Old school cool defines York’s Roberts

Wednesday, December 7, 2011 – Submitted by Howard Tsumura, The Province


Alisha Roberts (left) and Riverside’s Denise Spacek battle in the 2010 HSBC final at UBC. (PNG photo)

VANCOUVER — For years, she was the baby sister, that tag-along kid who would dribble her basketball on the sidelines, inhaling the game in countless gymansiums, waiting for her chance to shine.

“I can remember her father bringing her in as a 10-year-old,” York House Tigers head coach Winston Brown was remembering earlier this week of Alisha Roberts, this season his senior starting point guard, but back then a little girl who loved the game. “I was coaching her older sister Norma on a summer club team. And I have to say, I was tempted to run that 10-year-old in the drills with the 15- and 16-year-olds to show them how it should be done.”

Those days are long past for Roberts, who on Wednesday helped lead her host Tigers to a 74-44 win over Port Coquitlam’s Archbishop Carney Stars in the opening round of the Telus Basketball Classic.

From helping lead Vancouver’s York House to a second straight B.C. Double A title last March, to gaining a spot with the B.C. Under-17 team this past summer, to earning a scholarhsip to play at NCAA Div. 1 Pepperdine next season, it’s been one series of triumphs after another for the 5-foot-7 standout.

And now, there is an entirely new challenge of leading perennial power York House into its first season of Triple A competition.

“We are all so excited,” says Roberts of the move to the province’s highest tier where this week the Tigers are ranked No. 3. “Ever since we decided, there has been an whole different atmosphere in practices. The work ethic has gone up. We returned everyone from last year and we all just felt that this was the next challenge.”

For Roberts, basketball has given her nothing but a series of new challenges to meet, even from those days when she was the little sister just wanting to show her stuff. And what she has shown herself to be is a scholar of the game, a student of its nuances.

“It is very rare that you get a player who can score from everywhere on the floor,” says Brown. “And that is so much of what we talk about as coaches who love and long for the old school days when everything was pure. These days, you get players who either shoot threes or drive. Alisha, she drives, she shoots, and she has that midrange game where she can pull up for the jump shot. With her attacking and her scoring, she is a very three-dimensional player.”

And the Pepperdine coaching staff didn’t need special glasses to appreciate what she brings to the floor.

“From what I could gather, they liked my leadership on the court,” Roberts explained. “They wanted someone who could be a scorer, but someone who could also settle the team. They also said they liked defensively how I could get up in a player’s face and how offensively, just know when to slow it down or fast break.”

And although Roberts was resolute in making her decision based on education and the fit she instantly felt with her new coaches and teammates, that drive along the Pacific Coast Highway to the Pepperdine campus in Malibu, Cal., which has been called the most scenic campus in all of the U.S., took her breath away.

“I think I had a picture of what I thought it would be, what it would look like, but it was no comparison to the actual thing,” Roberts gushed. “The last 15 minutes was all along the coast, and the water was so vast and beautiful. Beaches for miles with surfers. It was incredible.”

What hit home about the actual basketball component?

“I was really able to see how the coaches pushed the practices and motivated them to be better,” she continued. “The players were pushed to be better in a positive manner. And I was able to spend a lot of time with the team and I could tell that they were a great group of girls who really cared about each other.”

That’s the dynamic that Roberts, as a senior of influence on her team, will try as foster to an even greater degree this season with her York House teammates.

Adds Brown: “I told her it’s California, so just think of us next January when you’re walking to class in shorts.”

And now that her decision has been made, Roberts is free to focus on the added grind that will come if the Tigers do as expected and qualify for their first Triple A B.C. tournament.

The level of competition isn’t likely to surprise them, because York house has played a schedule filled with Triple A competition for years. Yet as Brown explains, there are other hurdles which will have to be overcome for the first time.

“There excitement, a little bit of nerves,” says Brown. “Call it nervous excitement. It’s unchartered territory for our school. Physically, we’re equipped, but the mental part will be the biggest hurdle for us.”

Still, the decision to move up a tier was one that Brown left up to his girls.

“At the beginning of every year, I impress upon them that it’s their team,” he said. “And the decisions made concerning the team have everything to do with them. They asssesed where they were, and what they wanted their next challenge to be.”

The Telus Classic continues with quarterfinals Thursday, semifinals Friday and the championship finals Saturday at UBC’s War Memorial Gymnasium.


At Britannia

Britannia 102 Burnaby South 49

Argyle 90 Hugh Boyd 29

At York House

York House 74 Archbishop Carney 44

Seycove 68 Kitsilano 39

At Riverside

Riverside 81 Collingwood 26

Centennial 83 Steveston-London 48

At New Westminster

New Westminster 73 Fleetwood Park 62

Handsworth 81 John Oliver 33


Top side draw

At York House

2:30 p.m. — York House vs. Seycove

At New Westminster

3:30 p.m. — New Westminster vs. Handsworth

Bottom side draw

At Britannia

2:30 p.m. — Britannia vs. Argyle

At Riverside

3:30 p.m. — Riverside vs. Centennial