The Smythe is right for Tupper
Tuesday, December 6, 2011 – Submitted by Howard Tsumura, The Province
Cam Smythe (left) battles at the BC championships last March. (PNG photo)
VANCOUVER — In a manner of speaking, you could say that Cameron Smythe’s growth spurt, brisk in pace yet steady in its high annual yield, is a direct reflection of the qualities he now brings to the court as a centre of attention with the senior boys basketball team at East Vancouver’s Sir Charles Tupper Secondary.
“He is like that tall cedar tree in front of your house that protects you from the wind and shades you from the sun,” Tupper head coach Jeff Gourley says of his graceful 7-foot senior, who will be in action today (2:30 p.m.) as the No. 10-ranked Tigers play host to North Vancouver’s Argyle Pipers in Sweet 16 opening-round action at the annual Telus Basketball Classic. “The fascinating thing with him is, through all of those growth spurts, he’s never had a second of being uncoordinated.”
Ask Smythe to count the ways to seven feet, and the pattern is indeed of consistency.
“Let’s see, I was 6-3 in Grade 7,” the Grade 12 Smythe remembers. “Then I was 6-5 in Grade 8, 6-8 in Grade 9, 6-10 in Grade 10.”
These days, few wear the game’s ultimate height standard as comfortably as the Tigers’ multi-dimensional big man, who defies standard description by boasting a fluid running stride and a jump-shooting motion as pure as a dead-eye shooting guard.
“He gets his eight-to-10 points a game at the rim,” remarks Gourley. “But where he is killing it right now is from the elbows and from the three-point line. He has perfect shooting mechanics. And the way he can run the floor for a seven-footer is remarkable.”
Put it all together and you get the kind of performance you saw Saturday, when Smythe poured in 42 points to go along with 14 rebounds, 10 blocks and three assists as the Tigers topped crosstown rivals Sir Winston Churchill 79-72 in the championship final of Point Grey Secondary’s Keenlyside Classic.
In that game, Smythe was not only knocked down a trey as part of a 15-for-20 night from the field, he also went 11-for-11 from the free throw line.
Thus far, in Tupper’s first four games, Smythe has scored 114 points in 116 minutes, with averages of 28.5 points, 14.0 rebounds, and 4.0 assists.
But besides the numbers, on a young and impressionable Tigers team, Smythe is as concerned about hitting high averages every game in the leadership department.
The confidence that comes from helping lead the frontcourt charge for B.C. at the Under-17 national championships this summer can’t be ignored, and neither can back-to-back trips to the B.C. Triple A high school championships the past two seasons.
Smythe wants to make it three straight, but with program anchors like point guard James Lum (Capilano University) and forward Warren Liang (St. Mary’s) now focussed on collegiate careers, it’s the big guy’s turn to become a leader.
“I learned from James and Warren, but now I need to fine to tune it all on my own,” Smythe says of carrying himself in a leader’s role. “I had played with all of (last season’s) Grade 12s since I was in Grade 9 and that chemistry happened on its own, but now they’re all gone and it’s hard to come in with a new group of guys. The Grade 11s this year are a little nervous. It’s a completely different competitive nature for them playing senior basketball. But they will get comfortable and it will all come together.”
In addition, Smythe is working hard to insure his entire physical package comes together, but trying to add mass to his slight 190-pound frame is not as easy as just filling the dinner plate with extra helpings.
“It’s not paying off as much as I’d like it to,” laughs Smythe, who makes a habit of hitting the weight room, as well as the nearby Tomokazu Restaurant for all-you-can-eat sushi nights. “Coaches tell me it will come, and to just keep working at it. I try to eat as much as I can.”
Still, he’s the poster boy for East Vancouver basketball, and he’s quickly become a favourite of the fans and the school’s dedicated alumni.
In fact when Gourley staged the annual grad game at Tupper recently, nearly 50 former players showed up. And what did most of them want?
“To get their pictures taken with Cameron,” laughed Gourley. “That’s kind of where he sits in the whole hierarchy of our program.”
TELUS BASKETBALL CLASSIC (through Saturday)
SWEET 16 ROUND
At Kitsilano: New Westminster vs. Kitsilano (1:45 p.m.), Tamanawis vs. Kelowna (3:30 p.m.)
At Tupper: Argyle vs. Tupper (2:30 p.m.), Sullivan Heights vs. St. George’s (4:15 p.m.)
At Vancouver College: Southridge vs. Vancouver College (2:30 p.m.), Churchill vs. Burnaby South (4:15 p.m.)
At White Rock Christian: Pitt Meadows vs. WRCA (2:30 p.m.), RC Palmer vs. Windsor (4:15 p.m.)
At Britannia: Burnaby South vs. Britannia (2:30 p.m.), Hugh Boyd vs. Argyle (4:15 p.m.)
At York House: Van Tech vs. York House (2:30 p.m.), Kitsilano vs. Seycove (4:15 p.m.)
At Riverside: Collingwood vs. Riverside (3:30 p.m.), Steveston-London vs. Centennial (5 p.m.)
At New Westminster: Fleetwood Park vs. New Westminster (3:30 p.m.), John Oliver vs. Handsworth (5:15 p.m.)