Nolan De Jong - University of Michigan
SCHOOL: Spectrum (Victoria)
FRESHMAN'S FUTURE: Michigan
Nolan De Jong isn't trying to say that it's going to be easy to leave family and friends at home in Victoria as he begins his hockey life anew this fall at the University of Michigan.
"But we drove into Ann Arbor and we were there for five minutes and I already didn't want to leave," the senior from Spectrum Community School said of his recent recruiting trip to one of the most tradition-laden campuses in all of NCAA Div. 1 sports.
"Even being there for a day-and-a-half, you get the feeling that you are part of something more," the highly touted defenceman with the B.C. Hockey League's Victoria Grizzlies explained, after getting a chance to tour Yost Arena, his new home rink, and the fabled 109,00-seat Michigan Stadium, the largest football stadium in the U.S.
"It's definitely everywhere you go, sports and academics. Everyone bleeds maize and blue."
He's got the colour scheme down, and come the fall, the highest-rated Grade 12-aged player coming out of the BCHL this season - one set to make the immediate jump to the ranks of NCAA Div. 1 hockey - is confident that his work ethic and talent will help make him a quick study with everything else.
"From a young age, my goals were always a little broader," said De Jong, who has also coveted the opportunity to combine his hockey with the classroom, while never surrendering the same end in mind that all elite prospects harbour.
"My goal has always been to play in the NHL, and I want to win the Stanley Cup," said De Jong, who has had NHL teams step forward to show their interest in advance of the June 30 entry draft.
"But as you get older, you find your own route to get to those goals."
Following that dream the same way famous Wolverines alum and fellow B.C. native Brendan Morrison did isn't a bad plan.
And although De Jong isn't blind to his potential selection in the draft, he says his support network has helped him remain a young man with a plan.
"It can be distracting, but I feel like my family and friends have done a good job of keeping me grounded," he said. "I think about it, obviously.
But it's not the biggest part of my life. That is taking the next step in college. If it does happen, it's just a step and I have a long ways to go.
"It's something I am going to keep working toward at Michigan, which is going to be a huge part of my development."
Read more: http://www.theprovince.com/sports/Nolan+Jong+Hockey/8535051/story.html#ixzz2XCWW7fUA