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Bballnationals off to a hot start on Day 1

The Junior Heat Under-17 Girls taking team photos.

It’s a Monday afternoon at the Langley Events Centre. The day is beautiful; the sun is out, and the sky is clear. The temperature is somewhere in the mid 20s and outside you can start to feel the heat. But inside the LEC it’s hot too.

Upstairs in the banquet hall, laid out neatly on a table, are rows and rows of hot sauce.

Just to the left of the table, arranged into two rows of their own, is the Junior Heat Under-17 Girls team. They take some of the professional photos – “for the family” as the photographer calls it, and then some fun ones. After that the girls head over to near the doors of the banquet halls entrance, this time to the right of the hot sauce table. As the girls chat with each other after photos, adjusting their shoes sitting in a circle on the floor, one of the volunteers points out the table of hot sauce.

Half of the table is lined with hot sauce – Nando’s Peri-Peri and Garlic sauces. Covering the rest of the table are coupons to places like Brown’s Social House, but nothing is getting attention quite like the bottles of Nando’s hot sauce. As luck would have it, there are no Nando’s restaurants up in Kelowna, where the Junior Heat girls team made the trip from.

Even for the teams coming from cities that do have Nando’s, the complimentary bottles of hot sauce are a welcome bonus.

Bottles of Nando's hot sauce line a table in the banquet hall of the Langley Events Centre

“Can’t go wrong with that,” said Brendan Raycroft, a parent of one of the girls on the VK Basketball Under-13 Red team from Port Coquitlam, when asked about the hot sauce.

“It went really quick, got some hot sauce out of it. Including pictures, it was 12 of 15 minutes,” said Raycroft about checking in. Check in has to go fast because teams are arriving from all over Canada. And while everyone likes the orange-coloured spicy sauce in the small, glass bottles, they’re all really here for the orange-coloured ball that will be dribbled all over the hardwood.

For Jim Keating, the trips across the country are something that may be coming to an end. His daughter, Karoline, plays for the Rock Elite Under-17 team, all the way from St. Johns, Newfoundland.

“This is near the end of their competitive inter-provincial play,” said Keating of his daughter and her teammates, who have been mostly playing together since the age of 11. Even though Keating and his daughter are well travelled because of basketball, they’re still enjoying new experiences.

“Well this is just getting going; this’ll be my first experience at the club nationals,” said Keating.

On the first day, the tournament is just getting going. The banquet hall has periodic visitors as teams arrive in waves and go through the same experience that the Junior Heat Girls went through. Walk up the stairs to the banquet hall, get inside, take some photos and grab some hot sauce. Then walk back down the mountain of stairs and back outside. Outside the sun is out, the skies are clear and it’s hot – it’s a beautiful day. Step back inside and it’s a beautiful day for basketball. And the hot sauce is a bonus.

Written by: Mohak Sood

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