It goes without saying that the issues and challenges we find ourselves facing on a daily basis are of a magnitude we would never have expected earlier this month as we sat together at the Langley Events Centre to watch two weeks of B.C. high school basketball championships.
And certainly, there are a lot of things more important than our final set of B.C. High School Boys Quad-A preseason rankings.
So it is with the proper perspective firmly stated that we present to you our thoughts on a Top 10 and five honourable mention schools for the 2020-21 season.
As you read this, we hope it will be a welcomed diversion from the realities of the day.
Stay safe. Talk soon.
LANGLEY — Their talent speaks for itself, yet it’s their experiences at the highest levels of the B.C. high school boys game which elevate Burnaby South to the next level.
The Rebels have a chance to etch their names alongside two of the greatest programs in B.C. boys high school basketball history if they can find a way to once again carve a path through the field and hoist all the spoils at the 2021 B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball championships just under a year from now at the Langley Events Centre.
Only two other schools in top-tiered B.C. tournament history have ever won three titles within a four-season span, and they are New Westminster’s Duke Of Connaught Dukes, who won three straight titles from 1950-52, and the Richmond Colts, who won it all in 1985, ’87 and ’88.
And the Rebels, coming off a 70-58 win in the title game earlier this month over the Kelowna Owls, aren’t exactly long shots to do it.
With four key main-rotation players returning, including rising senior guard Justin Sunga, the freshly-minted provincial tourney MVP, as well as 6-foot-7 rising Grade 11 forward Karan Aujla, the Rebels have earned the No. 1 ranking in Varsity Letters’ annual pre-preseason Top 10.
The Rebels, who beat Semiahmoo 80-72 in the 2018 title game, lost to eventual champ Lord Tweedsmuir 75-64 in 2019 Final Four before running the field in 2020.
Within the current era, Burnaby South has also won B.C. junior titles in 2017 and 2019, giving the program a blue-banner moment at the province’s top two oldest age-group tiers the past four straight seasons.
Included among the returnees this season are Jareb Pineda, a rising senior guard and the 2019 B.C. junior MVP guard, as well as Jimmy Zaborniak, a rising Grade 11 guard and 2019 B.C. junior championship all-star selection.
Hot on their heels at No. 2 is another team filled with returning talent.
The Abbotsford Panthers lose talented Karn Brar to graduation, but five of the team’s top six scorers are back in the form of guards Keyan De Vries and Brandt Lenz, and forwards Jesse Davis, Ben McGuckin and Sahil Sidhu. As well, the Panthers will welcome several new faces from a JV team which lost to Kelowna in the B.C. Junior Elite 8.
In a coin flip at No. 3 are the Vancouver College Fighting Irish who have the player the majority of coaches around the province label as the province’s most unstoppable returning big man.
Rising 6-foot-7 senior forward Jacob Holt is so comfortable using his skill and his size at so many positions on the court that you literally pick your poison in attempting to slow him down.
Teammed with talented guard Cole Cruz-Dumont, a rising Grade 11, and the Irish have a dynamic 1-2 punch supplemented by a huge core of returnees and a JV team which also lost in the Final 8 at the B.C. junior championships.
The Kelowna Owls, led by a largely senior group which carried the program to an amazing fourth Final Four in the past five seasons, will be a lot younger this fall, yet they take the No. 4 preseason ranking into 2020-21 based on the progress its rising seniors have traditionally shown, as well as the dynamic skill its junior graduates, fresh off a Final 4 showing at JV provincials, are expected to bring.
Rising seniors Jarrad Taylor, Rylan Ibbetson and Taye Parmar are back, and the Owls’ will add plenty of talent from that JV squad, led by physical, 6-foot-4 forward Micah Borne, fellow forward Ryan Braam, and a promising guard quartet of Maxim Storozhuk, Jai Saini, Oaklen Kowal and Everett Schmuland.
At No. 5 are a team which only began to come into its own down the stretch drive of the 2019-20 season.
Victoria’s Oak Bay Bays return a rising class which not only took its share of early lumps, but also gained great confidence in winning the Vancouver Island championship, a feat which it parlayed into a sixth-place finish at provincials.
Rising senior guard Lucas Maffia leads the way, the 6-foot-2 younger brother of former Bays’ star Diego Maffia, scoring in his own prodigious ways, and in many ways reminiscent of Marty Nash following older brother Steve at SMUS in the early-to-mid 1990s.
Fellowing rising senior guards Chris Horwood and Matthew Callow, along with rising 6-foot-4 Grade 11 forward Alvaro Iraola give head coach Chris Franklin a nice base from which to continue building.
1 Burnaby South Rebels
2 Abbotsford Panthers
3 Vancouver College Fighting Irish
4 Kelowna Owls
5 Oak Bay Bays (Victoria)
6 Yale Lions (Abbotsford)
7 St. George’s Saints (Vancouver)
8 Terry Fox Ravens (Port Coquitlam)
9 Handsworth Royals (North Vancouver)
10 Centennial Centaurs (Coquitlam)
Honourable mention — Fleetwood Park Dragons (Surrey), Walnut Grove Gators (Langley), Claremont Spartans (Victoria), Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs (Vancouver), Tamanawis Wildcats (Surrey)
(Howard Tsumura, VarsityLetters.ca)
The Abbotsford Panthers’ arch-nemesis, the crosstown Yale Lions, check in at No. 6 and are sure to remind everyone just how much parity there is going to be within the top 15 teams.
That’s because Yale, like so many others in our Top 10, return a solid core of main rotation players.
For head coach Euan Roberts, there is a very talented four-man group led by rising seniors Jaydan Bains and Harmaan Bola, which also features guards Ekjot Mann and Joseph Ho.
At No. 7, it’s a team which didn’t qualify for 2020 provincials out of the tough Sea-to-Sky zone.
Vancouver’s St. George’s Saints ultimately couldn’t get past Vancouver College when it counted, yet there is good size and experience returning among a talented class of rising seniors.
Returning are a pair of starters in 6-foot-6 Theo Bentley, and guard Lawson Graham.
There’s also 6-foot-7 Eli Van Haren, and guards Luc Dixon and Cooper Shugarman giving head coach Guy Da Silva the makings of a skilled and versatile unit.
The No. 8 team comes out of Port Coquitlam.
The Terry Fox Ravens will be led the most prodigious scoring guard in the province.
Agile and versatile at 6-foot-4, Cam Slaymaker is the leading light amongst a 10-man class of rising seniors that includes developing forward Aras Jahangiri.
They key for the Ravens will be finding out which players help Slaymaker create the true identity of the team moving forward.
At No. 9, it’s the Handsworth Royals of North Vancouver who have a returning class of eight rising seniors, as well as talented rising Grade 11 post Matthys Van Bylandt. The 6-foot-4 Van Bylandt will be part of a frontline which includes 6-6 Zachary Mason and 6-3 Avery Porter.
That group is supplemented by a talented junior team led by high-scoring guard Tate Christiansen, which suffered a one-point loss in the round of 16 to eventual champion St. Patrick’s at the B.C. junior championships.
At No. 10, Coquitlam’s Centennial Centaurs are creating a new chapter following the graduation of key seniors Dom Parolin, the province’s most dominant big man in 2019-20, and valuable guard Leif Skelding.
Terry Cho, expected to be a starting guard this past season before ACL surgery, returns for his senior season, and will be an instant impact player as he teams with rising Grade 11 guard Nick Yang.
Rising senior guard Dante Petrescu adds the element of dead-eye long-range shooting.
The biggest key, however, is rising Grade 11 frontcourt player K.C. Ibekwe.
The 6-foot-7 Ibekwe took a huge step forward this season under the tutelage of Parolin, and by season’s end was bringing the best of his size and soft hands under the hoop to the fore.
The honourable mention teams bring great parity to what is truly a tight Top 15.
The meshing of a talented core rising from its JV program with a pair of returning senior varsity talents will be the key for Surrey’s Fleetwood Park Dragons.
Rising Grade 11 guard Rav Randhawa will look to bring increased efficiency to his performance this season as the leader of a team which also features rising Grade 11 forward Gurek Sran.
And from the JV comes more talent in the form of rising 11s Gurmun Ghuman and Allen Landasan, and rising 6-foot-4 Grade 10 forward Gurshan Sran.
The Walnut Grove Gators of Langley, another team which didn’t qualify for senior provincials, should nonetheless be a team re-invented this coming season.
Rising seniors Kyle Kong, the top returning scorer, and 6-foot-8 post Connor Platz will be among the seven returnees set to join forces with a very talented rising crop of 2020 Final Four JVs led by the likes of guards Kevin Kao and Callum Neilly, and 6-foot-6 forward Jacob Antchak.
The Claremont Spartans of Victoria lose blue-chip talent via graduation including Nik Babaeff, Ethan Boag and Kyle Pepper.
Yet the scoring potential of rising senior Ben Manns and rising Grade 11 Izzy Helman from the JV’s give head coach Brandon Dunlop a lot to look forward to from his guards, and rising senior forward Jakob Neufeld is much improved.
The Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs of Vancouver were eye openers along their way to a second-place finish at the B.C. junior championships, and the core of that team led by rising Grade 11s Milan John, Filip Subotic and Ethan Baron look capable of gaining quick traction at the senior varsity level.
The Tamanawis Wildcats of Surrey are hoping top thrive behind a trio of key rising seniors in 6-foot-5 forward Ekman Sohal, as well as guards Saim and Saboor Bhutta.
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