It was 25 years ago this month when a lone scout from Santa Clara University sat in the stands of the old PNE Agrodome looking around to make sure that no one had spotted the point guard he was watching.
A quarter century ago, Steve Nash led the St. Michaels University School Blue Devils to the B.C. Triple A title.
A quarter century later, he is a 2020 first-ballot NBA Hall-of-Famer in waiting.
Think about that for a moment as you watch all of the teams here this weekend.
And in honour of that anniversary, here’s 25 more things to watch, ponder and pontificate on as you wander from gym to gym over the next four days, taking in our province’s great basketball spectacle
It’s 30 years this week that I covered my first B.C. high school boys basketball tournament.
It’s funny how you can remember everything about the first one.
Final Four: Richmond, MEI, Centennial, Lord Byng.
Ron Putzi, Joey deWit, Brian Tait were the big Richmond stars, all Grade 11s for coach Bill Disbrow that year and they beat MEI in the final.
Arnie Dick’s Eagles’ featured current Abbotsford Panthers’ girls coach Prentice Lenz as a Grade 10 star-in-waiting, as well as Paul Chaffee, their big man, who was picked MVP despite his team not taking the title.
Rich Chambers coached Centennial which featured big man Cam Aronetz, and Lord Byng, the only team back at the dance this season, had Jason Leslie.
It’s also been 50 years since Vancouver College last won the B.C. title and its 40 years since Oak Bay won its last title. Given that they are seeded fourth and third respectively at Quad A this season, it’s not out of the question to think that come Saturday, we see a milestone victory.
It’s 20 years since Kitsilano won its second of back-to-back titles in 1997. No other B.C. boys varsity program has repeated at the sport’s highest tier since. (Kitsilano did it again in 2001, 02).
And it’s been 10 years since Nanaimo’s Dover Bay Dolphins won the 2007 title under the masterful eye of coach Mark Simpson.
FROM RUCKS TO REBOUNDS
Speaking of SMUS, known these days as the Blue Jags, it says a lot about Quinn Ngawati that he is here this week with the rest of his teammates.
Ngawati, who checks in at 6-foot-5 and tips the scales at 210 pounds, is a member of the Canadian Under-19 rugby team.
While commitments to his country have made things tough for him to be in the line-up of head coach Ian Hyde-Lay’s squad on a full-time basis, he is here this week hoping to offer a boost to the team which has set a bar of excellence at the Double A tier the past three seasons.
SMUS finished second in 2014, first in 2015 and second last season
are riding an incredible streak of upper-level consistency among the Double A field.
The No. 3-seeded Blue Jags, coached by veteran Ian Hyde-Lay, are an eight-deep, senior-laden team whose only losses in league play came against Quad A No. 3 seed Oak Bay. They open Wednesday (8:15 p.m.) against Vanderhoof’s No. 14 Nechako Valley Vikings.
Brentwood College’s Ender McDuff is a kid who already has a pretty unique name. But it’s his nickname which really stands out. He’s known as McBuckets.
But the best actual player name at any tier in this B.C. tourney?
It belongs to Similkameen’s Money Boparai.
CLAP FOR THE COYOTE
The fans of Lake Country’s George Elliott Coyotes love to howl for their star senior forward.
Fynn McCarthy is one of the very best high school volleyball players in the province, a national level standout who dominates the sport as a 6-foot-7 front-row attacker.
As a post on the Coyotes’ basketball team which is seeded No. 13 and opens Wednesday against Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies, McCarthy has registered 44 dunks this season.
The weekend marks the end of his basketball career. Next season, he’s off to UBC to begin his collegiate volleyball career with the Thunderbirds.
It’s a mouthful to pronounce, and while it’s fun to say, it’s even more fun to watch Yoel Teclehaimanot (TEK-lah-hey-man-ot) of Vancouver’s King George Dragons.
The Dragons have gone 58-7 over the past two seasons with their attacking guard/forward in the lineup, and that is the one thing you can say about the way he affects the play for the Double A tier’s No. 2-seeded team.
Teclehaimanot has won nine individual tournament MVP awards, and over the past two seasons has five games of 50-plus points. Four those, it turns out, were in tournament championship finals.
This season, against Victoria’s Lambrick Park Lions, who are also a part of the 2017 provincial draw, he had 51 points, 18 rebounds and eight assists.
All that said, he is still sitting under the radar, with just a couple of post-secondary schools showing interest.
THE NEW MICROWAVE
Kelowna Christian’s Cruz Anderson is a game-changer with the ability to turn a game on its ear.
A two-time provincial all-star for Single A Kelowna Christian and a member of the school’s 2015 B.C. championship team, the Knights’ starting point guard has become a most-deadly shooter from distance.
Earlier this season, Anderson went-into Cruz-control, setting a tournament record by hitting nine three-pointers in the first half of a game at the prestigious Luther Invitational in Regina.
KCS, a No. 5 seed, might be the sleeper on its half of the B.C. draw. They fashioned a 20-7 record with five of those losses coming against Quad A schools.
NUMBERS THAT NUMB
Points, rebounds, assists, blocks and steals are never the final arbiter of a player’s total talent.
But some players are so vital to their team’s offence that they are leaned on to put up some huge numbers. Here are some of the players who have averaged big numbers for their teams this season that you will see at the LEC this week:
*Bulkey Valley Christian’s Nathan Steenhof averages 32 points, seven assists and eight steals.
*Pacific Academy’s Ethan Atkins averages 29.5 points, eight assists and 10 rebounds per game.
*Josh Dhillon of the Rick Hansen Hurricanes averages 28.8 points per game.
*Fardaws Aimaq of Steveston-London averages 28.8 points, 19.1 rebounds, and 6.8 blocks.
*Seckin Topac of the Bodwell Bruins averages 27 points and 17 rebounds.
*Tanner Sandberg of the North Peace Oscars puts up 31 points a game to go along with eight assists and three steals.
*Jacob van Santen of the St. George’s Saints averages 21 points and 17 rebounds per game.
*Gabe Mannes of the G.W. Graham Grizzlies averages 32 points, nine rebounds and six assists per game
*Michael Kelly of St. Thomas Aquinas averages 33 points, seven rebounds and five assists per game.
Bulkley Valley Christian is representing more than just their local following in the Northwest Zone’s town of Smithers. This season, under allowances made by B.C. School Sports for small, rural schools, the Royals welcomed a pair of players from neighbouring Houston Christian, the players making the 45-minute drive each way for practices and games.
“It’s been an interesting dynamic,” said Bulkley Valley head coach Chris Steenhoff, whose team tips off against Keremoes’ Similkameen Sparks on Wednesday (3:30 p.m.). “Kids from two different schools joining together to form a team. It’s been a success for all on so many levels.”
The way that two of the very best Quad-A point guards in B.C. have handled adversity this season might be a prime reason why their teams are here this week at the provincials, despite their decided lack actual on-floor performance.
Jon Mikhlin of Vancouver’s St. George’s Saints has missed virtually the entire season and Keegan Konn of Surrey’s Holy Cross Crusaders the final half of it after each suffered torn ACLs.
The way they have stayed involved with their teams practices and the way they coach and encourage during games has been special to see.
St. George’s tips off at noon against Lord Tweedsmuir in Wednesday opener while Holy Cross follows later against Belmont (3:30 p.m.).
ARE YOU KIDDING?
They keep getting better at younger and younger ages, and this season, the proof comes in the form of a 6-foot-1 Grade 9 guard with the Holy Cross Crusaders. Uyi Ologhola, who averaged 16 points, eight rebounds and five assists per game over the season, is still just 14 years old but was picked a first team all-star at the Fraser Valley championships.
LIVING THE SCRIPT
If we old guys could go back to high school, how fun would it be to play for a coach like Abbotsford Christian’s Keith Stewart?
Each year, to start the campaign, the team picks a movie to watch together it feels best represents a trait they feel will make a collective difference in their journey as a program.
“Last year we watched ‘Pay It Forward’,” said Stewart. “The team took on a self-sacrificing attitude during the season.”
“33,” said Stewart of the film that chronicled the trapped Chilean miners. “It showed how you need a leader in desperate situations and how you must stick together no matter how tough things get. You need to look beyond yourself at the big picture.”
No. 10-seeded Abby Christian will clash with Kamloops’ No. 7 Westsyde Whundas on Wednesday at 5:15 p.m.
GLASS HALF FULL
We’ve talked in past seasons about how vertically challenged the roster of Vancouver’s Double-A St. Patrick’s Celtics is, and this season, head coach Nap Santos reveals the team’s average height to be 5-foot-8.
Leave it to guys like 6-foot Grade 11 post Alek Pineda (15 ppg, 9 mpg) to inflate that average, but in the end the beauty of the Celtics is the way they celebrate what everyone else sees as a shortcoming.
And so the best warm-up t’s you’ll see this week: Heart over Height!
The Celts, a No. 11 seed, face No. 6 Pacific Academy in a 6:45 p.m. start Wednesday.
Vancouver’s King George Dragons have no shortage of flashy offensive forces, but they also have two of the toughest guys to navigate around in the low block.
Making up the paint platoon are 6-foot-4, 215-pound Boris Obradovic and 6-foot-3, 240-pound Nikan Najafi.
Says Dragons’ head coach Darko Kulic, using key players along the Seattle Seahawks’ defence as points of comparison. “They both are great friends and hard workers but it’s very funny how different they are. Nikan is our Michael Bennett, who’s loud and always the middle of our huddle and gets us going and pumped. Boris is our Bobby Wagner type… the very quiet type. But combine them and you have such a unique tandem on and off the court.”
Together they combine to average 15 points and 15 rebounds per game.
HATS OFF TO SMITHERS
There is nothing easy about the first-round game that No. 15-seed Smithers has when it opens the 2A draw Wednesday (3:30 p.m.) against Vancouver’s No. 2 seed, the King George Dragons.
And while no long-standing team traditions have developed for a school making just its second trip to provincials over the past two decades, one special piece of the team’s equipment was carefully packed away for the Gryphons’ 12-hour mini-bus ride to Langley.
The team Hardhat will be presented to the hardest worker on the team after each their final four games this season.
NOT THE SAME OLD SONG-AND-DANCE
Surrey’s Pacific Academy Breakers are certainly not the oldest or most tradition-laden school on the block, but their pregame warrior dance has gained a lot of traction and is sure to open eyes and ears this week at the LEC.
Current Breakers’ assistant coach Seth Sorensen started the tradition back in 2012 when he was the team captain. Each year, a huge honour is accorded to the player who dances in the centre, and this year, it’s Paul Akagu-Jones.
ARM A HAMMER
When it comes to toughness, W.J. Mouat’s Kenan Hadzovic is the guy and not because he and the rest of his Hawks’ teammates have to play in the dreaded 8:30 a.m. Egg McOpener game Wednesday vs. Howe Sound champ Handsworth.
Hadzovic, one of only two seniors left from the 16 Grade 9s that started out back in ninth grade (Zach Plummer is the other), played with a broken right hand throughout last year’s provincials.
Says head coach Rich Ralston of the 6-foot-2 wing who averaged a team-best 20 points-per-game this season: “He’s the poster boy for for the word ‘toughness’ in our program.”
Imagine what he might do over four games with a healthy hand.
Brentwood College’s Nathan Pasloske spent last season seeing the bigger picture of life as he sat out as a transfer student, working on his game at the only school in B.C. without a nickname. Turns out, however, that he wasn’t just growing in a figurative sense.
Over the last 18 months, he’s grown six inches.
The huge spurt resulted in a spate of injuries, but as Wednesday’s 8:30 a.m. Double A opener against Prince Charles nears, he’s truly standing tall.
Pasloske has grown into a 6-foot-2 point guard on the tier’s No. 1-seeded team, playing starter’s minutes within a deep and dangerous rotation and becoming perhaps the best passer on the team.
DON’T SLEEP ON ABDUL
His family came as refugees from Sierra Leone to Burnaby via Guinea Bissau, he’s an honour roll student, and at 6-foot is a guard who dunks, shoots threes and always takes on the other team’s top offensive threat.
Our ‘Best player you’ve never heard’ of feature went to STA’s Michael Kelly, but we also couldn’t have gone wrong with Byrne Creek’s Abdul Bangura.
The prediction here: If he starts his career in the PacWest, CIS schools will see what they missed out on and come calling.
STEPH OR AMAN?
How good is this factoid, delivered by Rick Hansen Hurricanes’ head coach Steve Twele on his 6-foot-1 senior shooting guard Aman Dhillon?
In a game vs. MEI this season, Dillon scored 55 points, including 14 three pointers.
Says Twele: “The NBA record for threes in a game is 13, set by Steph Curry this year.”
Note to Campbell River’s Carihi Tyees, when they face the No. 1 seed in the Triple A draw at 8:15 p.m.: Keep an eye on No. 12. He’s a shooter.
Ask the members of South Surrey’s Semiahmoo Totems what the week before the B.C.’s was like for them and you’ll get a pretty entertaining story.
First, head coach Ed Lefurgy put the team through a four-day boot camp which will mirror the journey the Totems will have this week as they attempt to rise from the bottom half of the Quad A draw as the No. 9 seed.
This past Saturday, reprieve came in the form of a trip to downtown Vancouver for a movie and all-you-can-eat sushi.
On Sunday, the team gathered en masse to watch the live draw selection show.
Come Wednesday they play what is likely their tier’s most evenly-matched game when they face No. 8 Kitsilano in a 6:45 p.m. battle for survival.
IF YOU BUILD IT…
Fraser Lake may be a No. 13 seed and underdogs in their Wednesday 1A battle with No. 4 Credo Christian of Langley, but you can’t doubt the absolute love of the sport the Cougars bring this week from the Northwest Zone to the LEC.
Shawn Lank, the team’s teacher-sponsor, had heard of a nearby school having a basketball course included as part of the optional curriculum, so this year he launched a Basketball 11 course at the school.
“It had a focus on preseason physical training and rules,” said Lank. “The team, plus others who wanted to cross-train joined. The team practised in a gym with the 1999 provincials banner hanging on a beam. It was the year that most of them were born in.”
One of the student in that class, Fraser Lake player Julian Chmelyk went so far as to design and build a half-court in his yard as a class assignment.
Abbotsford’s Yale Lions have a team tradition they honour following their final practice in the years in which the team advances to the provincials, something that is starting to become a regular thing.
The team gathers at centre court and takes a moment to look at the three B.C. championship senior varsity banners hanging in the gym, the most recent coming in 2015.
It’s a reminder of what they are playing for and pays tribute to all of those that came before them.
The Lions are also playing with heavy hearts this season rallying around 6-foot-6 post Gagan Gill, who lost his father heading into Grade 11 and this season lost his grandfather.
The spirit of his battle this season, through personal loss and injury, has inspired all of his teammates heading into its 1:45 p.m. Quad A clash with Lower Mainland champion Vancouver College.
OUCH! COACH, THAT HURT
Pinetree Timberwolves co-coach Luke Ireland can’t confirm it, but the rumour is that Coquitlam team’s 6-foot-4 star Grade 11 forward Maban Terry hit his head hard on the rim during practice this season.
“Of all the good teams and players that I have seen and I watched a lot of tape, he is by far one of the most athletic basketball players in the province,” said Ireland of Terry who averaged 20 points, 10 rebounds and four blocks per game in helping the Timberwolves into the Big Dance for the first time since 2006.
A TEAM, A TOWN, A GAME
When Similkameen Sparks head coach Yuri Zebroff talks of his team “Playing Keremeos basketball” this week at the LEC, it’s a huge point of pride.
The school and the town have invested much time into developing a real basketball culture and it is reflected in the Okanagan Nation’s successful program for Syilx youth in the area and its surrounding communities.
“This program is also led by players who developed and played at (Similkameen),” says Zebroff. “We are proud to have five First Nations players on our squad. The presence of strong programs at school and in the community helps ensure that our small population produces enough high quality players to compete at the top levels of Single A.”
Similkameen gets after it Wednesday as a No. 10 seed, facing Smither’s No. 7 Bulkley Valley Christian at high noon.
READY TO ROCK
Sam Ready has become a big part of the backbone of the Brookswood Bobcats, and the Langley School’s return to the dance certainly hasn’t been hurt by his 20 points and seven rebounds a game.
But it hasn’t been an easy road for Ready.
Last season, as a junior, he missed the entire season after needing back surgery to stabilize his spine.
The 6-foot-5 Grade 11 point guard has been so good this season, he was named a second team all-star at the Fraser Valley Triple-A’s and he has helped the ‘Cats back to the tournament for the first time since 2006.
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