Gallagher: Telus Basketball Classic has become just that, a classic

Thursday, December 6, 2012 – Submitted by Tony Gallagher, The Province


St. George’s Drew Urqhart, right, defends against Kelowna’s Buster Trussduring the first half of Thursday’s game in the second round of Telus Classic senior boys basketball tournament.

Photograph by: Gerry Kahrmann , PNG

With luck, year No. 13 for the Telus Basketball Classic, which concludes this weekend, will not bring about any bad luck.

After all, it’s been on a roll for young athletes in this province, and the momentum it has built up over the years has reached the point where the concept has been copied in Alberta and was seriously considered for use by the NBA in all its cities before the Grizzlies took their leave.

Here in Vancouver, thanks to the exceptional corporate support from the two title sponsors, over $700,000 in scholarships has been awarded by the Canada One Foundation to grade 12 players and dancers.

It’s been well-chronicled about how the concept was essentially drawn up by brothers Doug and Howard Kelsey, along with Lars Hansen, Ron Putzi and a few others some 15 years ago, and full disclosure here, yours truly was in on one of the first meetings long before it got going. But nobody then envisioned the growth.

Seriously, if there were any more categories of play, there wouldn’t be enough gyms in town. There’s senior boys and girls, elementary boys and girls, over 2,000 participants in the cheer and dance competition, First Nations and a youth and developmentally challenges competition.

If this thing was any more politically correct, it would make even the most doctrinaire progressive ill. But if you’ve been out to any of the venues this week, you will have seen the best of our youngsters playing their hearts out for their teams experiencing first-hand just how healthy athletics can be for their development.

One of the best features to the high-school hoop part of the whole affair, which comes very early on in the season when the coaches are still learning their own players, is that every player is supposed to get into the game.

Some coaches will turn a blind eye to the guidelines, but the best realize the value of the concept at this stage of the season, given results don’t affect who gets the scholarships, and they tend to follow them pretty well.

The dance competition is an absolute hoot, with so much action, so many kids involved that it outgrew the original War Memorial Gym venue and moved to the Richmond Skating Oval, where it’s hosted by Panther Cheer and Dance Company. If you haven’t been to this one, take your daughter out, and it won’t be long before she wants to get involved. Both boys and girls hoop semifinals in the high school divisions are at Churchill tonight and the finals are slated for UBC Saturday night.

Clearly none of it would have been possible without first Lindsay Gordon and later Ernest Yee at HSBC, and now Bob McFarlane, the CFO of Telus who is soon to step away from his post at the corporation, that was once again this year voted the most philanthropic in the world by people who purport to know such things.

McFarlane, who is probably literally having to fend off CEO offers these days, personally showed up to the media luncheon last year and was such a class act, he spent most of his time patting the departing sponsor on the back.

Howard Kelsey just Monday returned from Mexico City where he received the Governor General’s visit award from a visiting David Johnston, who was there for the inauguration of new president Enrique Pena Nieto. Kelsey got the award for what Johnston described as “a lifetime effort to represent and promote Canada in Mexico with his promotion of sports, teamwork and cultural exchange” as the founder of the Puerto Vallarta International Sports Classic.

Former UBC women’s coach and former National team member Misty Thomas, with help from a horde of volunteers, does most of the real work now, and everyone involved donates their time to keep something exceptional in our community going.

It’s year 13 all right, and hopefully that signals all ahead full speed.