VANCOUVER — The Langley Events Centre will extend its status as B.C.’s host of March Madness by another week this coming season.
Vancouver’s Langara College Falcons announced Wednesday what had been rumoured for weeks, that they will host the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national men’s basketball championship tournament at the LEC from March 13-16 of 2019.
The event would follow on the heels of the B.C. senior girls and boys high school basketball championships, extending the tournament window to some 22 days.
The successful host bid was especially meaningful for Langara athletic director Jake McCallum, who back in 1997, the last time a Lower Mainland-Fraser Valley school hosted the tournament, was a player on the Falcons’ eventual third-place finisher.
“As the high school tournaments for boys and girls continue to grow, they are followed by so many people,” said McCallum. “I think that to be able piggyback on the momentum that is already there is fortunate. We’re not competing against it, and we’re able to pull from the expertise that the Langley Events Centre has in hosting these kinds of events.”
Incredibly, it will have been 22 years since Greater Vancouver-area basketball fans will have had the chance to watch the men’s CCAA nationals in their own backyard.
The last time the championships were staged in B.C., back in 2014, Langara won the national title at Squamish’s Quest University.
The B.C. locations before then? Both were at BCCAA schools who eventually left for the climes of U Sports: UNBC in 2009 and University College of the Cariboo (Thompson Rivers) in 2004.
The 1997 tourney, while hosted by Langara, was actually played at Simon Fraser University. BCIT hosted the championships in 1986.
Langara head coach Paul Eberhardt, who has guided the Falcons to first-, third- and fourth-place finishes at the CCAA nationals, is certain the CCAA’s showcase event will bring an exciting brand of play to the big stage of the LEC.
“The level of play is much more than people might expect and what makes it more appealing is it’s much more of a perimetre game,” said Eberhardt. “There are not as many big guys, the game is faster, and when we won the nationals at Quest, we averaged over 100 points-per-game.”
And, as Eberhardt stresses, due to the high cost of travel, there is virtually no interconference play within the CCAA, and that adds a surprise factor to the match-ups at nationals.
Case in point: New Westminster’s Douglas College Royals finished third in the PacWest this past regular season, but knocked off a string of higher-seeded teams to finish second at the 2018 CCAA national tournament.
For local PacWest fans, the 2018-19 season will be an especially meaningful one.
The B.C. conference, formerly known as the BCCAA, will have two teams represented in the eight-team national draw.
Langara, by virtue of its host status, is guaranteed a berth. As well, the PacWest’s champion or second-place finisher, depending on whether Langara wins the league title or not, will also be included.
“I can tell you right now, that my No. 1 job as coach of Langara is to prepare my team for March 14,” said Eberhardt of the first day of games at the national tournament. “And we’re going to have a very experienced team back.”
Led, of course, by two-time All-Canadian point guard Ravi Basra, the Winderemere grad who is back for his fourth season.
Grant Galbreath, the fifth-year forward from Gleneagle, also returns, as does Drake Downer, the former Oak Bay guard/forward who lost last season to a knee injury.
Guards Antonio Jhuty (R.C. Palmer) and Malik Holmes (Byrne Creek) are also among the key returnees. UBC transfer Harry Liu (Sir Winston Churchill), the PacWest’s Rookie of the Year, may also be returning to fortify the Falcons’ charge towards winning a second national title in five seasons.
“One of the great things about the LEC is that it really creates a great student-athlete experience, and as hosts that is the feel we want to have,” said McCallum. “So on that front, we know the event is going to be first class.”
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