a coach I love that. He was always very curious about why we would do stuff and he wanted to understand it,” Duffy said. “My thing with younger kids is I like them to take ownership of their own development, and to do that you’ve got to ask tons of questions to understand why we’re doing certain things.”
It’s an approach Bassi has applied to his pursuits at NDSS as well, where he has earned honour roll status for his scholastic achievements and helped the Huskies senior boys basketball team climb to fourth place in the provincial AAA rankings and a record of 6-0 in league play.
“Brandon, as a student, he’s hard working, he’s intelligent, gives his honest effort. As a player he’s fiery, he’s competitive, he’s intense, and honestly he’ll do whatever it takes to win,” said Huskies head coach Jesse Hundal. “Before the game he’s all jokes, but when the whistle blows it’s like he’s transformed into like the Dark Knight. It’s all business, he’ll do whatever it takes to win. Anything and everything.”
“He brings that intangibility to both soccer and basketball, where you can tell when he’s on the court, the players react differently because he has those leadership skills,” added basketball coach Gary Sandhu. “He picks guys up when they’re down. He’s the type of athlete that comes around once a decade.”
“He makes a difference on our team. He’s made a difference every since Grade 8 coming in, that’s how important he is to our program.”
Hundal and Sandhu shared a story of how Bassi overcame a personal tragedy in order to uphold his commitment to his teammates.
“Two years ago we were at junior boys provincials and … he found out that his grandfather had passed away. But rather than stay at home, he came to play the first game. I asked him and Gary asked him, we said, ‘Brandon, go home,’ and he goes, ‘No, I have a commitment to the guys and the coaches. I know my grandfather would want me to play.’ And he played. Like, five hours before his grandfather had passed away. That tells a lot.”
“We were winning that game at the half, we just ran out of gas against a highly ranked Burnaby South team. We ended up losing by six, but if he wasn’t in the lineup I don’t know if we would have had that same fire,” Sandhu said.
“And the main thing is, you see a guy that shows that much commitment … that tells you a lot about the type of guy that SFU’s getting. He’s a leader. He’s a man.”
As for Bassi, he seems to be taking all in stride. And though he’d like to keep playing and see how far he can take his soccer career, his goals while at SFU aren’t confined to the pitch. Bassi’s planning on pursing a major in criminology, with a minor in sports science “so I can stick to soccer somehow and stay close to sports after I’m actually done playing.”
Like in soccer and basketball, Bassi is committed to doing what he can to elevate not only himself but those around him.
“It’s not just about the money … with your career, I wanted to make a change in the community,” Bassi said. “[With a] crim degree I can go into some sort of policing … something along the lines of criminal justice. I want to make a change.”