BURNABY — The Burnaby South Rebels are suddenly facing a lot longer road to qualifying for the B.C. senior boys Quad-A basketball championships.
B.C. School Sports has ruled that the Rebels used an ineligible player in its 96-64 home court win over the Killarney Cougars in the opening round of the Lower Mainland Quad-A championships on Wednesday, and thus have had to forfeit the victory.
Emir Krupic, a 6-foot-3 Grade 11 guard and himself a former Burnaby South student-athlete, was ruled to have played this season for Elite Prep, a Seattle-region prep school team located just outside of Issaquah, Wash., in King County.
“The ruling (31.0) is based around the fact that a (B.C.) student-athlete can only compete in one 13-week season of play per sport in each school year,” B.C. School Sports executive director Jordan Abney told Varsity Letters on Friday afternoon.
“So we looked back at his timeline and participation with the program and he competed from early October through December,” continued Abney. “So he had already played his 13 weeks. That is why he is not eligible this year.”
While the fall-out is heavy, the ruling does not end Burnaby South’s season owing to the nature of the tourney’s double-knockout format.
But instead of having to win just one of their next two games to qualify for provincials, Burnaby South must now win four straight.
The Rebels, the defending B.C. Quad A champions, had opened the current season at No. 1, and en route to a dynamic 24-3 record against B.C. opposition under head coach Mike Bell, had taken a B.C. No. 2 ranking into the Lower Mainland championships.
More important, Burnaby South was seeded No. 1 for the Lower Mainland championship tournament, which sends its top three finishers to next month’s B.C. Quad A tournament at the Langley Events Centre.
The Lower Mainland tournament was already highly anticipated because in the last Varsity Letters’ Big 10 Quad A rankings, the Rebels’ three biggest zone foes — No. 4 Kitsilano, No. 6 Vancouver College, and No. 7 St. George’s — were also ranked among the provincial elite, meaning one of four would be eliminated from the B.C. tourney’s opening field of Sweet 16.
Originally, Burnaby South was set to face Vancouver College this coming Wednesday at the Richmond Olympic Oval, with the winner gaining a berth in the zone championship final and an automatic berth to the B.C.’s. Killarney now moved into that game against the Fighting Irish.
When the ruling of the forfeiture came down late Thursday evening, the Rebels were suddenly thrust into having to play Friday, and thus the team was set to play cross-city foe Burnaby North in a 6:15 p.m. at Kitsilano Secondary. (Editor’s note — Burnaby South won 96-57).
“We are disappointed that we have to go down this route, that something like this has happened at a crucial time of the year,” said Lower Mainland president Mike Stoneburgh of a forfeiture which not only impacts Burnaby South’s season, but also the equity of the draw itself, one which all 12 qualifying teams spent an entire season determining on the court.
Emir Krupic is a talented player, so much so that when the Rebels won the 2017 B.C. boys junior varsity championship, he was the only ninth grader on a team with 13 Grade 10s, including the core of the current senior varsity, which includes Grade 12 stars like Jio Khan, Aidan Wilson, Baltej Sohal and Kyle Kirmaci.
Krupic spent time locally the next season with B.C. Christian Prep, then joined Elite Prep this season
Burnaby South athletic director Robbie Puni maintains the school did its best to investigate the situation before allowing Krupic to suit up against Killarney on Wednesday.
“We did our homework and research and we were absolutely certain this was OK, that he did his basketball thing down there but did not play prep” Puni said Friday. “We contacted people from (Elite Sports Academy) and they confirmed they were not a prep, despite what the website said, and there are some inaccuracies with that website. That is why we took the extra step (before the Killarney game) of making a phone call to be completely transparent. Things got lost in translation as to what was a prep team and a club team.”
Under B.C. School Sports rules, Krupic is eligible to begin playing for Burnaby South on Jan. 11, 2020, one year from the date of his last game.
If Burnaby South appeals and wins, he could begin play at the start of his 2019-20 season.
“He was finding some challenges with the school environment (down south) and found it more comfortable to be back at home,” the athletic director said.
The situation is a virtual carbon-copy of the one former Tamanawis star Miguel Tomley encountered when he returned home from a prep school part way through his Grade 11 year and was later ruled ineligible.
Tomley later starred over his senior 2017-18 season with Tamanawis, and is currently thriving as a gap-year prep school player, having already signed on to an NCAA Div. 1 career at Santa Clara next season.
Puni, who takes such huge pride in the spirit of high school sports at his school, says his program is ready to move forward.
“We had a disagreement and how do rational people handle that?” asked Puni. “With respect and dignity. And I think we can show that to younger people.
“We have a great team, and we would never do anything to jeopardize this team,” he continued. “It would make no sense for a Top 3 team to potentially lose their season over this.
“It’s a learning experience for all of us,” Puni added. “We are in this to teach children and I bear the front of this as the leader of this program. I will take it, understand it and respect it. What Jordan and everyone over at B.C. School Sports does is a fantastic job. I told them I respect their decision and that we just had a differing in opinion between a prep team and club team.”
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