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Kawhi Life: It’s almost graduation day in Toronto

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The Raptors have but three games left in the regular season, and the series work of the playoffs is before them. There’s an April parallel to make here in Toronto.

NBA Awards 2019: Kawhi Leonard named to All-NBA Second Team Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Kawhi Leonard is a Toronto Raptor — for at least one year. While the team’s on-court success has its part to play, we’ve decided to do our part in selling the city to the Klaw. Each week we’re talking Toronto, and letting Kawhi know what his life could be like here.

This Week In Toronto

If you’ve come out of post-secondary education, be it college, university, or some such trade school, recalling that April is generally the time for end-of-year exams is not something you want to do. The long summers “off” from May to August are probably part of some fond memory, but the terror of those incoming exams is real. I know people who still have nightmares remembering the long hours spent studying, the day of the tests, the stress of it all. It’s not fun.

This was all dredged up for me recently as a number of our HQ staffers and contributors mentioned they’d be a bit busy as April got started because of — gasp — exams. As a graduate of a civil engineering program, I was thrown back into memories of all-day study sessions, labouring to write out reference (cheat) sheets, nailing down the proper procedure for things like triple integration, bridge design, highway construction, and materials testing. Don’t even get me started on the huge gymnasium they had us in for the really big engineering exams, where hundreds of people would be confronted with the same physics and algebra problems at the same time. My goodness, the psychic reeling! It is... not a friendly memory.

Still, what a time it was to be at Ryerson University. Back then I’d hardly made it downtown before, so to suddenly find myself commuting in from north Etobicoke to, in many ways, the centre of the city was quite a trip. At the time I was there, the new engineering building on Church had not been finished, the dream of a new business building at Bay/Dundas was something only then coming into fruition, and the massive complex across from Yonge and Dundas Square was just a construction site with the then-familiar blue hoarding wrapped around it. To attend Ryerson in those days meant walking past or under those blue awnings every day on the way to class. (That the school went from holding classes at the nearby Carlton Cinema to the future Yonge-Dundas Theatre is an upgrade — I guess.) The goal of having beautiful Yonge Street frontage and access, as the school has now, was still quite distant too.

But the commuting was made easy due to Ryerson’s location, something that’s hard to overstate. On the one hand, this made the experience there akin to a job, with most students arriving in the morning and leaving at night on semi-regular 9-to-5 schedules (often 8-to-6 for me, but I’m not bitter) before returning home to places scattered across the GTA. On the other hand, being at Yonge and Dundas meant being close to a million different sights and sounds all the time. It was a distraction, sure, but it was also part of the fun of being there. This could be said of the University of Toronto’s sprawling Annex-adjace campus, or the smattering of buildings that make up George Brown College along King East, and other institutions elsewhere in Toronto (The outlier in all this is York University, which, from what I’ve been told, was designed originally for Arizona, and found itself in the hinterlands of Toronto for most of its existence. Thankfully, a subway now reaches Steeles Avenue.)

For me, Ryerson’s location meant proximity to a massive HMV (now gone) and a cool Yonge Street arcade (also gone). It meant lunch at nearby Salad King (since relocated) or a trip to the Imperial Pub (set there for life). It later meant afternoons at Monetary Times, the civil engineering building on campus, and site of its own suite of unique mysteries. (In truth: it’s a pretty boring building, unless you really want to learn how to make a concrete canoe.) And naturally, being near Yonge and Dundas drew me to the nearby movie theatres — the Carlton, Varsity, Scotiabank, and Cumberland (now gone too, sadly). Fridays became a weekly pilgrimage to some such location for a chance to see a movie not yet playing anywhere else in the city (or country). Is this the kind of education you can get at, like, Queens or Brock or some other far flung institution? No, no it is not. In that sense, I consider myself very lucky.

As has been something of a theme here for Kawhi Leonard in Toronto, I like to get at the connected-ness of things and places here in the city. A person somewhere, anywhere, can find themselves here and be closer than they think to entertainment, education, action, other people, notes of interest, ways of seeing and learning about the world. It can be a lot — and it’s definitely not perfect in concept or execution — but it starts for many with a trip through the education system that exists here. Ryerson was that place for me (go ahead, make those Rye High jokes!), U of T may be the spot for someone else (we are rivals now, sorry), or it could be at one of the many other colleges scattered around the city. I hope in the process of learning about your chosen subject, you are also guided to learning about the city itself.

Oh, and also, good luck on those exams. Remember: once they’re over... they’re over for good.

Should Kawhi Care?

Well, no.

(But assuming Kawhi does indeed stay in Toronto — and of course, why not? — he could be here for years to come. Would Leonard be interested in finishing his college degree here in Toronto? He only completed two years at San Diego State, so why not? It could be something to do when not crushing teams in the regular season. [Let’s consider the playoffs akin to an exam, which means Kawhi will need to focus on that for the duration; still, the summer beckons!]

On top of that, Kawhi’s now got two kids now! As has been reported elsewhere, Leonard’s daughter was born back in 2016, and apparently his second was born this past weekend in Toronto — which perhaps explains the “personal reason” absence. Now, we’re a ways off from Kawhi worrying about college for his kids, but as I just documented, there are some good schools right here in the city, a subway ride away from the Scotiabank Arena. Could Kawhi’s son eventually find himself on the Ryerson Rams running his team to the U Sports Final? We dare to dream.)