Updated: May 1, 2018
Ask Nishad Tarak what drives him to be a great basketball player, and his answer is unequivocal.
“I just want to be the best” he said at his home on Vancouver Island. “I want to outwork everyone. It’s a bad feeling when someone else is working harder than you to get to where you want to be.”
It’s hard to argue that any player anywhere in British Columbia is able to lay claim to work harder than Tarak. Every day, he wakes up at 5:45 am to get to the gym at Belmont Secondary to get five hundred shots up. After his classes end at noon, he goes to the gym, gets more shots up, then goes back home to quickly rest before heading back.
“I never, never had to motivate Nishad to get him in the gym more or to go get it” said his Belmont head coach Kevin Brown. “I have [actually] told him to take a break. I said you’re not allowed in the gym for a while because perhaps he had a bad game or he was getting a bit upset with his teammates because you just get in that mode. I’ve sent him away from the gym but he’s back the second I allow him to be back.”
It’s this attitude, this determination to just get a bit better everyday, that propelled Nishad and his Belmont Bulldogs to one of the most unlikely runs in recent BC high school basketball history.
David vs. Goliath
The season started off with a simple yet seemingly improbable goal for Tarak and the Belmont Bulldogs; finish as a top five team in the province.
In hindsight, there were signs that this team could compete with some of the more hyped up teams in the 4A zone — they lost by just six to Tamanawis, and by only one to Vancouver College early in the season.
Yet after losing to Oak Bay in the Vancouver Island final 105-56, that goal seemed very much out of reach.
“It was pretty heartbreaking because one of our team goals as a team was to win Islands, that was one of our main goals” Tarak said. “We were pretty sad about it but we knew the season wasn’t over, we still had a chance to prove ourselves at provincials.”
That chance came against W.J. Mouat in the first round. Mouat was the 4th seed in the entire tournament, Belmont 13th. The Bulldogs ended up victorious 70-60, on the back of Tarak’s 24 points.
“We came there to win games” Tarak said on the mindset of the team heading into provincials. “Coach [Kevin Brown] was telling us we’re not going there to win the losing side, maybe win one game and have fun. We came there to win a few games and show people what we couldn’t prove during the regular season.”
“Knowing how he felt pressured the year before in provincials, he knew the pressure was going to come” said centre Isaac Ickovich. “With him being the senior guard, he wanted to end his senior year on a high note. I felt like his calmness affected the entire team and made the rest of us calm as well.”
The quarter-final matchup once again pitted Belmont against a highly ranked opponent, the number five Vancouver College Fighting Irish. After scoring 79 the game before, the Bulldogs limited the Irish to just 60 and completed yet another upset.
“Belmont specifically, we pride ourselves in our defence and our toughness” said Tarak. “So we didn’t think about offence, we thought about how we’re going to stop them defensively and we can worry about offence later. So we tried to shut them down defensively.”
What followed was a tough loss against Burnaby South, the eventual provincial champions. The two teams were tied near the end of the third quarter but Belmont just couldn’t hold on in the end. Always the leader, Tarak was quick to point out his error in the game.
“A big part of our team is Isaac [Ickovich], and he was in foul trouble so he had to sit” Tarak said on the loss. “So that really didn’t help us, but I don’t think that is an excuse. I feel as a leader myself that I could have stepped up, made some more shots, and we still could have won.”
A loss to Tamanawis in the 3rd place game meant Belmont finished 4th at provincials, the programs best ever finish. For his effort, Tarak was named a Second Team All-Star.
The Next Step
Tarak’s goal is to ultimately play at the university level. He has some offers so far, but does not have a team to play for currently in the fall.
It’s another David vs Goliath battle, but it is one that he has conquered before — after being cut from teams for three straight summers, it has simply reinforced Tarak’s ability to work hard and constantly grind towards his goal.
“But all those three years I didn’t go home and say ‘Why am I working hard? Its not paying off, I can’t even make the regional team.’” he said on the experience. “It’s made we work even harder. Stuff like that has motivated me even more to work even harder, to prove that I’m a player.”
“I didn't’ know him before grade nine” said Brown, “but he must have taken a [liking] to basketball before he came here. The minute I met him he wanted to be a basketball player, he wanted to be the best and he wanted to get it done.”
With some hard work, he just might get to where he wants to go.
Written by: Nick Bondi