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Nathan Orr calls career with Lethbridge Kodiaks an ‘amazing experience’

nathan orr

Nathan Orr completed a two-year career with the Lethbridge Kodiaks men’s basketball team.

Nathan Orr faced an uphill struggle to realize a childhood dream to play college basketball.
Playing for a 2A high school away from the view of college recruiters and being away from the game for almost three years, Orr was a longshot to make the Lethbridge College Kodiaks when he attended open tryouts.
Orr was up to the task, making enough of an impression on Kodiaks coach Ryan Heggie to crack the lineup.
“It’s easy to go through life taking the easy path, but you need to take chances in life,” said Orr, who encourages other athletes in his home town of Fort Macleod to chase their dreams. “It’s high risk, high reward. Sometimes you make it, sometimes you don’t, but you never know unless you take that shot.”
Orr was a multi sport athlete while attending F.P. Walshe, earning the Danny Paskal Memorial Award as the school’s top athlete in his Grade 12 year.
In his senior year in 2012 at Walshe, Orr was a league all-star and the Flyers most valuable player in both basketball and rugby, earned a provincial silver medal in volleyball and competed in track and field.
“Nathan has a passion for sport that is like no other,” then-F.P. Walshe athletic director Craig Patton, who coached Orr in both volleyball and rugby, said in 2012. “He loves every sport and puts his heart and soul into every game he plays. He is a tremendously positive team member, always trying to pick up his teammates up when they are down . . . he is a true gentleman on the court or playing field.”
Those comments were echoed in 2017 by Ryan Heggie, head coach of the Kodiaks.
“Nathan was the ultimate player to coach and was the ultimate teammate for our championship-contending program,” Heggie said. “He showed up every day, worked hard on the court and in classroom. He was willing to accept any role that was needed of him”
“Nathan Orr is a beauty.”
Orr got a job after high school to earn some money before embarking on a two-year mission in England with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
During that time Orr had little opportunity to keep his hoop skills sharp.
“Nobody in England wanted to play basketball,” Orr said with a laugh. “They all wanted to play soccer, so I didn’t really get much time to touch the basketball.”
Orr never lost sight of his goal of playing college basketball, and trained hard when he returned to Canada from his mission.
Orr was not recruited by any colleges during his high school career and knew the odds were stacked against making the Kodiaks.
As a walk-on, Orr was competing against top high school players recruited by the Kodiaks from across Alberta and other provinces.
Orr knew he would have to outwork those other players and prove to the coaches he had something to offer the Kodiaks.
Orr had trained hard in the months after returning home from his mission and went to the open tryout determined to work hard and leave it all on the court.
“I guess it was enough to have them keep me on,” Orr said. “It was a bit intimidating, but you just go out and trust the hard work you put in.”
Hard work and hustle became Orr’s trademark throughout his two years with the Kodiaks as he earned the coaches’ trust and played increasingly more minutes coming off the bench.
Orr said in his first season his role was to be a good teammate, encourage the other players with his positive attitude and push them hard in practice to prepare for games.
At the same time, Orr was adjusting to the college game.
“Everything is a lot faster,” Orr said of playing against college athletes. “Every team in the league is like a (high school) all-sar team. They take the best players they can find so everyone is bigger, faster, taller and stronger.”
Orr said he learned a lot in his first season, thanks in large part to Kodiaks coach Ryan Heggie.
“He’s really a player’s coach,” Orr said. “He wants his players to be successful and takes pride in working them hard so he was really key in my development as a player.”
Orr also learned not to be afraid to fail — a lesson he will carry from the court into life.
As a result, Orr was much more comfortable coming into his second season, but suffered a setback when he broke his wrist and sat out the first semester.
Orr returned following the Christmas break and things went well as he averaged more minutes coming off the bench.
Orr took pride in playing tough defensively against opposing point guards and battling for rebounds.
The Kodiaks placed second in the Alberta College Athletics Association this past season and earned silver in the playoff tournament. They went on to a fifth-place finish at nationals in Prince Edward Island.
Orr was enrolled in general studies at Lethbridge College but switched to an apprenticeship to become an electrician.
Recently married and with a new career, Orr decided he won’t return for a third season with the Kodiaks.
“It’s been an amazing two years,” Orr said. “I’m so glad I played, but I feel like it’s time to hang ’em up.”
It’s an amazing experience Orr wouldn’t have had, he said, without the support of his parents, brothers and wife through his school and college career.
Orr will play in local leagues and hopes to one day coach junior or senior high school basketball — possibly at his old high school.

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