LANGLEY — One of them took the step of hiring a personal trainer to keep on getting better.
The other finally decided to listen to his mom and make healthier eating choices.
Taken as a whole, Jimmy Zaborniak and Karan Aujla have left no stone unturned in their quest to lead the Burnaby South Rebels back to the promised land this coming March, where despite a two-year absence, they have been installed as the odds-on-favourites to repeat as B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball champions.
In keeping with their personas, no bold proclamations were being made by either late Saturday night, yet their play this weekend en route to leading the Rebels to a decisive 3-0 run through the field to claim the championship at the 10th annual Tsumura Basketball Invitational at the Langley Events Centre left no doubt of their intent.
Aujla, the dominant 6-foot-8 centre, scored a game-high 22 points in 19 minutes for the Rebels and he did it looking so much more nimble than two seasons ago.
Afterwards he admitted, after being Tsumura Basketball tournament MVP, that his mom had helped him with his dietary choices as part of a body makeover which has him at his best-ever in so many facets of his game.
Zaborniak, who stepped into the senior varsity ranks in the same 2019-20 season as Aujla, had done so looking as ready as any 10th grader in recent memory. That’s why, two years later as a high school senior, it really says something that the improvements he made to his game over the cancelled season are so striking.
Picked the Rebels’ Player of the Game on Saturday, Zaborniak’s forward steps illustrated not only his own determination, but to the help he enlisted along the way to insure he never cheated the process.
And his teammate Aujla?
“Since the start of the school year I have lost about 15 pounds,” said Aujla, who has slimmed down to about 215 pounds. “I had my ups and downs during quarantine.”
What kind of changes did he make to his diet?
“You gotta ask my mom,” he said laughing. “She really supported me along the way. It was a lot of healthier food choices. Just not so much of the junk that I was eating.”
The results were obvious, both inside and outside the paint, allowing Aujla to become a more valuable player to his teammates.
“I feel like I am more mobile and versatile without losing the strength, and I feel getting up and down the court is much easier,” he said.
On Saturday, all of that was on display as he scored a bucket he may very not have been able to pull off two seasons ago.
Running onto an outlet pass, Aujla sped down court like a guard, and with graceful stride elevated and laid down a ferocious third-quarter slam dunk.
Stepping into the lead guard role as a senior, his game has hit a new level because as his vision and perception on the floor have become much more acute, so has his ability to make decisions at a much more fluid tempo.
With all of that in mind, his game these days is popcorn worthy, full of delightful surprises, yet whether it’s all manner of passes, explosive takes to the glass or dead-eye shooting, it’s never about showmanship. It’s all within the flow of play.
“I got myself a trainer and I just grinded to be the best,” Zaborniak says. “I put in a lot of work over the summer, and over quarantine I never stopped working.”
On a team that preaches the whole over the individual, you can’t ask for better captains than the Rebels’ Aujla and Zaborniak.
And both know the ceiling of potential for both themselves and their yellow-and-black clad collective remains untouched.
“There are still some levels that we can get to… like sometimes we come out flat,” said Zaborniak. “We know we have a lot of talent, and I really like how (head coach) Mike (Bell) and all of our coaches push us to go past where we are right now, even though we’re winning games.
“He’s hard on us,” continued Zaborniak, “but I don’t think we would get to those levels if it wasn’t for him. I really respect him for that.”
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