After two years of not playing in a competitive match, goalkeeper Kieran Baskett got his chance. Standing next to the other ten HFX Wanderers players in the starting XI during the national anthem, he was just moments away from his professional debut.
It was a special moment for the goalkeeper. Any professional debut is special, but this one was even sweeter, in front of friends and family in his hometown of Halifax.
“It was crazy. I’ve never played in front of that many fans, especially the Wanderers Grounds, just how loud and close they all are,” says Kieran Baskett.
Baskett’s debut came in the Canadian Championship against AS Blainville on August 17, where his team moved on to the next round with a 2-1 win.
“The biggest shock to me was no one could hear me when I was yelling instructions even if they were standing pretty close to me. I definitely learned I had to raise my voice a little bit,” reflects Baskett.
Homecoming for Baskett
While this was his first experience on the field for the Wanderers, Baskett did attend a couple of matches in the inaugural season of the Canadian Premier League. The young talent was living in the United States at the time, moving south of the border to attend a boarding school in Maryland ahead of playing NCAA Division 1 soccer at the College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, VA.
He enjoyed a successful college season in 2019, starting every match and playing every minute, but the opportunity to come home and play professionally was one he couldn’t turn down.
“For me it wasn’t a difficult decision. After I talked to (coach Stephen Hart), I knew this is where I wanted to be,” says the 20-year-old.
Wanderers sign local goalkeeper Kieran Baskett ⚽️🇨🇦
🗞 Full story: https://t.co/cI9qQVX6at#TheJourneyBegins #COYW
— HFX Wanderers FC (@HFXWanderersFC) January 13, 2021
An easy choice for Baskett, but a tougher decision for his parents who wanted him to continue with university and encouraged him to take his time with the decision. Ultimately, Baskett chose home where he’s both playing professional football but pursuing his education with a science degree at Dalhousie University.
Kieran the ‘keeper
When Baskett first started playing football, he was in an outfield position, something he, in his own words “wasn’t too great at”. Still, he had an affinity for the position from a young age. He’d go to a local field with his dad to pass a ball around but it always ended with Baskett stepping into the net and asking for shots.
When he was eight years old in his first competitive match, his team didn’t have a goalkeeper. His team rotated through three players, each playing a third of the match.
“They threw me in for the last 30 minutes. I was like ‘ah, this could be fun’. I guess I did pretty well and I’ve been in nets ever since,” reflects the former Halifax City SC player.
For Baskett, the moment where he realized he wanted to become a professional came in 2017. That year, he represented Nova Scotia at the Canada Games. That team then went over to England, sparking the professional football dream.
“We went over and played a few teams. We stayed in Leicester and went to a Leicester Champions League game. At that point I realized I just loved the atmosphere there and thought this is what I want to do,” says Baskett.
A major step of that professional football dream was moving to Maryland as a student athlete to get more playing time and opportunities. He first played for Baltimore Celtic Soccer Club while in high school then after graduating, he started university at William & Mary.
“One of the biggest things I learned from university actually was communication on the field. My goalie coach used to be in the military and he was always very clear with his instructions. He taught me a lot about how to communicate with your players and organize the team,” Baskett says. “But more than anything, I just played a lot of games and got a lot better in the two and a half years I was there in total.”
Homegrown Haligonians Protect the Net
Baskett was the clear backup for the Wanderers to start the season but has become a valuable part of a goalkeeper tandem with fellow Haligonian Christian Oxner. Since his debut on August 17, Baskett has started six matches, including against CF Montréal in the Canadian Championship.
“I definitely didn’t expect that in my third game as a professional. It’s crazy how fast things move along in life sometimes,” says Baskett.
There’s healthy competition in the net with both goalkeepers pushing each other with the ultimate goal of getting the Wanderers into the playoffs in November.
“Every day we just push each other to get better. We’re competitive and we compete for the spot. But the main thing is just get better every day on everything you can. Work more on the things you’re weak at and still continue to touch up on the things you’re good at. Just make sure your all around game improves day by day.”
The Journey Begins
Playing professionally in his hometown is just the start of the journey for Kieran Baskett. While the Wanderers didn’t exist when he started chasing his football dreams, he’s excited for how the club can help motivate youth players in the city as they look to take that next step.
The Haligonian who recently turned 20 is enjoying his time with Wanderers but still has big dreams for the bright future that lies ahead.
“I want to play for as long as I can at a professional level. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself in the middle of a season right now. I definitely would have ambitions to play in Europe at some point in the future. For now, I’m totally happy where I am in Halifax. I’ll play here as long as I can.”
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