PORT COQUITLAM — Last season, the Terry Fox Ravens stayed in the top four of the B.C. senior boys Big 10 Quad A basketball rankings for the entire season, including three straight weeks during February’s stretch drive to zone championships and beyond in which they sat atop the heap at No. 1.
One season later, despite the fact that his team is welcoming the daily challenges that come with a full-on youth movement, Ravens’ co-head coach Brad Petersen can only marvel at the myriad ways in which guard Cameron Slaymaker makes you forget he’s only in Grade 11.
“Last season I don’t remember how long we were sitting at No. 1, but to be the top team is pretty special, and we had a very talented line-up,” prefaced Petersen. “So for your Grade 10 player to be your best player like Cam was on many occasions, that’s really saying something.”
Arrive at the senior varsity level a year ahead of schedule, then proceed to put up 31 points and 10 rebounds in a B.C. championship quarterfinal game, like Slaymaker did last March in the Ravens’ 100-66 win over Victoria’s Oak Bay Bays, and the hope going forward is that the player in question is going to be mature enough to not only grow his game, but harness the understanding that his leadership can be just as impactful as his ability to stuff a stat sheet.
While that’s a huge ask of any player, it’s precisely what the 6-foot-4 Slaymaker has opened his arms wide to embrace, and it’s something both Petersen and fellow co-coach Mark Prinster hope begins to help the Ravens turn a corner as Terry Fox plays host to the 2020 Jonathon Taylor Legal Beagle Invitational, its annual 10-team blue-chip classic which begins a three-day run Thursday at its Port Coquitlam campus.
(Full tournament draw below)
In a tourney field which includes B.C.’s three true Quad-A heavyweights in No. 1 Centennial, No. 2 Kelowna and No. 3 Burnaby South, honourable-mention Terry Fox will open play at 6:45 p.m. against Vancouver’s Kitsilano Blue Demons.
The Ravens are fortunate to have Slaymaker, as well as senior guard Ko Takahashi back as major rotation pieces from last season’s Final Four team.
As well, senior guards Jake McFarland, a returnee working his way into a more substantial role this season, and Burnaby Mountain transfer Joao Coimbra, have helped stabilize a core group of players, one which has also begun to include Grade 11 forward Aras Jahangiri.
Yet going all the way back to the mid-1980s, it’s hard to remember a Terry Fox team whose lone top scorer was so resoundingly talented, yet still an underclassman.
And if you’ve been around the B.C. boys basketball scene for a while, then perhaps the surname is familiar.
Indeed Cam Slaymaker is the son of Paul Slaymaker, a back-to-back Lower Mainland first team all-star in 1986 and ’87, and one of the best players to ever come out of Vancouver’s Sir Winston Churchill Secondary.
And if you happen to peek through the gymnasium doors at Terry Fox in the pre-dawn hours of winter, you’re very likely to see the pair hard at work from Monday to Friday.
“We’re here at 6 a.m. every morning,” says Slaymaker, who always finds his shooting groove with his dad supplying a steady stream of passes. “For sure my dad is such a big role model in my life. He’s taught me to work hard, but he’s never been a parent to push me to do stuff. As I’ve grown older, I’ve come to want it more and he has been super supportive through the whole process.”
And without question, the parental support he’s gotten at home has shaped his ideas of what matters most in optimizing the team dynamic.
“I look at being the leader on this team as something that is more important that just baskets and points,” says Slaymaker, who won’t turn 17 until after the 2020 provincials are complete in March. “It’s about what is necessary for a team to win, about helping on and off the court with relationships. How do you bring a team together? It’s about ways that have nothing to do with basketball. At the end of the day, that’s what I care about.”
Knowing all of that, it’s perhaps no surprise that when Petersen continued his annual tradition of taking the team captain out for lunch prior to the start of the season, he saw everything he needed to see.
“I do it every year, and then I figuratively hand him the keys to the team,” says Petersen. “For a lot of Grade 11 players that might make them nervous. They’re maybe be scared to take them. Cam just snatched those keys. He was ready to take it on with all of the stuff that comes with it. He’s a coach’s dream.”
For Slaymaker’s part, he’s thrilled to let the magic of Terry Fox Legal Beagle week help he and his teammates reach a level of play they have not touched this season.
“No matter where we are ranked, we take pride in playing for Terry,” Slaymaker said of the Canadian icon for whom his school is named. “We will come out with our hearts and play for Terry.”
LEGAL BEAGLE 2020
Top Half Draw
Game 1 — 3:15 p.m. — St. George’s vs. Heritage Woods
Game 2 — 8:30 p.m. — Centennial vs. Holy Cross
Bottom Half Draw
Game 3 — 6:45 p.m. — Terry Fox vs. Kitsilano
Game 2 — 5 p.m. — Vancouver College vs. Bishop O’Byrne
Top Half Draw
Game 5 — 10 a.m. — Kelowna vs. Game 1 winner
Bottom Half Draw
Game 6 — 11:45 a.m. — Burnaby South vs. Game 2 winner
6:45 p.m. — Top half draw winners
8:30 p.m. — Bottom half draw winners
12:30 p.m. — Seventh place
2:15 p.m. — Eighth place
4 p.m. — Consolation final
5:45 p.m. — Third place
7:30 p.m. — Championship final
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