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With the close of the 2007-2008 season, the record keepers at the OCAA have their work cut out keeping track of one of the most successful years in recent memory. Two of the brightest stars that ruled the ranks might also have pro careers on the horizon.

Tumbling Down

Anthony Batchelor

Every sports fan is in part a lover of numbers. Within the sports domain, numbers hold the key to triumphs and tragedies. They are yardsticks and benchmarks, fodder for endless barroom comparisons and the foundation used to define true athletic sucess.

By Jackson Hayes

Jasmin Cull

The OCAA’s numbers are receiving much attention this year, due to the toppling of records by a crew of up-and-coming athletes who are kicking ass, taking names, while etching theirs in the record books.

At the association’s Toronto headquarters the talk is of a golden age of competition, a microcosm for what is happening in professional sports as a crop of new superstars commence their ruling of the ranks.

Several high profile and longstanding records have been or are close to being broken. Men's soccer has seen the Algonquin dynasty roll on with a fourth consecutive championship; Durham College point guard Anthony Batchelor broke the all-time scoring record in a game in February; college volleyball superstar Jasmin Cull ruled the floor for Mohawk and set a slew of records in his wake.

"The records that are being broken are being broken by great players," waxed an excited Lindsay Bax, marketing and communications coordinator of the OCAA. "It is something that we do get excited about . . . we really look forward to celebrating our athletes . . .”

"It is something that we try to encourage and recognize because it's not something that happens every day."

One of the more significant feats in the OCAA realm has been the game play of Mohawk’s Cull. Though many records for volleyball have only been kept since the 1999-2000 season (a reflection of international changes in scoring rules), observers note the standards Cull has set appear to defy the time available.

The lanky 24-year-old set a record with 12 aces in a game and the most serving aces in a season with 65, eclipsing the previous mark of 38. This year he guided his team to a provincial championship, setting three personal records and several more with his dominant team. But the six foot, four inch general arts student seems almost underwhelmed about his newly carved niche in the college record books.

The Croatian-born Cull, who spent six years in Africa, stumbled from soccer into volleyball through friends in high school. He said his natural proficiency on the court helped inspire his love of the game.

Cull humbly talks about his accomplishments and a chance of going pro. "I just have to talk to an agent and see what I can do, and get better. Get a lot better," he says.

Jasmin Cull Firing Range: Jasmin Cull’s monster serve helped him set the mark for most aces in a game and in a season
   

Another athlete cemented in the record books and one with a legitimate chance at a sports future is Durham Lords’ basketball standout Anthony Batchelor. The 22-yearold took the all-time scoring title in a game against La Cite Coyotes. He passed the 1,434 point mark set by Fanshawe's Emilio Rocca back in 1986 with a free throw in the second half of a Feb. 11 home game.

"I'm more about wins. The whole team concept, that's my whole prerogative," Batchelor says. "The individual stats feel nice and everything but I think it's more of an achievement when you get a team concept involved in it."

The Scarborough native and penology and youth program student, whose humility is refreshing in a star athlete, first hit the hard court when he was six. After moving to Seattle at age 10 to live with his mother, the self-professed "mama's boy" returned to his native soil to avoid soaring American tuition costs and made the Durham team as a surprise walk-on four years ago.

  Anthony Batchelor

Photo: Dwayne Wynter

Swish: Anthony Batchelor set the scoring record in February, and despite a star college career, he says he is not pinning his hopes on making the NBA

Despite speculation within the OCAA that Batchelor, who was recently courted by an agent about attending an NBA training camp, has a glimmer of hope at the dream, the young man contends he is firmly rooted in reality.

"Chances might be slim, of course I'm going to work hard at it. I wouldn't be disappointed if I didn't make it. I have my schooling, my education, so I put that first before basketball."

OCAA watchers have a tough time pinpointing why this latest group of athletes has left such a mark. Some speculate it is the luck of the draw or perhaps that the increased level of competition is breeding better players.

Bax, however, offers a less obvious but plausible reason for the surge of star power stalking OCAA courts, pitches and fields recently. She theorizes the answer to the riddle is in history itself.

About 10 to 15 years ago, Bax says the Ontario College system saw a crop of solid athletes graduate from their programs. Some even made it to the Olympics or professional ranks in European volleyball. Then in the late 1990s, numerous secondary school boards around the province, including the York Region and Toronto District School Boards, went on strike.

Bill 160, a controversial proposal launched by the then Tory Provincial government, sought to shorten teachers' paid preparation time. In response the teachers’ union launched a massive strike that affected tens of thousands of secondary school students.

The affair took its toll on after-school sports programs, which disintegrated under the work-to-rule agenda. Teams and competitions folded and fewer students embarked on athletic pursuits at school.

More than 10 years later with the matter resolved and the high-school sports ship righted, college and university programs are again reaping the benefits of uninterrupted playing experience.

"The school system has rectified itself and there's been a huge push from the province . . . to get kids active," Bax says.

"I think you're starting to see athletes come back."