SURREY — If you watched the way in which Miguel Tomley closed out his senior season last March, you would be correct in stating that only a handful of others in the long history of B.C. boys high school basketball were as ready to start an NCAA Div. 1 basketball career as the Tamanawis Wildcats’ guard.
In fact his high school finale was a statistical tsunami of mind-numbing numbers.
Tomley set a four-game B.C. tournament scoring record with 180 points, a total which topped even the tourney’s five-game total points record of 177 set in 2012 by Sir Charles Tupper’s Cameron Smythe.
Yet of instead of heading directly to that stateside hoops career after signing his National Letter of Intent with the Santa Clara Broncos, Tomley elected instead to re-join the nation’s best prep school league, choosing The RISE Academy in Brantford, Ont., where he has been one of the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association top players this season.
“As far as I know and as far as I am concerned, I am supposed to go in there and make an impact right away as a freshman,” Tomley, the 6-foot-3 combo guard said of donning Santa Clara colours for the 2019-20 campaign later this fall in the San Francisco Bay area. “Hearing that from the coaching staff gave me a lot of motivation, especially this year (at RISE), to train even harder, so that when I get there, I am prepared. But I mean, it’s still about the same thing I brought to high school basketball …buckets.”
Tomley spoke to VarsityLetters.ca during the holidays in his old high school gym, after he watched his former team come up just shy in a Dec. 29 loss to the defending B.C. champion Burnaby South Rebels at the Tamanawis Holiday Classic tournament.
Looking stronger, leaner and fitter than he ever has, it’s also clear that the 18-year-old Tomley is not the same 16-year-old who left for the OSBA’s Orangeville Prep as a rising Grade 11 prior to the 2016-17 campaign.
In case you may have forgotten, Tomley encountered some tough moments that season, living away from home and competing against waves of post-graduate talent.
From his decision to return home, to his subsequent ineligibility for the remainder of that B.C. high school season, followed by his historic senior high school campaign last season under Tamanawis head coach Mike McKay… all of those experiences have combined to produce a young man who now carries himself with the maturity of a next-level team leader.
“Everything I am doing in Ontario is preparing me for when I get to university,” explained Tomley, who returned back to Brantford on Jan. 5. “This season, just the fact that I am older, I knew going in (at RISE) what was to be expected. A couple of years ago, I was this 15-16-year-old kid and I was going up against guys who were already 18. The majority of my (Orangeville) team was post-grad.
“Now, this year,” he continues, “I’m one of the older guys. The younger guys, they look up to me, and so I have to carry other things on my shoulders.”
BETTER THAN EVER
We started off this story talking about how Tomley might have been among the most ready to start an NCAA Div. 1 career straight out of high school.
Of course, over the grand history of our game, there have been several others including two with the highest of profiles:
In 2008-09, South Kamloops’ big man Kelly Olynyk did more than hint at his upcoming future at both Gonzaga and later as the No. 13 overall pick of the 2013 NBA draft when the B.C. high school tourney MVP became the first and thus-far only player in the history of B.C.’s top-tiered boys championships to lead the field in scoring (36.5 ppg), rebounding (15.5 rpg) and assists (7.2 apg).
In 1991-92, Steve Nash scored 31 points and was named tourney MVP after he led Victoria’s SMUS Blue Devils past Pitt Meadows 76-48 in what remains the most lopsided top-tiered final in B.C. boys history. Twelve months later, as a pure freshman in Salt Lake City, Nash piloted Santa Clara to one of the biggest upsets in NCAA tourney history, his six late free throws icing the No. 15-seeded Broncos 64-61 upset of No. 2-seeded Arizona. Nash, of course, went on to become the 15th pick of the 1996 NBA draft.
All of that is brought to the table to offer perspective. Yet like that famous pair, there is no denying Tomley’s potential to make a mark in the NCAA and beyond.
“I joke with him that he’s lost weight, and he jokes that he’s added more muscle,” says Pasha Bains, himself a former B.C. high school top-tiered MVP who later played two seasons in the ACC with Clemson (1999-2000, 2000-01), and has coached Tomley at Drive Basketball. “His body looks different, he’s playing the best basketball of his life, and he’s doing what he did at Tammy in the best prep league in Canada. He’s just gotten a lot tougher. Tough-and-physical defenders don’t bother him. He’s just put himself in a way better position for Div. 1.”
The reality Tomley faces each and every time he sets foot on the court these days?
“In high school you face a lot of guys over 6-foot-8,” he begins. “In Ontario and in university, the players are all bigger and stronger so I have had to work on a lot of different finishes against bigger opponents. That’s the big thing, but I’ve still kept my game pretty simple.”
Bains, for his part, is pretty confident that Tomley could have made a splash this season with the Broncos. Yet he also feels that the ex-Tammy superstar could well have set a template for future B.C. standouts to follow.
“Honestly, I don’t think he needed to go to prep school,” says Bains. “We all saw him at the B.C.’s. But by the same token, now he is more used to being away from home and doing things on his own. I’m not sure a lot of kids are ready when they are really young, and the model Miguel has used (going prep after high school) could be good for the next crop of our stars. I know that Santa Clara doesn’t look at him like a typical freshman. They have big plans for him.”
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