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A spirit that is not afraid

Canada rebounds despite childhood in crack house


<p>Senior guard Malcolm Canada spins a basketball on his finger in the Auburn Arena. Canada said he relied upon friends and family to help him after his father's arrest. (Zach Bland | Contributing Photographer)</p>

Senior guard Malcolm Canada spins a basketball on his finger in the Auburn Arena. Canada said he relied upon friends and family to help him after his father's arrest. (Zach Bland | Contributing Photographer)

Malcolm Canada looked down the barrel of a shotgun as police raided his house in Austin, Texas, for illegal drugs when he was 12 years old.
Before he played college basketball, Canada grew up in a crack house, where his parents were involved in the use and distribution of illegal drugs.
Canada said he remembers the day the drug activity ended like it was yesterday.
Before he realized what was happening, the senior point guard said police officers kicked down his front door while another team rushed though the back door to the laundry room, where crack cocaine was usually dealt.
His father and another man not related to Canada were arrested that day for the drugs, according to Canada.
"Home wasn't a home," Canada said. "It was rough at home. I would try and stay away from home."
Canada said he couldn't help but remember the toxic smell of crack cocaine being cooked and smoked by strangers in his house while his parents roamed the streets.
Canada saw drug deals so often as a child, he said he could have sold drugs himself.
Before Canada's childhood home was revealed to be a crack house, he said he saw something unusual that could have led to the police raiding his home that day.
The man who was later arrested in the raid with Canada's father sold some crack to a regular customer.
Canada said he saw something different this time about the drug deal.
The "crack head" who bought the drugs usually stayed at his house and smoked there, but that day, he got the drugs and left immediately.
Less than three minutes after the "crack head" left with the drugs, police raided the house, Canada said.
But growing up in a rough environment didn't keep Canada from finding happiness as a child.
Canada said his friends were there for him when life at home wasn't good.
Playing basketball at the recreation center with his friends or simply hanging out and laughing helped Canada forget about the rancid life cooking in his home.
The youngest of his group of friends was Anthony Doyle, who Canada said they called "Pudgy."
Canada would stay the night at his house nearly every weekend. Doyle would even pay for Canada's lunch when he didn't have money to eat.
Doyle said Canada always comes to mind when he thinks about overcoming the adversity they faced as children in the projects.
Doyle said he remembers going with his mother to pick up Canada at his house to keep Child Protective Services from taking him.
While his parents were nowhere to be found, Doyle said Canada walked out of the house with everything he had, a grocery bag full of clothes and the shoes on his feet.
After the raid, Canada was left homeless for two weeks.
The house was evicted, his father was in jail, he couldn't find his mother and his aunt could only afford to take in his 2-year-old brother.
Canada went where he always did to escape his home life, the neighborhood recreation center.
But instead of playing basketball and running around as usual, he sat on a bench thinking about where he could go when the center closed.
That day sucked the life out of Canada. He ended up sleeping on a backseat that was stripped from a car and placed under a stairwell in an apartment complex.
Canada slept on the faded blue seat every night, ate food out of Dumpsters when he couldn't find money to eat and wore the same clothes every day for two weeks until Doyle realized his friend had lost everything and took him in once again.
After living with Doyle for a few months, people who knew Canada from playing basketball at the recreation center realized the situation with his parents wasn't getting better and wanted to help.
Canada made quite the impression on Amateur Athletic Union basketball coach Kevin Robertson when he played in the youth league.
Robertson and his friend Ray Jackson, who was part of the famed University of Michigan Wolverines Fab Five, would go to Canada's games because they liked to watch his unselfish style on the court.
Robertson became a mentor for Canada over the years, and when the situation with his parents didn't seem to be improving, he told the young AAU star he could stay with him temporarily.
Days turned into months before Robertson became Canada's guardian.
"I told him he could stay with me as long as he needed to stay with me," Robertson said.
Canada said Robertson brought out a different element in him.
"He brought out integrity in me," Canada said. "He taught me how men are supposed to be. Without Kevin, and without God putting Kevin in my life, I would be nothing."
The day after the raid, Canada went back to his old house.
He said the memories of living there made his heart pound faster as approached.
"It was just scary," Canada said. "I thought somebody was going to jump out at me or something."
Staring down at his basketball medals and clothes scattered acoss the yard reminded him of a life that was behind him, but made him who he is today.
"We all had dreams, he's just one of the ones that made it," Doyle said.

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