For Justin McChesney, free time is as foreign a concept as a sunny Rupert April evening.
These days, the Charles Hays student is either on a flight to Vancouver, on a court, or in a locker room in preparation for a busy summer, and it’s all for his third active season with Basketball BC as an under-16 provincial team member.
“I just met the team and it’s kind of the same as under-15, but this will be the first year where there’s a national [championships] held,” said the power forward.
McChesney, along with Terrace’s Marek Omerod and 10 other teammates from all over the province, will be traversing the West Coast along B.C., Washington, Oregon, California and Nevada and the summer training session will culminate with nationals in Edmonton on the last weekend in July.
McChesney has moved through the ranks and is one of only four returning junior-age team members from last year’s under-15 squad.
“Under-15 was a big step up,” said McChesney, wiping the sweat from his brow in a practice session at Charles Hays last week.
“[This year] we have a whole bunch of talent that haven’t played Basketball BC before, so it’s pretty cool.”
The team competes in elite-level tournaments and exhibition games and the six-foot-nine star’s trip to Spokane as a member of the under-14 team has stuck with him.
“That was a big trip,” he said.
“We played six games when we went to Gonzaga University. We saw Kelly Olynyk play and I look up to him. He’s from Kamloops.”
Another element to Basketball BC’s tournaments is the exposure McChesney and his team will receive. The only time the student gets down to the Lower Mainland is when the Rainmakers play the southern schools in exhibition matches and in the playoffs.
The championships in Edmonton are sanctioned by the NCAA, and viewable by NCAA coaches.
“[The program’s] always a new learning experience but it’s a good opportunity to get exposed down south and get interest in you,” said McChesney.
“I probably won’t be going down as much as I have been because of exams, but the coaches know. They’re teachers too.”
As for his competition, the usual suspects will be a threat in July, like under-15 defending champions Ontario.
“Ontario’s always going to be strong, Quebec’s going to be athletic as always but I think we’ve got a good group of guys this year. We’ve got skill, I think we can do very well.”