By Zachary Flynn
What used to be a side job for Slav Kornik is now his full-time gig as he returns to NAIT as the head coach of the men’s basketball team. Kornik, a graduate of the radio & television program, spent over a decade in the news industry before making the decision to make coaching his full-time job.
“You work in a certain industry for 14 years and you get really comfortable with the way things operate there,” said Kornik. “And then going to be a coach full time is different from doing it on the side or as a volunteer which I was doing for the last seven years or so.”
Coaching used to be Kornik’s hobby while he was working at Global Edmonton, but now that basketball is on his mind more than it used to be, he is looking for something new to get his mind off the sport.
“I try to turn that switch off when I go home because I feel like I’m going to wear down and burn myself out if I think about it 24/7,” said Kornik.
Kornik has a two-year-old son at home and says that keeps him busy. While basketball has played a large role in Kornik’s life, winning a CCAA national championship with the NAIT Ooks in 2003 and being named the tournament’s MVP, he says it may surprise others to know that he doesn’t already have basketball ambitions for his young boy.
“Anybody who knows me thinks that I would probably be like that but I’m actually not. I want him to be active and I want him to play sports but I don’t really care what he does,” said Kornik.
“We got him involved in gymnastics right now and he’s taking some swimming lessons and he’s done the sports ball thing so we’re just going to get him playing different things but right now I don’t care if he plays basketball or not, I just want him doing something.”
Keilan Dobish eats, sleeps and breathes basketball, even going so far as to get a basketball tattooed on his wrist.
“Basketball is in my blood,” he said. “It’s what drives me to get up every single day and struggle through eight hours of school every day just to go to the gym for two hours every night and play ball.”
One of the big drivers for Dobish is his ability to achieve success in a game and share that success with the people around him.
“I love being a part of big groups of people and especially having tight-knit locker rooms of guys that you’re around every day and having guys that you enjoy spending time with both on and off the court,” he said. “It’s a really great feeling knowing you’re coming to the gym every day you get to hang out with the guys you love being around. You all get to do what you love more than anything in the world. And then just knowing that you’ve got guys that you can hang out and socialize with off the court, you know you’ve got those guys you can depend on.”
Basketball runs in the Dobish family with his father playing collegiately in Grande Prairie and his younger brother following Mike Connolly to MacEwan University after playing one year at NAIT. Dobish said he found his love for the sport at a young age.
“I started playing basketball when I was eight years old and basketball’s all I’ve ever wanted to do,” he said. “It just suited who I am as a person and it’s something that defines me.”
Dobish said the players on the team this year are incredibly competitive, and he describes the roster as the most talented one he’s seen in his four years.
“I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited for a season before.”
While this may be his first year at NAIT, Emmanuel Degal brings championship-winning experience to the team. Degal played for the Vancouver Island Mariners last year where he and his team won the CCAA Men’s Basketball Championships.
“It was kind of crazy – it was hard to believe,” said Degal. “I feel like I was still in disbelief for three months after [winning].”
While Degal may have spent his first year of post-secondary out in British Columbia, he is originally from Calgary and even spent a few years of his childhood in Edmonton. He said making the move to NAIT put him more at home being in a bigger city.
“[Nanaimo, British Columbia] was beautiful. You’re close to the water with a lot of mountains, but it was kind of hard for me just being there, away from everybody in a small city.”
Degal has found passion in poetry for the last few years, initially being drawn to it in high school. He writes and performs spoken word and slam poetry in his spare time. While athletics and slam poetry may seem very different, Degal finds similarities through an artistic and creative lens.
“I like creating. Basketball is really quick, so you have to create off movement, and writing and creating poetry – that’s what I like.”
Degal posts some of his work on his Instagram, @emmanueldegal, and said there is one thing he is missing here in Edmonton. In Calgary, Degal would regularly attend open mic sessions but hasn’t found a place in Edmonton yet.
Headshots provided by NAIT Athletics