COQUITLAM — It isn’t always the smoothest of transitions, yet over the past few seasons, we’ve witnessed the sudden impact that top junior teams have had as they have migrated the following season to their respective senior varsity programs.
Burnaby South is the prime example, with its 2017 JV title-winners playing a huge role in 2018’s Quad-A senior varsity championship title.
Yet to a lesser but still impressive degree, Sir Charles Tupper, North Delta, Lord Tweedsmuir and St. George’s are programs feeling the effects of an infusion of large amounts of top JV talent over the past two seasons.
And this season, you can add another perhaps less-heralded program to the mix in the form of Coqutilam’s Centennial Centaurs whose senior varsity has welcomed one of the school’s best big men in a generation.
Seeded 10th at last season’s 32-team B.C. junior varsity championships, the Centaurs had the misfortune of meeting the event’s most miscast team in the opening round, losing to the No. 23-ranked Belmont Bulldogs who advanced all the way to the championship semifinals.
Because of that loss, and the fact that its senior varsity team did not advance past the Fraser Valley championships, the Centaurs went into the offseason safely under the radar.
Yet the team which opens Thursday (5:15 p.m.) at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational by facing Quad A defending champion and No. 1-ranked Burnaby South Rebels are a group just beginning to enter what looks to be an exciting two-plus seasons window of provincial tourney-calibre performance.
(full schedule below)
“Right now we have a really nice combination of Grade 11s and 12s,” says Centaurs head coach Rob Sollero, whose team opened the season two Mondays ago with a 69-68 homecourt win over preseason honourable mention W.J. Mouat, then continued the learning process at this past weekend’s Heritage Woods Kodiak Classic in Port Moody with tough losses against Quad A 6 No. St. George’s (91-81), Triple-A No. 1 North Delta (77-67) and Quad A honourable mention Kitsilano (77-69) before defeating Triple A No. 10 R.A. McMath (93-91).
“The schedule we’ve made for ourselves is very tough but it is going to be a great experience,” continued Sollero of one that includes both the TBI and Chancellor, as well as select ranked non-conference singles, and it own tough Fraser Valley North league games.
Along the way, the goal is growth.
Seniors like combo guard Solomon Wauye, 6-foot-6 forward Ivan Denyssevych and football MVP Uriah Hestdalen bring their veteran experience and a defensive presence to the equation.
Meanwhile, the presence of 6-foot-7 Grade 11 forward Dominic Parolin is undeniable.
The son of Dave Parolin, a himself former Centaur who played under legendary ex-head coach Rich Chambers and who helps Sollero coach the senior varsity, Dominic Parolin doesn’t even turn 16 for another two weeks.
He opened the season with 32 points against Mouat, then proceeded to average 31 ppg at the Kodiak Classic, including 44 points against McMath.
“He’s added perimetre shooting, he’s improved his ball-handling skills and his post-up game, and he can score from everywhere, knocking down threes and dunking it,” says Sollero. “Plus, he’s humble and a straight A student.”
He’s also opened eyes through Basketball Canada’s local Tall Player Camps and spent the summer starring for Drive Basketball stateside on the AAU circuit.
Just where does he sit in the pantheon of former Centennial big men?
To find one as impactful, you might have to go all the way back to the 1986-87 season when the Chambers’-coached Centaurs went all the way to the top-tiered B.C. Triple A Final Four with 6-foot-9 big man and future L.A. Dodgers’ draft pick Cam Aronetz minding the middle.
And the good news for Centennial is that there is a lot of talent in this Grade 11 class.
The team’s second-leading scorer thus far has been 6-foot guard Leif Skelding, who does a little bit of everything from the backcourt.
Skelding, Kyle Jang and Braeden Markiewicz, the latter sinking seven treys against McMath, give the guard group a nice future, as well as 6-foot-2 forward Jayden Quinto.
“Our goal is we just want to get better,” states Sollero of a team getting its first extended stint of blue-chip sernior varsity competition. “We don’t have a lot of experience against high-level senior varsity team. So let’s just get better and we’d love to have a shot at making the B.C.’s.”
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