VANCOUVER - It gained prominence on the B.C. high school basketball scene as the HSBC Classic and, since a title sponsorship change last year, it’s now the Telus Classic.
Different name, same format, and same man at the top: B.C. Sports Hall of Famer Howard Kelsey.
The 13th version of the tournament kicks into high gear Wednesday with the showcase senior high school boys and girls divisions beginning four days of competition at eight different locations. The event concludes Saturday at UBC’s War Memorial Gym.
“It’s been a format that’s been well received,” said Kelsey, who was in Mexico City last week where he received the Governor General’s Visit Medallion for contributions to Canadian-Mexican relations. “We’ve had a few changes over the years but, generally, the major portions remain the same – the high school boys and girls, and the cheerleading and dance.
“We don’t want to get away from our roots, which is to be inclusive, to give scholarships and, obviously, to give a huge kickoff to the season.”
One of the features of the Telus Classic is that every player on every team must see the floor in every game. Another is that at least one player on each team is eligible for a $1,000 scholarship to a post-secondary institution, either a university, college or trade school.
“It was something we always wanted to do but we couldn’t in the beginning because we had to get the number of scholarships in line with the number of schools that participated,” Kelsey explained. “Now we have enough money for 32 schools and each has an opportunity at a scholarship providing they apply and meet all the criteria.”
There are other awards available as well, Kelsey added, including two full four-year scholarships to a B.C. institution, one for a male player and the other for a female player. Over the life of the tournament, he says more than $700,000 in scholarships have been given out.
“We’re in a financially large league for high schools in our country,” noted Kelsey. “We have a pretty good contribution to elite and inclusive basketball for both boys and girls.”
The boys side of the tournament will feature some of the province’s top-ranked teams, among them the Kitsilano Blue Demons, White Rock Christian Academy Warriors, St. George’s Saints, Winston Churchill Bulldogs, Pitt Meadows Marauders and defending Telus champion Kelowna Owls.
One player to watch this season is Kitsilano’s Grade 12 post Luka Zaharijevic. According to Blue Demons coach Randy Coutts, Zaharijevic is now 6-8 and weighs 260 pounds. Luka is also known as The Bazooka.
“He’s a load to handle,” Coutts said. “He’s really worked on his game the last two years and become a real dominant post player in the province. The chemistry on our team is getting a lot better but our defence is one thing that we need to work on in terms of getting our game to the next level. That’s something we’re focusing on for this tournament.”
Kitsilano opens plays on its home court in a Wednesday matinee, 1:45, versus St. Thomas Aquinas, followed by Burnaby South against R.C. Palmer at 3:30. It’s one of eight sites for games Wednesday and Thursday before the scene shifts to the Winston Churchill gym for semi-finals on Friday.
In other boys opening matches Wednesday: at Vancouver College, Port Moody visits the host Fighting Irish at 2:30, followed by Panorama Ridge and Churchill at 4:15; at Sir Charles Tupper, Kelowna visits the host Tigers at 2:30, followed by St. George’s versus Elphinstone at 4:15; and at Pitt Meadows, Sardis takes on the host Marauders at 1:30, followed by WRCA and Archbishop Carney at 3:15.
In girls matches Wednesday: at York House, Archbishop Carney meets the host Tigers at 1:45, followed by Rick Hansen and Handsworth at 3:30; at Argyle, Centennial visits the host Pipers at 2:30, followed by West Vancouver and Fleetwood Park at 4:15; at Riverside, Collingwood takes on the host Rapids at 3:30, followed by St. Thomas Aquinas versus Britannia at 5:00; and at Steveston-London, Burnaby South meets the host Sharks at 2:30; followed by Brookswood and Vancouver Tech at 4:15.
Friday’s semi-finals at Churchill begin at 2:15 while Saturday’s finals at UBC are scheduled to tip-off at 5:30 (girls) and 7:15 (boys).
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