Dave Chong spent a day recently hanging out with Toronto Raptors centre Jonas Valanciunas.
But the time the Aurora resident spent with the towering six-foot, 11-inch centre definitely did not take place on the basketball court.
Chong didn’t even get a chance to show Valanciunas any of his fancy ball-handling moves or trick shots.
Rather, the pair spent their time doing something which they both love — fishing.
While the Raptors are in the midst of trying to secure a NBA playoff spot, a recent break in their regular season schedule enabled Valanciunas to find some spare time to wet a line.
Albeit it was through a frozen surface as winter refused to loosen its grip on southern Ontario.
Enter Chong, who when not working as a sales representative for various fishing tackle products, is an avid and seasoned tournament angler.
Chong’s introduction to Valanciunas stemmed through a network he described as “friends of friends”.
Valanciunas’ wife wanted to get him something different for a Christmas gift, so she got him an ice fishing trip, recalled Chong, adding she asked one of Jonas’ friends, who, in turn, was good friend of John Tory (Toronto mayoral candidate).
“A good friend of mine, Jason Miller, is a good friend of Tory’s son and when they talked about fishing, Tory’s son said I can put him in touch with the right people,” Chong said.
With Lake Simcoe being just a short drive from the big city along with being a popular ice fishing site, that’s where Chong took Valanciunas and three of his friends along with a group from NBA TV Canada that filmed their day-long expedition for its Open Gym segment.
For Valanciunas, the outing was his introduction to ice fishing.
“He’s fished before, but not ice fishing,” Chong said.
Taking that into account, Chong felt it was best to start the day out in pursuit of yellow perch.
Working the shallows in an area just off Pefferlaw, where Chong had done some pre-fishing with the hope the perch would still be in a co-operative feeding mood when they arrived, the fish unfortunately developed a case of lockjaw.
Chong elected to take the group to the deeper waters where they went for lake trout and whitefish.
It wasn’t until later in the day when the group got into some fish.
“The fishing was pretty tough,” Chong acknowledged. “But it was a lot of fun. We had a good time.”
In getting acquainted with Valanciunas, Chong enjoyed his company and described him as being “like a big kid at heart”.
“He’s a fun-loving type of guy,” he said.
As for going out again, Chong said they discussed the idea of making a return trip to Simcoe, but, this time, when the lake is free of ice and when bass season becomes fair game in late June, as Chong informed him that some trophy smallmouth bass can be caught.
“We talked about going out during the summer before he goes back to Lithuania,” Chong said. “Perhaps we might be able to do a small tournament.”