Tributes pour in for Canadian basketball legend Eli Pasquale

WatchTributes are pouring in from across the country for UVic Vikes basketball legend Eli Pasquale. Tess van Straaten looks at his legacy on the court and off.

Basketball star Eli Pasquale led the UVic Vikes to five straight national titles in the 1980s and still holds the record as the team’s all-time leading scorer.

And his huge smile and incredible work ethic were legendary.

“Everyone knows he was a fierce competitor, everyone knows how excellent he was at basketball,” says Eli’s son Isiah Pasquale. “But the things that we know are how much he loved his wife, how much he loved his kids, how much he loved the city of Victoria.”

The two-time Olympian and Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame inductee was diagnosed with esophageal cancer last year.

“They caught it late and it was a tough fight and he went after it with everything he had but in the end, we didn’t end up with the time we potentially wanted to have but you have what you have and it’s about what you do with it,” Isiah says.

Pasquale’s close-knit family, and his larger basketball family, rallied around him in his final days.

“It’s overwhelming,” says an emotional Ken Shields, Pasquale’s former UVic Vikes’ coach. “I spent some time with Eli on Saturday and it’s difficult. I miss him. Words can’t describe the depth of our friendship.”

Pasquale grew up in Sudbury, Ontario, and loved basketball so much, he’d set up chairs and practice in his basement in the winter when it was too cold to play outside.

“My dad was very clear on the time commitment it takes to be excellent at something,” Isiah explains. “You think it’s not possible, but it’s possible. He would put six to eight hours every day into the sport and that’s just how it went.”

Pasquale was a leader not just on the court but also in the community — running youth basketball camps for the last three decades.

“He loved teaching the game, he loved being on the court with the kids and he has influenced and inspired many many children,” Shields says. “He was an inspiration to Steve Nash and Steve will say Eli was the best point guard in Canada.”

It’s a lasting legacy but for Pasquale’s family, he’s being remembered as someone who always put family first.

“Not everyone gets a chance to say goodbye and not everyone gets a chance to say the things to their dad they want to say and I know all of us got a chance,” Isiah says. “And it’s definitely something we’re all taking solace in.”

Eli Pasquale was 59 years old.

Tess van StraatenTess van Straaten

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