SURREY — Nick Day has to say it a few times before it starts to roll off the tongue, but once it does, he enunciates the words with pride.
“Regenerative leadership,” the head coach of Surrey’s rapidly-rising, bracket busting-minded Fleetwood Park Dragons senior boys basketball team begins.
“I think it’s what I’ve been most proud of… the guys who have been in our program and who have come back to coach and work with the kids to provide that next generation of leadership.”
On the eve of a weather-challenged Fraser Valley Quad-A championship tournament tentatively set to begin at four regional sites Wednesday, the No 10-seeded Dragons are one of those teams no one wants to play.
Denied what would have been one of the top tier’s biggest Fraser Valley in-conference upsets of the season last Saturday when it lost 82-78 in overtime to No. 5 Holy Cross in the Central championship final, Fleetwood Park begins its marathon Big Dance quest by facing No. 23 seed and city rival Panorama Ridge in an 8:15 p.m. game across town at Lord Tweedsmuir.
And speaking of regenerative leadership, Fleetwood Park is back in the B.C. high school senior varsity basketball playoff discussion for the first time since the 2014-15 campaign, one of course which ended with Day co-coaching the Dragons past East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper and to the B.C. Triple A title, the first boys senior varsity basketball title in school history.
That season, Day and Jordan Taylor, the son of longtime program guru Kerry Taylor, guided the team.
The very next season, Day went back down to the Grade 8 level, and the largely Grade 11 team which he has brought up to the senior varsity level this season is the product of nearly four years of dedicated growth together.
“For me, it’s important to look at all of the years I spent coaching with Kerry Taylor before he retired,” says Day, a 1993 Delta Secondary grad. “He was not the kind of guy to stay at the senior level. He always wanted to mentor young coaches and make sure that someday they would be ready. He got us to a good place.”
From the immediate past of the 2015 title team, to the present which includes a player who could well be the province’s most dynamic by the time he dons cap-and-gown in 2022, to the immediate future of the 2019-20 season in which the Dragons could well be permanent residents in the Big 10 provincial rankings.
It’s a past, present and future so tight-knit and closely bound.
While many schools struggle just to ensure a consistent coaching chain from Grade 8 through senior, the Dragons have not only got their bases covered, they’ve done it by leaning on their mantra of regenerative leadership.
You need only look at their current coaching roster to see Day’s multiple points of pride.
Start out with Harp Grewal, the former point guard now entrusted with the program’s overall skill development portfolio.
Back at the 2011 B.C.’s, the first ever held at the Langley Events Centre, he’s the guy who went 11-of-14 from the stripe and helped carry the Dragons to a 65-64 opening-round win over the Kitsilano Blue Demons.
The Dragons have not been back to the provincials as a largest-tiered school since.
The have, of course, won it all, and that came in the second year of Triple A being the province’s second-largest tier.
Jordan Taylor, who as mentioned co-coached the 2015 team to that B.C. Triple A crown, is himself a 2010 grad and this season continues his fine work as the head coach of the Dragons’ junior varsity.
The two players who comprised the starting back-court for that 2015 title team are also back at their alma mater. B.C. second-team all-star Armaan Khangura, who gutted out his title-run four years ago with a broken thumb, is the head coach of the Grade 8 boys team. And Noah Licas works with Taylor as the assistant coach of the JV boys.
Rounding it all out, 2012 grad Nathan Saran is an assistant under Day on the senior varsity, whose roster includes his younger brother Raymon.
There are, of course, no absolutes in determining the future development of a promising player.
The Dragons, however, have one of the best at his age group in B.C. in 6-foot-1 Grade 9 guard Rav Randhawa, who plays his club basketball with AthElite.
Wondering just how good he might be?
Consider that in the history of the Surrey RCMP tournament, only two ninth-graders had ever been named to the tournament’s first all-star team until Randhawa joined the exclusive club last month. They are none other than WRCA’s Kyle Wilson (1998) and Tamanawis’ Miguel Tomley (2015).
Of course having Grade 9s on a senior varsity roster is a matter of preference for respective programs, yet both Wilson and Tomley are two of the greatest lead guards of their generation in the B.C. high school ranks.
“When you play point guard, you’re already being asked to do a lot, but while the talent stands out, the thing I appreciate most about him is his competitive spirit,” says Day of Randhawa.
“What’s been a real interesting sign is that as teams have tried harder and harder to defend him in terms of double teams, he’s just become more and more of a facilitator,” continues Day of Randhawa, who in a semifinals loss to Lord Tweedsmuir at the RCMP tourney, nonetheless scored 36 points. Day says he’s averaged about 21 points-per-game this season.
Fleetwood Park has also welcomed back Grade 11 guard Amrit Bassi, an outstanding two-way player with Drive Basketball, who in addition to taking pride in his defence has averaged about 19 points per game according to his coach, after coming back from a torn ACL.
Bassi hurt the knee in the spring of his Grade 9 season, rehabbed furiously last season, and has come into his own this season as a player who sets the bar with the rest of his teammates for his work ethic.
“The biggest thing for Amrit is how hard he had to work to recover to come back, and his teammates have seen that,” says Day. “He never lost hope and that motivates a lot of the guys. He carries himself with a quiet confidence.”
Seniors Karan Dhanoa and Alex Stolz start in the frontcourt along with Grade 11 Bhavrup Gosal, who last week hit the shot against Holy Cross that sent the league championship final into overtime.
“I really believes that it’s our culture that sustains us,” says Day. “Having the chance to move down and work with the Grade 8s (in 2016-17) was a nice opportunity to start fresh with a group I knew well since I had coached many of their older brothers.
“Four years later, it’s been a great journey,” Day adds. “We know we are going to be a good basketball team next year, but we would love the opportunity to be in the B.C.’s this year, That said, we know how tough the Fraser Valley is.”
Last season, of course, a Holy Cross team which at one stage of the campaign was ranked No. 1, had to win a sudden-elimination game just to capture the zone’s seventh-and-final berth to the dance.
Terry Fox, Lord Tweedsmuir, Holy Cross, Tamanawis, W.J. Mouat, Semiahmoo, Heritage Woods and Walnut Grove own the top eight seeds and subsequent first-round byes.
Yet you can count Fleetwood Park in a group with the likes of Abbotsford and Centennial as teams who have consistently played the province’s top-ranked teams and are capable of assuming a giant-slaying role. Guildford Park and Seaquam, each bolstered this season by top rising JV rosters, also have their share of talent.
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