Updated: Jul 28, 2019
Teams aren’t just making their way from coast to coast for Bballnationals, but from north to south as well. The Dawson Creek Wildcats will be one of those teams, making the 1,100-plus kilometre trip for their debut at the tournament.
A U17 team of 10 boys will look to make a dent in their first appearance.
“We have a decent group going into grade 11 and 12 next year, who wanna make the team, they definitely want to make provincials from our Northern Zone, and then a couple of guys who I think have solid college aspirations for when they’re done high school,” says co-founder and coach Troy Burge.
“So a tournament like this down south against top clubs in the Valley and across Canada gives the team a chance to see what they need to do to make and maybe compete at provincials if all goes well, and the guys can see what kind of individuals they’re going up against for those college spots next year and the year after.”
Wrapping up their fourth season, the Wildcats has grown from 35 kids at their inception to 78 this year, with kids from grades four to 11. After coming to Dawson Creek from Chilliwack as a teacher, Burge co-founded the program with Tom Van Spronsen, who coached the senior team at Dawson Creek Secondary School (DCSS) for many years.
“When I moved up to Dawson Creek to be a teacher, I just wanted to grow basketball,” says Burge. “Basketball is a big part of what led me to being a teacher, and so I just have a passion for coaching and for sport in general.
“When I got there, there were no clubs. Grade six and seven would mostly just play one game a week in January and February, and play a little tournament in early March, and that would be all the basketball they’d play all year, and then middle school, high school kids, there’s only a couple of teams, around 10 players, and they’d play December, January, February, maybe 15 games or so, and that was sort of it.”
Now, with a club program that runs from March into the summer, he’s seen growth in the sport in the northern BC community. At the high school, for many years, there was just one team grade 10 to 12, but for the past three seasons there are two, a junior and a senior team. (Burge coaches the juniors, who in 2018, for the first time in a long time if not ever, won the North Central Zones and made it to junior provincials).
“We’ve seen quite the growth in both the number of kids playing basketball and as well as the quality of basketball they’re actually playing — they’re a lot better at the game than they were a few years ago,” he explains.
“On both sides you see guys and girls that actually play ball, love to play ball, want to get there in the mornings and work on their game, and want to do whatever it takes to travel, they actually have collegiate aspirations.”
There are a couple of players to look out for once the tournament starts.
One’s named Liam Trasy and he’s hard to miss.
“Going into grade 12, he’s 6’9”, and he’s just a beast. He’s just a beast under the hoop, he can shoot the ball from the three-point line, and he’s just the foundation of our team,” says Burge. “He’s a guy to look out for. I’ve been looking for him to go against some good guys, and see what he can do in the nest year to make the best of his university potential.”
The other, Jethro Cardines, is a fair bit smaller and a bit younger — going into grade 10 — but he too is a force on the court.
“I’ve been around basketball for a lot of years, and this kid is unbelievable. He’s quick, his IQ is crazy, he can dribble, he can shoot, he can pass, he can finish, he can play D,” says Burge.
“It’s that combination of what I consider provincial level point guard and provincial level big man. We just want to give them the experience to make a run at making provincials next year, and get them off to university in a year or two.”
For the Wildcats, the trip sees them take in eight days of basketball — landing on Sunday, the team is participating in a basketball camp in Abbotsford Monday to Thursday before competing Friday to the following Monday.
“They’re super excited,” says Burge. “A lot of those guys have not got a chance or don’t get much of a chance to come down to the Valley and be around this kind of stuff — we’re so far away up there, it’s so time consuming. So as well as just giving them a chance to get better at basketball and be exposed to these good teams and players, I’m hoping to show them a bit around the beautiful Fraser Valley of ours.”
Bballnationals starts Monday at noon. BC Sports Hub will have coverage of the entire event all the way through.
Written by: Austin Cozicar