Telus has full court press for high schools

Thursday, December 1, 2011 – Submitted by Yvonne Zacharias, Vancouver Sun


Vancouver College’s Isiah Solomon and Adam Konar battle WJ Mouat’s Josh Beasley and Desmond Bassi (in red) in B.C. boys high school championship basketball tournament semi finals in March.
Photograph by: Steve Bosch, PNG files
VANCOUVER – Canada’s biggest pre-season school basketball tournament has pulled off a slam dunk. It’s out with the HSBC Basketball Classic and in with the Telus Basketball Classic.

The change in title sponsor was announced Wednesday at a lunch designed to tip off the event which starts Sunday at New Westminster secondary school with the developmentally challenged division and wraps the following Saturday with big blow-out final championship games for both boys and girls at UBC’s War Memorial Gym.

Because HSBC has been the title sponsor for so long, the acronym just slips off the tongue as easily as a basketball drops into a net. But the change in sponsor makes sense to both Howard Kelsey, the event’s co-founder, and Robert McFarlane, Telus executive vice-president and chief financial officer.

As Telus sponsors the AAA girls’ and boys’ high school finals in the spring, it seems natural that they would kick off the season with the basketball classic, said Kelsey. “The transition theoretically is seamless.”

Both he and McFarlane praised HSBC for continuing to support scholarships handed out through the basketball tournament while relinquishing the role of title sponsor. As Kelsey pointed out, such largesse is exceptional. He singled out HSBC vice-president Ernest Yee for praise in preserving the company’s role, however diminished.

Since its inception 12 years ago, over $800,000 has been given out in scholarships.

McFarlane said Telus was drawn to the tournament because it isn’t just about winning.

Although it draws the top teams from across the province, it is a grassroots type of event in which every player has to be on the court in every game and awards and scholarships are handed out based not only on athletic prowess but on community involvement and academics as well.

He added Kelsey should be praised for his leadership in pulling together one of the best, most unique tournaments in high school basketball that draws in about 2,000 players and about 100 teams in various divisions. In addition to elementary and high school boys’ and girls’ divisions, there are first nations, wheelchair and youth with developmental challenges divisions as well as a cheer and dance component.

Kelsey, a two-time Olympian, likes to dream big. For the first time, the tournament will include a team from the Okanagan, the No. 1 ranked Kelowna boys team. In the future, he is looking to host teams from other regions, provinces and countries.

While there was plenty of hoopla about the change in title sponsor, Cameron Wright and Kapilan Kunanan, two young students at Vancouver College, were just happy to be playing in the tournament.

Wright said he has been playing for about three years now. “I enjoy the workout and I enjoy the toughness in the game,” he said. “It will be very awesome if we do get to the finals.”

Kunanan said it is only natural that he plays basketball because the sport runs in his family.

“We’re pretty good but there are lots of tough teams out there,” he said.

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