The “Toronto Mission” club team was established in 2002 by Kerreigh Ernst with Roy Rana as a program for young ball players out of the Yonge Street Mission in the heart Toronto’s Regent Park. The club evolved into the “Northern Kings” led by former Team Canada Captain Vidal Massiah carrying the same values and moral underpinnings that our founders implemented with that first Toronto Mission club team.”Our goal was to build an organization that would be known not only for developing elite basketball players, but also for developing their character and molding good citizens. These athletes would be provided with every opportunity to earn a basketball scholarship upon graduating from high school. Then they would be positioned to make a positive contribution to society” recalls Coach and Founder Kerreigh Ernst.
“I was 56 and a successful businessman and they were teenagers from economically disadvantaged homes and were considered “at-risk”. Many were being raised by single mothers or their extended family; living in a community adversely affected by a violent culture of drugs and gangs. In June 1998, I volunteered at a Drop‐In Centre at the Yonge Street Mission. The Centre reached out to the youth of Regent Park, one of Toronto’s most troubled neighbourhoods. Some of our boys were jailed. Tragically, others were shot. But they saw that we truly cared about them.”
In June of 2002, with the support of the Yonge Street Mission, the travel team was formed. We began working together with the Salvation Army, Regent Park Branch 614 in late 2009. We continued to serve the Regent Park area but also expanded to other communities such as Jane & Finch and Malvern.
The Yonge Street Mission has been very supportive of our transition and expansion and we continued with their sponsorship through the end of 2011. The growth of the Northern Kings has necessitated the search for new sponsorship, as we have now grown into KingNation with multiple youth basketball teams traveling throughout the United States. In these early days, over 60% of our team came from Regent Park. As the program became more popular throughout the GTA, other young men, also at-risk and similarly economically disadvantaged, approached us to try out for our teams.
Early members of KingNation found basketball success and life opportunities after developing their game in our program. Some examples include Keaton Cole from the Jane & Finch area joined KingNation and later went on to graduate in May 2012 with a degree from Western Carolina University and, Kyle Johnson who played four years at Long Island University, and now plays professionally overseas and is a member of the British Men’s National Team.
Executing The Vision
Vidal Massiah is the Executive Director of KingNation and the Northern Kings basketball program. He is also the founder of The Hoop Factory, the development component of our program where a large percentage of our players train. Vidal graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2002 with a degree in marketing after playing four years of varsity basketball at the NCAA Division I level.
Vidal went on to be a two-time captain of the Canadian Men’s National Basketball Team and spent seven years playing professional basketball around the world. Vidal’s role, in addition to off-season player training and development, is to act as a bridge between our athletes, their families, and the college coaches at all levels in the U.S. and Canada. Vidal uses his playing/coaching experience and to help build the type of student athletes that university coaches want to recruit, and then he helps parents and players make informed decisions throughout that recruiting and scholarship process.
Currently, the Northern Kings operate a full Academy program for the u10 through u15 age groups, which is a skill development based program for younger players to develop and prepare for elite competition in high school.
AAU traveling teams range from: U14, U15, U16, and U17. The AAU teams operate from April to July and travel to the United States to compete in elite level exposure tournaments. These showcase tournaments present opportunities for college recruiters to see our players in high level competition with the potential to earn coveted and valuable athletic scholarships. In the summer of 2020 the NK Elite 17U team won the Under Armor Rise Championship and placed a record 7 players on Div1 scholarships.
King Nation basketball strives to create life-long opportunities for youth through basketball. We do so through a combination of:
- Recruiting boys and girls, typically ages 8 to 18 from the Greater Toronto Area, with strong basketball abilities and academic drive
- Adding each player to one of our 30 club teams under the Northern Kings, NK Academy and Northern Queens banners
- Providing superior training and coaching throughout the year, often through our affiliation with the Hoop Factory
- Participating in the top basketball tournaments in North America, generating exposure to coaches from top universities, colleges and prep schools
- Creating access to willing and able role models who guide the players through broader life decisions, of ten well after they leave the program
- Investing in the players as people by instilling strong principles and work ethic and ensuring they are ready for life post-basketball
All members of the KingNation family are required to subscribe to the following 6 principles:
- The player comes first
- Life skills are as important as basketball skills
- Education is the first priority
- Leadership and good attitude can be learned
- High ethical standards for coaches, administrators and players
- Good governance, including transparency