You’ve likely heard of Bithow Wan, the standout guard from the 3A runners-up Byrne Creek Bulldogs. His slick moves, ability to see the floor, and excellent shooting ability have made him one of the top grade 11 players in all of BC.
What you may not know is how much he’s not only meant to his team, but to the community as a whole.
“Bithow is a little bit like a rockstar around here” said Byrne Creek Principal David Starr. “He is from the neighbourhood, he’s been involved in the neighbourhood, he’s played ball at the elementary school, he’s played ball for local clubs. He is a cornerstone.”
“When you see Bithow, it’s effortless for him” said assistant coach Shaun Hake on Bithow’s playing style. “He’s so smooth and when you need a shot, he can create his own shot, he can pull up from four feet beyond the arc and boom, he’s clutch.”
A star on and off the court — this is what makes Bithow Wan one of the most important players in BC high school basketball.
Reaching New Heights
Bithow Wan and the Byrne Creek Bulldogs enjoyed a level of success this season that the program has never seen.
First was a hard fought victory over R.A. McMath for the 3A Lower Mainland Championship title, the second straight for the school.
“That was amazing” Bithow said on the repeat. “It was back to back so we already knew how we were coming in there in terms of our mindset. We didn’t think about last year, we came in there hot. It felt good.”
As a result, Bithow and the Bulldogs entered the provincial tournament ranked as the number one seed. After a convincing win over Caledonia, the team was staring down an early exit when they were down at halftime to Sir Charles Tupper in the quarter-final.
“It wasn’t really what we said, we had to find it in ourselves” said Bithow on what changed at halftime. “We were playing lazy, we didn’t have any energy at all, our bench wasn’t in it. Our body language was down. We just told each other that we have to just play and have fun.”
After a hard fought semi-final game against fellow grade eleven standout Suraj Gahir and the North Delta Huskies, just one win separated his team from a provincial title.
Unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be. Although it was close throughout, Byrne Creek wasn’t able to overcome foul trouble to a lot of their top players.
“We now know what we have to improve” said Bithow on what he can take from that game heading into next season. “We just have to work on it now.”
More Than Just a Basketball Player
Immigrating to Canada from South Sudan when he was three years old, Bithow took a liking to basketball from an early age. In grade three he met Byrne Creek head coach Bal Dhillon, then working with an after school program called More Sports.
“We’ve always been together” said Bithow on his relationship with his head coach. “He taught me how to play basketball. He’s like an older brother to me. He takes care of me when I need it, he looks out for me, he makes sure I have whatever I need. He trains me hard, he pushes me to practice.”
That relationship blossomed further when Bithow started playing for the senior when he was just in grade nine.
“He’s a special player and a special kid, and he’s really led the success the program has had particularly in his grade ten year” said Dhillon on Bithow. “He’s a unique player that pushed the program to the next level, and now he’s going into high senior year. The bar is high.
[Playing since grade nine] is a unique situation to be in, not a lot of guys go through that. He has done remarkable things for the program and for his own career in basketball.”
Being on the senior basketball team for that long has allowed Bithow to become a leader for the Bulldogs, and a example of what a good work ethic can do for the greater community.
For his part, Bithow makes sure to play basketball with younger kids from the same elementary school he started playing at to pay it forward to the next stars of Byrne Creek basketball.
“It’s funny, when you see the little kids from the elementary school they kind of look up to [Bithow] like you would a movie star” said Starr. “His job is to respond to that and be a positive role model and to demonstrate what you can do not just with skill but with hard work and determination.”
“I think the impact he might have on some younger students is when younger guys see that this guy is playing at this level, that's an inspiration” said Dhillon. “They see he comes from the same community, and he’s really good with the younger kids. He takes a mentorship role in a real natural and organic way. It’s a positive impact especially when they see him play.”
And this for Bithow, might be more important than anything he will accomplish on the court.
“To be the best person I can be” said Bithow on what his future goals are. “Not even in basketball but in life.”
He’s already on his way to that goal, and next season could be his crowning achievement.
Written by: Nick Bondi