LANGLEY — Just call him the Rolls Royce of mid-season roster additions…at any level of college basketball.
Royce Sargeant has played a total of just 22 league games over the span of almost five complete seasons since he graduated from Richmond’s McNair Secondary back in 2014.
Yet despite twice putting his competitive game in moth balls for seasons at a time, and having to face what appeared to be a career-ending injury last summer, the 5-foot-9 guard is back and he’s playing the best basketball of his life.
“Not once did I think I was done,” says the 23-year-old second-year starting point guard for the Langara Falcons, who on Thursday welcome the rest of the nation as the hosts of the Canadian Collegiate Athletic Association national championships at the Langley Events Centre.
“It would have been too hard for me to stay away from basketball,” adds Sargeant whose Falcons (9-9) close out Day 1 action against the No. 1-seeded Holland College Hurricanes of Charlottetown, PEI. (full tourney schedule below)
Over the summer, while working at a go-kart track in Richmond, Sargeant had gone out onto the course in normal fashion to re-start one of the cars.
Another go-kart, however, came in from behind him, failed to stop and wound up pinning him between the two cars.
The force of the accident shattered the bone in his right heel and left a massive gash around his left foot.
Sargeant underwent surgery to have a screw inserted into the right foot and was wheel-chair bound for two months.
Just off crutches in mid-December, however, he bumped into Langara head coach Paul Eberhardt at the McNair Marlins annual alumni tournament.
“It’s a funny thing because we had just lost our point guard for second term and trying to find one at that time of the year is a pretty tough thing to do,” said Eberhardt, who has deep coaching roots in Richmond and who had previously coached Sargeant for one season at Langara, the 2016-17 campaign in which he was named to the PacWest’s All-Rookie team.
“Royce hadn’t even entered my mind because I wasn’t sure what his status was after the injury,” the coach continued. “But then he told me he was good to go. He has been a huge saviour for us.”
Sargeant wasn’t too sure how much he wanted to pursue life as a post-secondary student-athlete upon graduating from McNair Secondary in 2014.
He elected to work for two full years to better gauge the direction his life was taking, and even after he returned to the game in 2016-17 at Langara, he wasn’t sure what he wanted.
Nonetheless, there are aspects to his game which simply can’t be taught or coached and Sargeant proved that by being named to the PacWest’s All-Rookie team that season, despite the fact that all he had done the previous two was run with friends in open gym sessions.
Sargeant then proceeded to take all of 2017-18 off to work, and says that even before he had his accident, his plan was to do the same for all of 2018-19 before attempting yet another comeback.
Something about the accident, his subsequent injury-rehabilitation and his chance meeting with Eberhardt at his old high school gym, however, convinced him to come back a half-season early.
And what a second-term of 12 games it was.
Sargeant, despite his guard’s stature of 5-foot-9, led his team and rebounding at 8.3 caroms per game, a mark which was sixth best in the PacWest Conference behind five big-bodied forwards.
He was second in the PacWest in assists at 5.6 per game, and he was third on the team in scoring at 15.5 points per game.
To Eberhardt, it’s most amazing because so much of Sargeant’s game is based on his burst and he’d just returned from a shattered foot.
“His biggest asset is his footwork, his quickness and his speed” the coach explained. “An injury like his could have changed the whole way in which he played, but he’s right back to where he was before.”
On a Falcons’ team which scores a PacWest-high 96.8 ppg, but is also the conference’s second-most porous at 98.4 ppg, Sargeant has come in as its perfect high-performance motor.
“He might be the quickest kid I’ver ever coached, his speed with the ball is just something you can’t imagine,” says Eberhardt. “He gives teams fits. He’s so quick with a full-court run up, that sometimes he’s too fast even for himself.”
And the rebounding aspect?
The fact that the team’s leading boardsmith also happens to be its shortest guy is at the root of a lot of good-natured ribbing.
“Royce has a lot of fun with that, and with Grant Galbraith,” Eberhardt says, referencing his starting big man, the fifth-year 6-foot-9 product of Coquitlam-Gleneagle. “It’s all a part of that quickness, that explosive package.
Normally, the point guard will act as a safety to prevent the threat of open lay-ups off the big rebounds that come from missed three-pointers.
Sargeant, however, is so naturally adept at finding offensive boards that it’s often the team’s two-guard, team scoring leader Antonio Jhuty, who will fill that specific defensive role.
Sargeant isn’t too sure what all of the fuss is about.
“Way before basketball, soccer was my No. 1 sport and the speed which came naturally there has just carried over,” he begins. “And the rebounding? I don’t have a clue. Rebounding to me is just fun, just something I like to do.”
In mid-December, Eberhardt kept his team in a little suspense right before the Falcons were set to play an exhibition game Dec. 14 at NCAA Div. 2 Simon Fraser.
“The funny thing was Royce got signed during the inter-semester period and so he hadn’t even practiced before we played SFU,” Eberhardt said. “The day before the game, I told the team that they were getting a new player. I wouldn’t tell them who, but then Royce walked into the (locker room at SFU) the next day. Everyone smiled.”
The Falcons lost 110-60 that day, yet Sargeant, who hadn’t played in almost two seasons, was just under four months removed from a broken heel bone and was listed under another player’s name in the boxscore, still had six points, five assists and three rebounds over 16 minutes.
“I was never expecting any of this from him,” laughed Eberhardt. “It’s shocking.”
CCAA MEN’S BASKETBALL
(all games at Langley Events Centre South Court)
TOP HALF DRAW
1 p.m. — Vanier Cheetahs vs. Humber Hawks
3 p.m. — SAIT Trojans vs. Vancouver Island Mariners
BOTTOM HALF DRAW
5 p.m. — Sheridan Bruins vs. Nomades de Montmorency
7:30 p.m. — Holland Hurricanes vs. Langara Falcons
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