VANCOUVER — The St. John’s Jam is not just any, old high school basketball tournament.
“It’s our version of the Legal Beagle, or the Snowball,” says Jonathan Kinman, the head coach of the host St. John’s School Eagles, who in referencing some of the grandaddys of top-tiered B.C. boys high school basketball invitationals, will welcome the cream of the crop of B.C.’s Single-A boys basketball world to its Kitsilano-area campus beginning Thursday, just over a month out from the start of March Madness.
“With six of the Top 10 taking part, there is no doubt in my mind that the semifinals and finals will go a long ways towards determining a new No. 1 or at the very least, really letting us know who the No. 1 team is,” continues Kinman, who will steer his No. 9-ranked Eagles into the fray on Day 1 of the three-day tournament against Tsawwassen’s Southpointe Academy Titans.
As tier after tier have been added to the infrastructure of the B.C. boys high school game over the years, Single-A is the one tier which has remained truest to its initial roots as a classification for small town schools located in every corner of this vast province, and for the smaller private schools located within big-city environments.
And that, by itself, is enough to distinguish the St. John’s Jam as one of the most unique and important tournaments in B.C., a province larger in total land mass than the entire nation of New Zealand, or for that matter, the entire United Kingdom.
“That is what makes it so difficult to view the landscape of Single-A,” admits Kinman, who not only has the Nos. 1-2 Chilliwack pairing of Unity Christian and Highroad Academy as part of the draw, but also No. 5-ranked Barriere, No. 8 Vernon Chrisitian, honourable mention Glenlyon-Norfolk of Victoria, and even the famed Notre Dame Hounds from Wilcox, Sask.
“But that is also the beauty of Single-A basketball,” he continues. “Unlike the other tiers, you can still get the kinds of teams who just happen to have the right mix of talent, and are able to come down (to the B.C.’s) and make some serious noise, like Ron Pettigrew Christian (of Dawson Creek) did in winning it all in 2016.”
This season mark’s the 19th edition of the St. John’s Jam, and like any invitational worth its salt, it’s got some pretty interesting history.
St. John’s School, located in Vancouver’s Kitsilano neighbourhood, opened in 1986 as an International Baccalaureate school, yet its basketball identity didn’t take shape until the 2001-02 season when Kinman came to the school and staged the first Jam invitational in the most unlikely of settings.
“We didn’t have a gymnasium yet, so our first St. John’s Jam was played on the Vancouver Grizzlies training centre floor… the actual floor,” laughs Kinman of a modest event held in Richmond one season after the team had departed for Memphis.
“I can still remember that (noted professional sports physiotherapist) Alex McKechnie was working with Baron Davis out there, and one day, during the tournament, Baron came out and sat on our bench with the guys during a game. Right from the start, the concept was to create a high-calibre tournament for teams at the Single-A level.”
After starting out in Richmond, the Jam spent some years at the Kitsilano Community Centre before the school’s on-campus gymnasium facility was opened in 2011.
No. 3 Credo Christian of Langley, along with Surrey’s Ecole Gabrielle-Roy and Khalsa, and Vancouver’s Fraser Academy round out the 12-team draw.
“We don’t have that big guy on our team this year who is going to go out and get us a lot of rebounds,” admits Kinman, who has leaned on his senior trio of Martin Chen, Allan Pan and Steven Li who find time to not only lead their team but thrive academically in the school’s demanding IB atmosphere.
“We’ll go out there and we’ll play fast and quick, and we’ll get a much better idea of where we stand,” added Kinman of final true provincial checkpoint before the B.C. championships tip off March 4-7 at the Langley Events Centre.
Friday’s St. John’s Jam semifinals are slated for 7:30 and 9:15 p.m., with Saturday’s tourney final tipping off at 5:45 p.m.
St. John’s School is located at 2215 West 10th Ave., in Vancouver.
ST. JOHN’S JAM 2020
(Championship round games)
TOP HALF DRAW
Game 1 5:30 p.m. — Ecole Gabrielle-Roy vs. Notre Dame (Sask.)
Game 2 2 p.m. — Highroad Academy vs. Fraser Academy
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
Game 3 3:45 p.m. — St. John’s vs. Southpointe Academy
Game 4 7:15 p.m. — Credo Christian vs. Khalsa
TOP HALF DRAW
9 a.m. — Unity Christian vs. Game 1 winner
10:45 a.m. — Glenlyon Norfolk vs. Game 2 winner
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
12:30 p.m. — Barriere vs. Game 3 winner
2:30 p.m. — Vernon Christian vs. Game 4 winner
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
7:30 p.m. — Top-half winners
9:15 p.m. — Bottom-half winners
4 p.m. — Third-fourth place
5:45 p.m. — Championship final
1 Unity Christian Flames (Chilliwack) (LW-1)
2 Highroad Academy Knights (Chilliwack) (2)
3 Credo Christian Kodiaks (Langley) (3)
4 Kelowna Christian Knights (4)
5 Barriere Secondary Cougars (5)
6 King David Lions (Vancouver) (6)
7 Cedars Christian Eagles (Prince George) (7)
8 Vernon Christian Royals (8)
9 St. John’s Eagles (Vancouver) (9)
10 Gudangaay Tiaat’sgaa Naay Thunder (Masset) (HM)
10 McBride Mustangs (10)
HONOURABLE MENTION — Osoyoos Rattlers (HM), Glenlyon Norfolk Gryphons (Victoria) (HM), Similkameen Sparks (Keremeos) (HM), Lakes District Lakers (Burns Lake) (NR)
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