SURREY — Dreams die hard.
If you prescribe to the axiom, then you know that Keegan Konn is hurting and doing his share of soul searching.
You are one of province’s select group of elite high school point guards, you are in your senior season, and for about as long as you’ve been playing, you’ve harboured the dream of March Madness and the chance to win a B.C. title.
“And then the doc tells me ‘I’m sorry to say that your ACL is torn,’” the heart-and-soul leader of Surrey’s Holy Cross Crusaders recounted earlier this week of the season-ending injury suffered in his team’s recent victory over the Vancouver College Fighting Irish in the B.C. Catholic Schools tournament title game. “It took me a few seconds to process.
“I just said ‘This is not possible’ and tears are dripping off my face so fast it’s making a puddle on the floor. I am very religious and I said ‘God, why did this happen to me? What’s the reason?’ I went home and I cried in my pillow for three hours straight. But then I woke up and I just couldn’t cry any more. I didn’t have time.”
And thus begins a 17-year-old’s response to tumult, to the kind of verdict that at a young age can seem like the end of the world.
Through the broader scope of seasoned adulthood, nothing blurs the forecast of his sunny future. Yet in youth, without the precious gift of worldly perspective, the normal response is to be selfish, not selfless.
And that’s why Konn, a remarkable study in resilience, seems cut from a different cloth.
“I’m not going to lie, tears were shed,” begins Holy Cross assistant coach Matt LeChasseur, the team’s former head coach who fought back a lot of his own just describing the team’s reaction to the news. “Kids get hurt, but when it happens in your Grade 12 year, it’s a different thing. They have put in so much time, so much energy and they want so badly to leave a legacy behind for the younger kids.
“But I can’t believe how upbeat Keegan’s been. He wanted this badly. But he’s come to every practice, every meeting and he’s pumping the guys up. He joked with me the other day ‘Hey coach, you have another coach on the bench now.’”
Ask Konn about it, and it actually isn’t a joke.
“If the guys are going through a fight within themselves, I think I can understand the situation better than the coaches because they just aren’t as close to the situation as me. And it’s because I am one of the players. I can understand them from an emotional standpoint. The guys were just as heartbroken as me. But I told them all that they can still do all of this without me.”
FROM THE GROUND UP
Mark and Melita Konn were willing to move heaven and earth to find the best place to raise their two sons, Keegan and his older brother, former Holy Cross guard Shalom.
“As new immigrants, they had to make the huge adjustment to being in a foreign country,” he says of his parents, who had first immigrated from India to the Oman, the nation on the southeast corner of the Arabian Peninsula where Konn would be born.
“When we got here, we were stuck with nothing. My parents started from ground zero. We lived in a one-bedroom apartment until they could find jobs and everyrthing they did was to sacrifice for Shalom and me.”
These days, the hard work has paid off, yet there is no mistaking where Konn has gleaned the lessons of what matters most in life.
Still, with numerous universities vying for his services next season, it seems certain that the Crusaders’ standout will get his chance at a next-level career after all.
“I know I am a little biased because I coach the guy,” says LeChasseur, “but both me and Pezz (head coach Anthony Pezzente) know that he is the best pure shooter in the province. He is automatic from three, and I think the sky is the limit for him.”
Yet the scouting report doesn’t stop there.
Konn plays the game at a tempo that would allow him a comfortable fit with the late Hank Gathers and Bo Kimble in Paul Westhead’s famed Shoot-First offence at Loyola Marymount in 1990.
“In practice, he is going full speed all the time and you see it in the games,” says LeChasseur. “ He is lightning fast and he just whips down the floor. And the thing about him is that we could be down 50 points and he is still going 1,000 miles-per-hour.”
If Holy Cross was playing Kelowna, Konn wanted to guard Mason Bourcier, if they were playing Walnut Grove he wanted Ty Rowell.
“It wasn’t even up for discussion,” laughs LeChasseur. “If we put someone else on the other team’s best player, he’d just switch.”
MY FAVOURITE MISTAKE
Like we said, Keegan Konn is cut from a different cloth.
Yet your author has a sneaking feeling that he has a story about our protagonist that tops everyone else’s.
In my mind, this one is bigger than even the 45 points Konn put up last season in the Fraser Valley playoffs against Tamanawis, a game in which he scored 17 points in the first five minutes of the third quarter on five treys and a lay-up.
In a most comical misunderstanding during this interview, I asked Konn the same question I ask every basketball player I speak with: What are you averaging?
“Ninety percent,” was his response.
Just to be clear, I’ve been in this racket twice as long as Konn has been alive, and I have never had a kid respond with his academic standing instead of his points-per-game scoing average, which happens to be a very impressive 27 points.
That’s the stuff you can’t fake. And that is why this story will have a happy ending.
Dreams die hard, but they can also be re-born. Don’t try to convince Keegan Konn otherwise.
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