Cole Laing is on the phone from Prince George, chuckling at a reporter’s dogged line of questioning, one clearly aimed at getting him to acknowledge that every time he steps between the lines, he plays like a mean piece of business.
“Yeah, I play angry,” the Duchess Park Condors’ 6-foot senior point guard finally offers. “My mom says that to me. On the court, I switch into a different mode. It seems that way.”
OK, that makes it official.
But to be clear, the Laing you get off the court is a soft-spoken, respectful 17-year-old who is bursting with love for the game he has grown up playing.
“I just want to play as hard as I possibly can every time,” explains the younger brother of UNBC Timberwolves’ fifth-year scoring leader Tyrell Laing. “I just get locked in. I like to get my guys going… get their energy up.”
Bringing a level of intensity that approaches the highest magnitude, Laing was able to play a key role two seasons ago as a 10th grader, helping the Condors reach the championship final of the 2020 B.C. senior boys Triple A championships where Duchess Park fell 79-67 to Chilliwack’s G.W. Graham Grizzlies.
Now, leading a Grade 12 triumvirate which also includes returning wing/forward Aidan Lewis and 6-foot-6 Russian newcomer Evgeny Baukin, Laing has his No. 3-ranked Condors perched and ready to soar when March Madness and the B.C. tournament touches down at the Langley Events Centre.
Everything in the Laing arsenal was on display throughout last month’s Tsumura Basketball Invitational, as the Condors faced an all-Quad A slate of foes which included Abbotsford, Centennial, Walnut Grove and Tamanawis.
As complete as they come, Laing is a tenacious defender both on and off the ball who has not only added a much more consistent three-ball this season to compliment his dribble-drive game, but looks very comfortable taking on match-ups in which he can turn his back to the basket and post up his defenders.
“In the way he approaches every practice and every game, I can say that Cole is the true definition of a competitor,” advises Duchess Park head coach Jordan Yu, a former UBC Thunderbirds’ standout in his playing days. “He is the kind of player who raises the energy and the compete level of every practice he is a part of.”
And if Laing might wonder if he blurs that line when he steps off the court, Yu is quick to offer an adult’s perspective.
“I love that Cole has has such a competitive spirit and fight in him on the court,” says Yu, “but he is also one of the most polite and respectful kids I have ever coached off the court.”
Yu is also thankful that in building the identity of the 2021-22 team, that Laing, Lewis and Baukin have enjoyed a true meeting of basketball minds.
“That was my number one worry,” explained Yu. “This year, a lot of teams have those guys who as (Grade) 10’s have played one year of senior, missed their Grade 11 year and now they are seniors. None of them have had the torch handed off to be the leader. I worried about that. Can they be the leaders they need to be? They had to feel each other out, but we’ve handled another superstar (Baukin) coming into the team very well. Now, we’re really starting to gel.”
Laing agree wholeheartedly.
“We are super-lucky to have him come in with me and Aidan,” he says of Baukin, whose wing-span, instincts and bevy of moves have given Duchess Park a ceiling of potential which was only being hinted at during the team’s December appearance at TBI. “We have a whole bunch of weapons and they are meshing very well.”
Yet perhaps most unique to all of those so-called weapons is Laing’s unflappable on-court role as his team’s firestarter.
With traditional Triple-A tournaments at St. Thomas More and Robert Bateman all lost to the Omicron variant, the Condors have been sequestered in Prince George, beating up on senior men’s teams by 20-30 points and hoping that a thaw in the case counts will allow it to once again hit the gold trail.
With all of that adversity, what could be more valuable to a team than a kid who brings his 10 on a 10-scale each day to practice?
“Every practice, he comes in with a competitive chip on his shoulder,” Yu says with pride. “Think of Michael Jordan. It’s the same with Cole. He has that dog mentality.”
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