The Telus Vancouver Girls’ Basketball Challenge is the chance for the junior Walesmen to elevate their game and compete against some of the best basketball programs in B.C.
The head basketball coach at Prince of Wales secondary, Lori Clarke, said the Walesmen stand to gain a lot by running the court against teams from York House, the 2012 senior AAA runner’s-up, and Britannia, last year’s senior AA champions.
“Maybe they see that, maybe they see the commitment they bring and the time they put in,” she said. “I think that is the whole idea — schools can see that this is where you can go if you put the time in.”
Clarke played basketball for Canada, winning bronze at the 1986 world championships in Moscow and, as a star athlete at the University of Victoria, leading the Vikes to a national championship in which she was named MVP.
Her pedigree is sensational, but the basketball program at Prince of Wales is limited to a few months of the year, making it more recreational than elite. As a result, Clarke focuses on teaching skills beyond the jump-shot or pick-and-roll.
”I try to build a sense of commitment and hard work and challenge, because basketball is so challenging,” she said. “They struggle with that because they don’t play all year round and so they’re sometimes very challenged in the fundamentals of the game. It pushes them to overcome that and still enjoy the game.”
The sixth annual Challenge is sponsored by Telus and for the second year includes an eight-team junior draw. Six senior teams compete this year, two fewer than previously because of scheduling conflicts, said tournament spokeswoman Robyn Wilson.
Telus invested $5,000 and last year gave scholarships to at least six players. Langara College also bestowed two $1,000 bursaries.
Tournament committee member and York House senior girls basketball coach Wilson Brown said the Challenge falls in a competitive phase of the season and draws public and private schools from Vancouver that don’t often compete before playoffs.
“Not only is this a good tournament for our teams to gauge where there are at this point of the season but also, more significantly, this tournament helps to solidify and grow the girls game here in the city,” he said.
Girls basketball was much more robust in the ’90s but for various reasons has dropped in popularity with players, said Brown. “This tournament, coupled with a number of dedicated coaches and community members, has helped to revitalize girl's basketball in Vancouver. It may sound cheesy, but it's important for our program to contribute to, and be a part, of this regrowth of the sport.”
Clarke agrees, and compliments the organizers for running an excellent tournament.
“I respect what they’re trying to do and bring up the level of basketball so teams like mine, maybe they can see the way a game can be played at a different level,” she said. “It’s really good for basketball in Vancouver all-around.”
The Telus Challenge runs Jan. 23 to 25 at various locations with the championship games set for Langara.
A three-point shooting contest is open to all Vancouver basketball players, not just those competing at the Telus Challenge. Registration is limited to 16 girls in grades 8 to 12. The contest begins 6 p.m. Jan. 25 at Langara.
For a complete schedule, visit vgba.ca.