LANGLEY — My B.C. high school basketball ranking colleagues at the 1A, 2A and 3A tiers certainly hit their mark past season.
While they came out strong at the start of the season, before an opening tip had even been taken, and precisely nailed the identity of the soon-to-be B.C. champions at those three tiers months ahead of their official coronations, my predictions were all over the map.
Three of my Top 10 (No. 4 Yale, No. 9 Kelowna, No. 10 Kitsilano) didn’t make the Big Dance, the champ (Burnaby South) was my preseason No. 5, the runners-up (Semiahmoo) my No. 7, and I even whiffed one of the Final Four schools (Belmont).
Yet I am not willing to take all of the blame here, because, from an entertainment standpoint, the 2017-18 season was simply one of the most unpredictable and parity-laden campaigns the province’s top tier has ever seen.
In fact, because of all that, it was spectacular!
And it is with all of that in mind that I once again peer into the crystal ball, making my best educated guesses, unafraid to be wildly wrong.
To be honest, I hope we get this past season all over again, but deep down inside, something tells me that might not happen again for a very long time to come.
It’s been a fun post-tournament week of coverage here at VarsityLetters.ca. To cap off five straight days of pre-preseason rankings, we’ve got the grand-daddy today, the B.C. senior boys Quad A Top 10.
1 BURNABY SOUTH REBELS
If there is such a thing as hitting a sweet spot at all levels of your program, that’s where the Rebels are now. To come off its first B.C. title since 1979 and not only return five ultra-talented, skill-complimenting main rotation regulars, but to also welcome a few new faces from a JV team which was ranked No. 1 in its final, season-ending poll?
Rising seniors Baltej Sohal, Jiordano Khan and Kyle Kirmaci in the back court, and rising Grade 11 post Sasha Vujisic along with senior-to-be Aidan Wilson in the front court.
This is a powerhouse with the clear inside track to repeat
2 HOLY CROSS CRUSADERS (Surrey)
You can say they were mis-cast as last season’s preseason No. 1. In truth, they spent the past season learning to play together after losing some height inside, and it took the entire season for that chemistry to develop.
The Crusaders, who as a No. 15 seed, knocked off No. 3 seed Handsworth in the opening round of provincials, were the team which best defined both the roller-coaster nature of this past season’s Top 10 and the parity which existed between the top 20 teams in the province.
There is sure to be a battle-tested will built into the hoops DNA of rising seniors Michael Risi and Jordan Bantog, and rising Grade 11s like Uyi Ologhola, Brent Padilla and Tee Osei-Anim. Although it bears mentioning, that after Burnaby South, the clear No. 1, there is not a whole lot to choose between the rest of the Top 10.
3 LORD TWEEDSMUIR PANTHERS (Surrey)
For the past two seasons, Lord Tweedsmuir has delivered terrific talent to the B.C. junior varsity championships, and this coming season it will have perhaps its deepest roster ever, one which has just about everything except that one unquestioned leader. Perhaps the Panthers will wait to see who emerges.
The 2017 junior team entered the B.C.’s with a No. 1 overall seed and proceeded to lose early.
The 2018 team arrived at its junior provincials with less fanfare yet advanced all the way to the provincial final where it lost to St. George’s.
The rising seniors have top guard talent like Austin Swedish and Arjun Samra, while the rising 11s are a led by guards Josh Hamulas and Jaeden Reid, as well as 6-foot-5 forward Jackson Corneil.
4 TERRY FOX RAVENS (Port Coquitlam)
The most intriguing thing about the Ravens is the way they kept taking two steps back to make three steps forward.
For a young team, that is not easy to do, and the coaching job done by the Ravens’ head coach Brad Petersen and his assistant Mark Prinster was amongst the best in the province
So now comes a new challenge: Dealing with a similar level of built-in expectation that a very young Holy Cross team took into the 2017-18 season.
It will be the toughest process these Ravens go through (just ask the Crusaders). Yet when you consider the fact that a group which includes Ko Takahashi, Jacob Mand, David Chien Noah Current and Grady Stanyer actually made the B.C.’s earlier this month with very little in their past resume to suggest it was possible, they would be cheating themselves to think they can’t make a deep un this coming season.
As well, you can never discount the coaching influence of gurus Rich Chambers and Don Van Os, whose JV duties this past season produced a number of fine prospects including rising Grade 10 guard Cam Slaymaker.
5 TAMANAWIS WILDCATS (Surrey)
Miguel Tomley will graduate in June and it will be up to Tammy hoops to move on without one of the greatest scorers the provincial boys game has ever seen.
Tomley was omnipresent for three of the past four campaigns, beginning in ninth grade, and now talented rising senior Jeevan Sidhu must take the reins.
Sidhu, Preet Kailey, Gary Dhami and Marcus Pacatang represent four returning members of the team’s seven-player rotation this past season, and a junior team, which sputtered to the finish line at provincials after a tough loss at the junior Valleys to Terry Fox, will supply at least four quality additions. As well, Tammy’s roster under head coach Mike McKay was deep and a gaggle of other rising seniors will also be back.
6 ST. GEORGE’S SAINTS (Vancouver)
Saints basketball is once again hitting a real title-contending stride under head coach Bill Disbrow, whose 2017-18 roster promised a return of seven rising seniors this coming fall, including the ultra-talented point guard Jerric Palma, and rugged, under-sized forward William (Bill) Lin.
The real charm, however, is in the number of quality rising 11s from the Saints’ junior team, which beat Indy rival Vancouver College in the provincial semifinals, then topped Lord Tweedsmuir in the B.C. final.
The top three are 6-foot-6 tourney MVP and guard Jaxon Cohee, 6-foot-6 all-motor, all-the-time forward Sam Wooder, and physical, shot-making guard Ao Ma.
As well, Disbrow has always gotten the best out of his bigs, and if Saints decide to bring rising Grade 10 6-foot-6 Eli Van Haren into the senior varsity, they have the makings of a true contender, depending of course, on the speed with which the underclassmen make their transition to senior varsity ball.
7 VANCOUVER COLLEGE FIGHTING IRISH
The Irish lose Jack Cruz-Dumont, Cam Wright and Levi Dvorak to graduation but they will be fine as long as its rising seniors and talented JV class bring the same determined edge.
Rising Grade 11 Callum Chow-White joined the senior varsity a season early and the 6-foot-3 guard is a special player with a golden shooting touch.
Five other rising seniors return for head coach Lloyd Scrubb, and from the Irish’s 15-man JV roster, rising talent includes guards Hunter Cruz-Dumont and Jason Soriano, as well as 6-foot-9 centre Luc Therrien.
8 OAK BAY BAYS (Victoria)
It’s easy to assume Oak Bay, after losing all but two of its main rotation regulars from a No. 1 ranked and seeded team which failed to contend at provincials, will fade quietly into the night.
But not when head coach Chris Franklin is at the helm, and one of those returning players may well be the most dangerous and dynamic scorer in the province.
Rising senior guard Diego Maffia may not have a peer provincially as a three-point shooter by the time his high school career ends a year from now.
As well, 6-foot-6 international forward Luis Guerra, a rising Grade 11, will bring stability to the front court as the Bays look to re-brand a new identity.
A junior team which made the JV provincials but didn’t contend, had 10 rising Grade 11s on its roster.
9 KELOWNA OWLS
With a re-make well underway and showing good progression through the latter stages of the season, the Owls were nonetheless unprepared for the final step en route to the provincials, falling to crosstown foe Rutland in the Okanagan final and thus missed the dance completely after finishing first and then second the previous two seasons.
Veteran guard Parker Johnstone, set to enter his third senior varsity season is part of an Owls group that returns big numbers and has experienced all the highs and the lows.
Even with rising Grade 11 guards Hunter Simson and Ajay Gill being promoted to the senior squad this past season as 10s, and now becoming fixtures in head coach Harry Parmar’s rotation, the Al Lalonde-coached juniors still won the Okanagan with a 12-deep squad of exclusive Grade 10s.
Mason Bourciers, Parker Simsons and Grant Shephards don’t grow on trees, but the Owls look like they are working through a rough patch in their delivery system with gusto.
10 BELMONT BULLDOGS (Victoria)
No school made Cinderella runs a normal part of their March Madness routine like Victoria’s Bulldogs, who did it at both the senior and JV levels.
Both made runs to their respective senior and junior B.C. Final Fours, the seniors as a No. 13 seed where they knocked off No. 4 W.J. Mouat and No. 5 Vancouver College, and the juniors as a No. 23 seed which beat No. 10 Centennial, No. 7 Kelowna and No. 2 Sir Charles Tupper.
Senior head coach Kevin Brown loses big man Isaac Ickovich and gutsy guard Nishad Tarak. Yet guards Maxwell Leeder and Daunte Nelson are among the crew of rising seniors.
The Curt Spaven-coached juniors, however, deliver much talent in 6-foot-4 forward Markus Modrivic, forward Hunter Thomsen and guards Cole Belton and Riley Merryweather.
HONOURABLE MENTION — W.J. Mouat Hawks (Abbotsford), Kitsilano Blue Demons (Vancouver), Semiahmoo Totems (Surrey), Handsworth Royals (North Vancouver), Heritage Woods Kodiaks (Port Moody)
(Rankings, reporting and photography by Howard Tsumura, VarsityLetters.ca)
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