LANGLEY — If the coming together of all four of B.C.’s senior boys varsity basketball tiers for one weekend of championship play at the Langley Events Centre has shown us anything, it’s the breadth of talent that exists across our entire province.
Without question, B.C.’s smallest schools, those belonging to the 1A tier, have found a place in the hearts of basketball fans here at the LEC, especially on championship Saturday when it kicks off the day’s four straight B.C. finals.
Here’s our pre-preseason look at the B.C. Single A tier, with rankings, as always, provided by Sean Juteau.
1 SIMILKAMEEN SPARKS (Keremeos)
Scoring machine Sasha Zebroff graduates, but an incredible core of prodigious talent returns for head coach Yuri Zebroff.
Included in the bounty are rising seniors Corbin Marsden, a forward, guard Jughraj Bopari, and 6-foot-6 centre Aidan Nelson, as well as rising Grade 11 Tyson Douangpanya and rising Grade 10 Armaan Dhaliwal.
2 CREDO CHRISTIAN KODIAKS (Langley)
They lose a lot of their scoring punch through the graduation of a number of key seniors, yet the Fraser Valley champions have made a habit of quickly climbing back to full speed with a true program that hasn’t struggled to replenish itself. This past season’s edition featured five Grade 11s and two Grade 10s.
3 BARRIERE COUGARS
They didn’t make the provincial field out of an ultra-competitive Okanagan zone, but they showed their stuff by building a lead against eventual B.C. champion Heritage Christian in the zone semifinals. One starter and two other main rotation players graduate but there is a ton of quality returning, led by point guard Cameron Kerslake, shooting guard Tyson Schilling and power forward Aaron Van Sickle.
4 KELOWNA CHRISTIAN KNIGHTS
One of the province’s most traditional 1A powers, they ran into Saymon Loki and the Bulkley Valley Christian Royals in the semifinals, but a quality program will deliver another deep roster next season for head coach Dan Benson, one that will likely be led by rising seniors Colin Christophe, Connor Haasdyk and post Parker Kent.
5 GLENLYON NORFOLK GRYPHONS (Victoria)
Head coach Harvey Thorau’s Victoria-based Gryphons are loaded with talent, led by rising senior guard/forward Chris Graham, who might be the tier’s most dynamic scorer.
Graham, who averaged a hair under 30 ppg this past season, will be joined by fellow Class of 2019ers Ethan Stanger and rebounding beast Noah Feteke.
6 KING DAVID LIONS (Vancouver)
Asher Freedman will be lost to graduation but the roster is hardly bare for the Lions, who are in the midst of one of the most solid runs in program history. Rising Grade 10 centre Oliver Munt, as well as the rising senior back court of Solly Khalifa and Yurval Jacob give King David great hope for another deep March run at the LEC.
7 HERITAGE CHRISTIAN SAINTS (Kelowna)
What a run head coach Colton Tripke and Co. had, all the way to the first B.C. title in school history as they found a way to top Saymon Loki and Smither’s Bulkley Valley Christian Royals in the championship final.
That said, there are heavy grad totals here with names like Nenasheff, Weekes, Robideau and Bell all departing. However Ryamond Barrett is the kind of player an entire program can be built around and the rising senior will be joined by fellow Class of ’19 standout Isaiah Akurienne.
8 OSOYOOS RATTLERS
The team the town saved is back and better than ever next season. After falling just shy in the tough Okanagan wars, the Osoyoos Rattlers bring back a ton of talent, led by small forward Kolby Wikene and guard Navraj Brar, a pair of rising seniors, and rising Grade 11 southpaw power forward Jasmanpreet Sekhon. Osoyoos Secondary was closed a few seasons back due to budget cuts, but a town rally re-opened its doors and gave one of the province’s most uniquely-identifiable programs a new lease on life.
9 HIGHROAD KNIGHTS (Chilliwack)
A run of poor shooting late in the season kept Chilliwack’s Knights out of the Big Dance, yet head coach Steve Basaraba has a young group with provincial tournament staying power that would look to extend beyond March of 2019.
Point guard Easton Abel and combo guard Aidan Morris are a pair of rising Grade 11s who have the backcourt chores locked up for the next two season and you can say ‘ditto-plus’ on the wing where rising Grade 10 Elijah Grimard holds terrific promise.
10 FT. ST. JAMES FALCONS
Coach Andrew Mulroy’s team made its first Big Dance appearance since 2010 this past week at the LEC. With a team that this past season was made up entirely of Grades 9-11 players, you can expect a lot more in the coming years. Rising seniors Ezra Croucher and Donovan Gregg, as well as rising Grade 11 Riley McVey are among the leaders who got valuable experience this season and will be looking for a lot more in 2018-19.
Honourable mention — Northside Christian Northstars (Vanderhoof), St. John’s Eagles (Vancouver), Deer Lake Falcons (Burnaby), Unity Christian Flames (Chilliwack)
(Sean Juteau, GVISAA)
(Editor’s note — Thanks go out to GVISSA’s Sean Juteau, to Dan Kinvig of the Fraser Valley Cascades and especially to Wilson Wong of UBC athletics. All three champion the recognition of small-school basketball in the province of British Columbia.)
SATURDAY — B.C. senior boys Double A preseason rankings.
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