LANGLEY — You couldn’t take more than a few steps around the Langley Events Centre Friday morning at the Tsumura Basketball Invitational without feeling an outpouring of compassion and grief from B.C.’s tight-knit high school basketball community following the tragic loss of Raphael Alcoreza.
Sadly, the Panorama Ridge Grade 12 player, who was rushed to hospital after collapsing while with his team during a Nov. 28 game at crosstown Holy Cross Regional Secondary, was not able to recover and passed away on Thursday evening.
“A lot of the boys are good friends with Raph and it was a hard morning to find out what happened,” said Burnaby South Rebels’ head coach Mike Bell, whose No. 1-ranked team fell 73-63 to Abbotsford’s W.J. Mouat Hawks in one of four quarterfinal games.
As the Crusaders took to the floor for their pre-game warm-up prior to facing Lord Tweedsmuir at the LEC, many sported visible tributes to Alcoreza, most hand-inked messages.
One such player was Holy Cross senior guard Jamal Osei-Anim, who reflected on the loss of his friend.
“We have played basketball with and against each other since Grade 8,” said Osei-Anim. “Back then, I was at Sullivan Heights and the first time I met him must have been the third basketball game I ever played.”
Osei-Anim said he was instantly in awe.
“I really looked up to him,” he continued. “The dude came into our gym and played so well, he was phenomenal. I just wanted to be as good as he was. He completely dominated, and everybody loved him.
“From that moment we became closer, and it was the game of basketball that brought us together.”
Alcoreza was talented enough that many said he would have had the opportunity to play professionally after graduation in The Philippines.
“It’s so tragic,” continued Osei-Anim who fought back tears. “I couldn’t sleep last night. We played this game for him today, we’re doing all of this for him. People were just drawn him because he was such a nice guy and such a leader. He was the kind of person who could bring everyone closer together.”