Vancouver’s own VK Basketball U14 girls and AthElite Basketball Academy U14 boys will be heading to Ontario to compete with the best in Canadian club basketball.
After defeating their neighbouring province Alberta’s Genesis U14 teams, both BC clubs advance to the Jr. NBA Canada National Championships held on June 15th to June 17th in St. Catharine’s, Ontario
The National Basketball Association (NBA) and Canada Basketball joined forces to put together a series of qualifying competitions—including the Canada Nationals—for the upcoming Jr. NBA World Championship on August 7th to 12th at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex near Orlando, Florida.
“The inaugural Jr. NBA World Championship Canada Regional Finals comes at a time where basketball and the NBA in Canada has never been more popular,” said Dan MacKenzie, Vice President and Managing Director for NBA Canada. “Canadians are playing more, watching more and consuming more NBA-related content than ever before, and this event provides a new avenue to both inspire youth and contribute to grassroots development.”
Similar to the Little League World Series put on by the MLB, MacKenzie hopes the Jr. NBA event can be just as successful and says the goal is to “bring together the very best young players—boys and girls—for on-court competition, community service, life skills, and to celebrate the best values of sport.”
Elite 13-to 14-year-old boy and girl’s teams from all over the world will not only compete for a chance to represent their country, but will embody the core principles of the tournament; including teamwork, determination, community, and respect.
Values that Rav Randhawa—AthElite’s star guard for the U14 boy’s team and the top Grade 8 baller in BC—showcases both on-and-off the court. Recently he was named MVP at the Western Canada Finals.
Randhawa is beyond thrilled to go to Ontario and potentially to the Jr. NBA World Championships, too.
“My teammates and I are very excited for this opportunity and are looking forward to [hopefully] competing to represent Canada in August,” he said.
He says he will do whatever it takes to win and is most looking forward to seeing how AthElite compares to the East Coast club teams.
“My teammates and I are going to prepare through practice, going over everything we need to know defensively and offensively for the tournament in Ontario. We are going with a mindset of winning.”
Randhawa’s uncle, Coach Aman Heran, who is also the Co-Founder/Director at AthElite Basketball Academy, says these boys know what it takes to prepare for the big games, considering the team has been together since the 5th Grade.
“The opportunity to be crowned Canadian National champs is what we are most looking forward to,” said Heran.
He says the team is super excited for the Canadian Nationals, but have their eyes on the prize: “Our team is not yet satisfied as they want to be in Orlando in August.”
Team coach Rupinder Dahia says the chance to represent Canada in Florida is a completely surreal feeling.
“The team reaction was something to behold because for these kids, they set a goal for themselves when the tournament started that they wanted to go to Ontario…and when that goal was accomplished, the way they embraced one another is what makes them more than a team,” Dahia said. “It makes them brothers and forms memories that they can carry for life.”
Over on the girl’s side of the tournament, the U14 VK Basketball team is just as hype.
“This is a once-in-a-lifetime experience and we are going to enjoy every moment of this journey,” said Coach Mike Carkner. “Our group began playing together in elementary school, and along the way they have fallen in love with the game of basketball. I feel like this opportunity is a reward for all the hard work they have put in over the years.”
Coach Carkner was a point guard at Simon Fraser University and even played in the same back court as Jay Triano. He’s coached three of his daughters in youth basketball growing up in Port Coquitlam. What used to be the PoCo Galaxy team is what we see today as VK Basketball Carkner.
Alongside Carkner is Teena Frost, who says this “core” group of girls has been together since primary school, where she recalls putting up posters at Castle Park Elementary that advertised the free girl’s basketball program—something unlike anything of its kind.
VK Basketball allows for girls to engage in the sport they love without having to worry about the costs, since every single fee is covered by the club.
Frost says these girls have been playing together since the elementary school days. Something that has paid off for the team, who now have the chance to earn a berth in the Jr. NBA World Championship to play against the best U14 girls from around the globe.
“We were really excited to win the West Region and we don’t want this journey to end until we reach the World Championship in Orlando,” said Coach Frost. “There is an electricity in our practices now. The opportunity is starting to sink in and our girls want to get in the gym every day now.”
VK’s star guard, who was named MVP of the Regional finals on June 2nd, Emily Sussex being one of them.
“I feel that we should be ready for anything that comes our way because we are representing the west and don’t want to let them down,” she said. “We are so excited! To get the opportunity to represent Western Canada is amazing. I am so proud of the team for making it this far.”
Sussex and her teammates are what Coach Carkner calls the “bad news bears”: Though you might not choose any specific girl for an all-star team, you put them all together on the court, and boom! That’s when the magic happens.
“I’m incredibly proud of how this group has developed over the years, the passion they have for the game, and their willingness to do whatever it takes for the team to be successful,” said Carkner. “I have coached youth basketball for 15 years and I have never seen a group of girls so invested in each other. They are special, and they are prepared to compete for and earn every opportunity along this journey.”
AthElite’s Coach Dahia left us with a quote from Mark Twain that could not be more fitting for both these little U14 teams from BC:
“It’s not the size of the dog in the fight; it’s the size of the fight in the dog.”
Best of luck to the AthElite and VK Basketball at the Jr. NBA Canada National Championships! Keep showing the world just how much heart club basketball has in the west.
Written by: Crystal Scuor