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Jay Triano remembers a life-long friend and Canadian Basketball Hall of Famer Eli Pasquale

Eli

Eli Pasquale widely regarded as one of the greatest players in Canadian basketball history passed away Monday in Victoria B.C.

Pasquale lost his battle with cancer at age 59 according to a release from Canada Basketball.

Born in Sudbury, Ontario, Pasquale spent over 15 years representing Canada at different levels. For eight of those years, he shared the backcourt with former Men's National Team head coach Jay Triano.

Together they led the men's program to a fourth-place finish at the 1984 Olympic Games in Los Angeles and a sixth-place finish in 1988 in Seoul, Korea.

Triano and Pasquale's bond went far beyond the court and as far as Triano is concerned he was a pioneer for the game in Canada.

"He was the first in a generation," Triano told NBA.com. "He was the leading point guard in '84 when we finished fourth and '88 when we finished sixth in the Olympics and (he) was the leader of that group from the point guard position.

"We shared eight years together in the backcourt on Canada's national team and it's a sad day.

"You could go on and on about his accolades as a basketball player but he's just a great great guy too. He was just like - the salt of the earth worked hard for everything that he got never took a day off. He was just one of the great human beings of all-time let alone basketball players."

Pasquale was also part of one of the greatest victories in Canadian basketball history. He led the red and white to an upset victory over a United State team that featured Charles Barkley and Karl Malone in the semifinals of the 1983 Summer Universiade. Canada went on to claim Gold at the games defeating Yugoslavia who were led by Drazen Petrović.

Pasquale's performance at games was so memorable Triano talked about it in his book "Open Look: Canadian Basketball and Me". The magnitude of the game led Pasquale's performance to be remembered as one of his best, but Triano feels like it was one of many from an All-time great player.

"I saw him do so many things on the court and being a shooting guard, you're only as good as your point guard and how well he can deliver you the basketball," Triano continued. "I just think a lot of my successes as a player were because of that.

"I saw Eli just do whatever was needed to be done whether he was going to hound somebody defensively and get a steal or whether he was going to score a bucket or he's going to create a bucket for his teammates.

"(His performance in '83) stands out because we were in a big-time game but over the course of eight years, I saw it on numerous occasions and numerous practices. He's just the ultimate point guard, a guy who could deliver the basketball to everybody and was just as giving as he was able to score himself."

Pasquale was inducted into both the Canadian Basketball Hall of Fame (2003) and B.C. Basketball Hall of Fame (2004). His basketball resume is filled with medals and championships, but his legacy was truly felt on Tuesday as an outpour of emotion flooded social media. Some who saw him play as fans, played against him or just heard of Pasquale and his contribution to the game in Canada.

While many will remember the man on the court, Triano will also remember the one off of it. A bond that was made through the game of basketball but carried on through life after the game. For Triano, he'll remember the times he was able to see Pasquale and former national team big man Romel Raffin - the trio that formed the "Three Italians".

"At the time on the national team, there were the three Italians. We had Romo Raffin and he was the big ragu and I was the medium ragu and then Eli was the little ragu," Triano said smiling.

"I don't know if there was a time when the three of us saw each other or when we saw each other that we just didn't break out into smiles and friendship.

"I just think that speaks for the friendships that we were able to garner. You know we talked about eight years playing together on the court - when you play international basketball together you're travelling all the time. You're having breakfast, you're having lunch, you're having dinner, you're going out at night with the same guys over and over and over again.

"So there's a type of bond that you have playing on the national team together and being teammates that it never goes away. I texted with him a couple of months ago because I knew that he wasn't well and he was still super positive and upbeat about everything.

"It's a really sad day for us."

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