February 6, 2018

Look down a high school hallway, one crowded with students, Dénes Hegedűs is easy to spot

At 6-foot-6, Dénes Hegedűs' height is clearly evident, and there is something else quite visible once you have had a casual conversation with him. It's his demeanour, character, perseverance and a compulsive appetite for learning.

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One of a handful of European immigrants now attending Sandalwood Heights Secondary School in Brampton, the 17-year old came to Canada, with his family, four years ago from Hungary. Having to learn English was one obstacle, also adjusting to a new culture, country and challenges, was something huge.

​​"My parents (both are teachers) wanted my brother and I to have a better life, a good education and work hard when opportunities were there and we agreed that Canada was the place to be," said Hegedűs, who grew up in the Central European country, and left at the age of 13.​

"We knew what we were coming to and the adjustment was hard at first, but it was a great move and I am overcoming the struggles. I was shocked at how nice the teachers were, how I was welcomed and meeting new friends even though I was struggling to speak English."

In a short period of time, Hegedűs achieved success by working hard and is now on the last lap of his high school education with graduation just a few months away.

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From a new face in a crowd of thousands, Hegedűs has become one of the most popular and respected students at his school – and it's not just his personality.

His positive attitude is one thing, but it's what he does with a basketball that has attracted interest beyond Sandalwood - and now has a variety of Canadian college and university recruiting coaches salivating and watching for his next move.

Having learned the game of hoops at age five, and creatively focussed, his desire to do well in the sport grew.

So did his height and before coming to Canada, Hegedűs was considered to be one of the top players for his age in Hungary. Coaches had witnessed his ability to play well, his maturity was evident and Hegedűs continued to build on a positive attitude and striving to play at the highest level.

Sandalwood senior basketball coach Scott Teskey said his ace player, a team MVP and top scorer the past few seasons, averages 30 points a game in addition to a handful of blocked shots and even had three alley-oops in one game this season – easily his best since arriving at the school.

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"He's very athletic, aggressive with the ball and you can see his knowledge of the tactical, technical and team-oriented side of the game he learned in Hungary," said Teskey, who doesn't hand out endorsements without cause, calling Hegedűs, his team captain, leader and talented player, the best he has coached.

​"When he plays at the top of his game, I know he can be impressive and one of the best players in Peel and there's no doubt in my mind that he has what it takes to play the pro game in Europe."

​Down the road, aware that there is more than just basketball, Hegedűs is focussing on a career that could be in law enforcement, but also has interest in the world of business.

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​It's not just playing basketball that people see in Hegedűs, who is always putting in extra hours to raise his grades. He's pitched in to help female athletes learn specific skills of the sport, referees elementary school games and donates clothes to those in need.

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