Born in Nanaimo in 1960 to Polish immigrants, Gerald Kazanowski began playing basketball when he was in Grade 6 at Harwood elementary. He focused more on basketball in middle school at John Barsby, then went on to Nanaimo District Senior Secondary (NDSS). Gerald had talent and he was named the Most Valuable Player in the 1978 BC High School Provincial Basketball Tournament - although he admits his brothers were better than him in high school. NDSS won the BCs and were ranked Number One in Canada, losing only once all year to an Australian all-star team.
Gerald was recruited to play university basketball for the UVic Vikes, where he was a member of four consecutive CIAU championship teams, 1980 through 1983; his first year at UVic they placed second. He was named a three-time CIAU All-Canadian and was a two-time recipient of the Premier's Athletic Award. He graduated with a degree in economics and was drafted in the seventh round of the 1983 NBA Draft by the Utah Jazz (his name was listed as Joe Kazanowski).
A 6-foot, 9-inch center/forward, Gerald first played for Canada’s national team at the 1979 Fédération Internationale de Basketball (FIBA) World Junior Championships. He played in three World University Games, 1981, '83, and '85. He started on the Canadian team that won Gold at the 1983 World University Games in Edmonton, defeating the United States - led by Karl Malone and Charles Barkley - in the semi-finals and Yugoslavia in the final. He participated in three FIBA World Championships, 1982, 1986, and 1990. He also played against the original “Dream Team” at the 1992 FIBA Tournament of the Americas. Gerald played in two Olympic Games. In Los Angeles in 1984, Canada finished just outside the medals in fourth place, and was sixth in 1988 in Seoul.
Gerald went on to play professionally from 1984 through 1992 with stops for clubs in Spain (Joventut in Badelona and Baloncesto LeÃn), Sweden, Finland, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Argentina and Mexico. He says that he was fortunate with great coaches all along the way, from Sherry to Wright to Arnold to Levering to Shields to Donahue and many overseas.
He was inducted into the Naismith Museum and Hall of Fame in 2005 and Basketball BC Hall of Fame in 2006. In 2008, he was inducted into the Nanaimo Sports Hall of Fame and his UVic Vikes jersey, #24, was retired in 2011.
Gerald retired from professional basketball in 1992 and by 1993 he was immersed in the financial advisory business. He has his office in Sidney and lives in North Saanich with his wife of 20 years, Claudia, and their two daughters, Sarah and Grace. He enjoys spending his free time volunteering at schools, giving talks on how sports and goal setting can positively affect kids’ lives. “I love Vancouver Island and this area, and I feel blessed to live here. Many good things go on here and there’s a real sense of community,” he says.
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