Teary-eyed, Ethan Wilks walks out of the gym. His team, Wolf Pack Basketball’s Under-14 boys from Whitehorse, Yukon just kicked off Bballnationals with a heart-breaking 49-44 loss to the Shooting Stars Basketball Club. As Wilks walks back in, one of his teammates is waiting, immediately ready to console him. As the two boys walk together towards the rest of their teammates, all gathered in a huddle at the bench, Tim Brady looks on quietly.
“No, I haven’t talked to them at all,” said Brady, the boys’ coach and President of the Wolf Pack Basketball Club.
“We will,” he assured. “We’ll debrief the game, but I think they’re a little bit disappointed because they got themselves back into it.”
Despite trailing by eight points at half-time, the boys were able to tie it, but unable to seal the deal as the game waned on.
“They’ll be fine. I think they just are competitors – they don’t like to get beat,” said Brady about his boys’ performance. “For some it might be a little emotional, but I think they should be proud of how they played, actually.”
Coach Brady isn’t wearing any athletic gear. Instead, he’s dressed in a blue polo, tan pants and slightly worn-out, fading Vans. Brady’s thinly rimmed glasses and evenly trimmed white hair and beard give him the appearance of a schoolteacher, rather than a coach. But it’s a perfect fit for him, and his cool, calm and collected demeanor. It’s actually fitting that his appearance resembles that of a teacher because his team has definitely learned something from him.
Even though it was a tough loss, the fact the Brady doesn’t feel the need to say anything to his boys is quite telling; it shows their maturity. Them showing their emotions is more than normal, it’s a reminder that these boys are under 14.
“I think they handle themselves pretty well,” said Brady. “They’re focused, they’re ready to play, they’re business-like in their approach and, you know, they compete.”
Two hours ago, the Wolf Pack Basketball boys walked on to the Langley Events Centre’s Centre Court. Immediately, there’s something about them that stands out. It’s what they’re standing in – their shoes. The boys’ side of Bballnationals is yet to start but already there’s an impressive collection of basketball shoes in and around the LEC. The boys from Yukon, however, have a rotation that’s eye-popping.
Perhaps no one’s shoes catch the eye more than Elijah Morrison’s. His custom blue and yellow Kobe A.D.’s feature a gold heel clip, giving the shoes a feel that’s as regal as it is stylish. His teammate, miniature guard Miguel Portea says that Mark Mabilog, wearing a fresh pair of white and gold Apollo PG3’s, has the best shoes on the team. Portea himself is rocking a cool grey pair of the Harden Volume 2’s. “I love the cushioning,” he said about his shoes.
There is a pair of shoes that, even on a Wolf Pack team with so much swag, looks a little out of place. A pair of Air Max 270’s, typically not a shoe used for basketball, is what Jazzen Patterson is going with today. “I just got them last week,” he said. For non-basketball shoes, they have pretty good traction said Patterson.
The boys’ coach, who hadn’t yet taken the court, is here now.
“I’m hoping that what they can do is get off to a good start here,” said Brady before his U-14 team’s first game at Bballnationals. “Build a little bit of experience and a little bit of confidence in their game and in their ability to play together as a group.”
“For us, it’s really going to be about playing one game at a time, focusing on that and winning with effort,” said Brady.
Aside from effort, Brady emphasizes a pace-and-space style of play for his team, something that he feels plays to their strengths.
“I think we’ll space the floor really well,” said Brady. “We really emphasize our spacing in all of our training, so I think they have a natural inclination to be well spaced as they come down the floor.”
“We’re not bashful to shoot the ball, at all. We’re not real big so we really try to play to our strength which is our ability to run, to move.”
It’s true, Wolf Pack Basketball’s U-14 boys are undersized, but they look even more so as the Shooting Star’s U-14 team takes the floor.
“For us, we learned a lot from that game,” said Brady after the game, the 49-44 loss. “We had some mismatch trouble; they had quite a big team, but I thought we made some adjustments. We had good effort and I thought our guys competed well.”
Even though his boys are disappointed by the loss, Brady isn’t. “We want them to really just put the right effort in and just learn as they go,” said Brady before the game. After the game, Brady knows this a good lesson for his young team. But right now, he’s telling his boys to rest up and get something to eat.
Brady’s U-14 boys play their second game of Bballnationals tomorrow, but his Under-16 boys are going to arrive shortly.
“They have to check in, they have to play a game [at 4:15pm], they have to refuel and then they have to play again at 8 o’clock,” said Brady about the schedule for the rest of the day with his U-16 Boys.
With about 12 seconds left in the game, Parker Hobbis banks in a trey and Wolf Pack Basketball have tied the game up at 50. The game would go to overtime and Wolf Pack Basketball’s U-16 boys went on to win 59-55 over the BC Hawks. Even in such tense moments, Coach Brady is sitting on the bench, chewing gum. He stays seated most of the time, occasionally getting up to call a play or give instructions to his team. This time, his team was able to complete the comeback and all throughout it, Brady stayed even keeled.
If there’s one thing that the young men from the Wolf Pack Basketball Club have taken from their coach, it’s the ability to remain composed. On the court, that translates to poise; it allows them to go on runs to keep themselves in any game. With plenty of games remaining at Bballnationals, they’ll have lots of chances to show all that they’ve learned.
By: Mohak Sood