Written by LeeAnna Osei
LeeAnna Osei was a part of the graduating class of 2009 at Eastern Commerce. As a four year starter for the Lady Saints. She won four consecutive district and City-wide championships and was a 2-time OFSAA champion in 2008 & 2009. Her team was the first team from the Toronto District School Board to win a medal in girls’ basketball in 20 years. In 2007 she was named Toronto Star Athlete of the Week and in her senior year was a member of the Toronto Star Senior Top 5 team. LeeAnna was awarded an Athletic Scholarship to the University of Miami where she played 1 season with the Hurricanes before transferring to the Trinity Valley C.C. where she captured a silver medal at the Junior College National Championships. Since then, LeeAnna has come back to Canada to finish out her collegiate career to play at Wilfred Laiuier University in Waterloo, Ontario where she was a member of the WLU Dean’s Honor Roll List, 2013, as well as becoming a CIS Academic All-Canadian in 2013 & 2014. LeeAnna is also the founder of Get Recruited Canletes that deals with the coverage and exposure of young female prospective athletes. LeeAnna has shared a few moments of her journey that started in the small gym inside Eastern Commerce.
Growing up I had never heard of Eastern and its basketball legacy. I grew up in the West end of Toronto until the 8th grade and then my family moved to Woodbridge. As a baller I found it difficult to compete at a high level while living in a rural area, and I desperately wanted to continually develop my game. After my first year of high school I attended a tryout for Team “O” (Ontario) which is where I met Kareem Griffin who was the Head Coach for the Senior Girls Team at Eastern. Over the summer we really connected and he soon became a mentor to me.
Our pre-season workouts started in late August right up until the start of the season. Our schedule was as follows: 7 – 8:30 am weights and conditioning on the field (hallways if the weather was bad) Lunch shoot around (optional). Practice on the court 3:45 pm until whenever we couldn’t go any longer. And the 17’s…. don’t get me started! Playing at Eastern in high school got me in the best shape of my life, easily! Our days would usually end with us girls trying to sneak a peek at the guys’ practices- which almost always went longer than ours. While I was at Eastern my graduating class won 4 consecutive city and regional championships between 2005-2009, and in my final two years we were able to win OFSAA twice (2008 and 2009). We didn’t experience many losses, but if you were to attend one of our practices and see how physically demanding and intense our practices were you would think that we lost every game. Going to Eastern helped me develop an “all or nothing mentality” that continues to drive me today as I continue to aspire to reach my goals at all costs.
Another great memory I will never forget was the opportunity Mr. Bullen and Mr. Duncan gave me by making me an assistant coach for the Junior Boys team in my final years. It was really my first time taking a step back and thinking “whoa, this isn’t as simple as it looks!” Since then I have coached and trained a plethora of athletes- both boys and girls, who now play at the collegiate and professional levels. What I valued most was the mentorship and relationships I was able to have with my players. Winning the city championship against our crosstown rivals Oakwood Collegiate was only icing on the cake!
There were a few teachers who I will never forget from Eastern. One was Mrs. Langille. Her dedication to the team was inspirational and she was like a mother to all of us when we needed her. Mrs. Macintosh was a gym teacher who was also very involved with our team in my later years. She was so young that we practically considered her to be a student like the rest of us! Finally, I must give a shout out to our school librarian! The library was the one place that was open before and after school hours, so my friends and I tended to treat the library as more of a hangout than anything. Sorry for all the headaches we caused you Mrs. Leach, I miss you!
Whenever I reminisce on some of the most memorable moments in my life, the majority of them were at Eastern. Many people don’t know that there was a section of Eastern that hosted an adult school. As a former student I believe that going to a school like Eastern located in the heart of downtown Toronto really gave us a candid outlook on life. We were both sheltered and exposed at the same time. Our school was located in a small and quiet neighborhood, so we always felt safe and comfortable there. However, the fast-paced environment characteristic of downtown Toronto forced many of us on a daily basis to look in the mirror and around ourselves in order to make inferences about the types of people we wanted to be in the future.
With that being said, I am proud to say that I am not a product of my environment, but rather a product of my decisions. And going to Eastern Commerce was one of the best ones that I have ever made.
Written by LeeAnna Osei
Submitted by Kareem Griffin of In Charge Sports & Entertainment
Edited by Drew Ebanks