This past March, Prince George’s Duchess Park Condors came about as close as you can to existing in a perfect basketball universe.
On the 40th anniversary of the team’s historic 1980 top-tiered B.C. senior boys championship victory, the 2020 Condors won in the provincial semifinals, met the members of that pioneering team in the post-game locker room, and then took to the court the next day with the opportunity to complete a season of symmetry.
Alas, a 79-67 loss in the finals to Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies put the kibosh on their own version of a Hollywood ending, yet their was no mistaking amongst is superb roster all of the talent which helped produce a 30-5 campaign.
All of that was very evident on Thursday. When the B.C. High School Boys Basketball Association announced its 2019-20 provincial Triple-A all-star team, it counted amongst its ranks, three key seniors from the Duchess Park squad.
And as Condors’ head coach Jordan Yu acknowledged the accomplishments of guard Jackson Kuc, and forwards Connor Lewis and Emir Zejnulahovic, it became quite clear that all three were cut from the same tough-minded, blue-collar cloth, joining a premier provincial conglomeration which also included twins Matthias and Zach Klim of the Grizzlies.
BCHSBBA 2019-20 TRIPLE-A ALL-STARS
Mattias Klim (6-10 F, Chilliwack-G.W. Graham)
Zach Klim (6-9 F, Chilliwack-G.W. Graham)
Jackson Kuc (6-0 G, Prince George-Duchess Park)
Connor Lewis (6-3 F, Prince George-Duchess Park)
Emir Zejnulahovic (6-4 F, Prince George-Duchess Park)
Iman Ostovari (5-10 G, Pitt Meadows)
Dennis Laconsay (6-3 G, Vancouver-Sir Charles Tupper)
Isaiah Ondrik (6-5 G, Vernon)
Zack Smith (5-9 G, Vernon)
Kaden Reid (6-5 G, Maple Ridge-Westview)
Kuc, the team’s point guard, averaged 17.8 points and five assists per game heading into provincials, then peaked when it mattered most as he closed out his high school career playing the best basketball of his life.
“In his senior year he stepped up in all areas,” said Yu of the 6-foot Kuc. “He set the tempo for us. His scoring, along with that of (Grade 11) Caleb (Lyons) kept us in it in the final. G.W. Graham played an amazing game, but he’s a big reason we got to that game.”
Yu sees a bright future for Kuc, who while innately skilled on the court, will only get better as his physique gains more bulk and strength.
“He’s getting his looks,” Yu said of the attention Kuc is beginning to get from top college programs. “He has some options in front of him. I’ve always said this kid will peak when he’s 30 years old. The ways he sees (the court) and the skill level he has, he’s right up there with the best in B.C. He has all the attributes you want in a point guard. It’s just a matter now of him gaining more weight and strength.
Kuc and Lewis were both members of the Duchess Park junior team when Yu, the former UBC point guard, returned to his alma mater to begin coaching high school basketball in 2016-17.
As unlikely as it might seem that a 6-foot-3 power forward known more in his hometown as a soccer player would make the B.C. Triple-A all-star basketball team, Lewis brought a level of competitive toughness to every situation, whether game or practice.
“I would step onto the practice floor with the guys if we were short a player, and he was just one of those guys that you didn’t want on the other team, and we loved him for it,” said Yu, who has called Lewis the heart and soul of the team. “He was faster than any four-man. He’d sprint the lane and get down the floor for baskets. He just brought a ton of energy and he showed up no matter what.”
The 6-foot-4 Zejnulahovic, who transferred into Duchess Park for the 2018-19 season from Dawson Creek, along with his twin brother Tony, was a key but perhaps underrated cog in Condors’ attack, a solid but somewhat-undersized post who helped stretch the floor with his shooting range.
“Emir was one of the best shooters on our team and so he pulled a lot of bigs out and allowed us to play penetration-and-kick basketball,” acknowledged Yu. “We weren’t a really big team, but he got the toughest match-ups inside every game and he held his own. He was a big reason we were able to defend so well.”
FRIDAY: The B.C. Quad-A all-stars!
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