The 2018-2021 Rainmakers alumni team won 72-69 over their 1946-2003 counterparts in the final game of the 2021 Jim Ciccone Memorial Rainmakers Alumni Tournament, on Dec. 18.
It shows to never underestimate youth over experience. There is always standing room for both.
The tournament held at Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS), hosted six teams, a junior and senior boys Rainmakers team plus four alumni teams with members from as far back as the graduating classes of 1946.
“It’s a chance for people just to come together,” Kevin Sawka, Rainmakers junior boys coach, said. “It’s fantastic, reconnecting with people that you spent a lot of time with through high school.”
“It means a lot to play with all the alumni people who’ve played in my position,” George Henry, Grade 12 senior boy Rainmaker player, said. “We come together for this one weekend and we all play well against each other, we see each other [and] it’s really fun.”
The event was skipped last year due to pandemic protocols, but this year sported enthusiastic, joyful bear hugs throughout the two-day event.
Never having missed a tournament since its inception, Sawka said it’s the one time of the year many former players get to see each other.
“I always tell kids I coach that the amount of time you spend together, through those high school years, through those seasons, and off-seasons working hard together towards a common goal. No one else will understand what that was like … just you and your teammates will understand.”
Filling the competitive gap between tournaments for the CHSS Rainmakers during the holiday season, the young athletes face off against their senior alumni counterparts over the course of two days. Each team benefits from an extra three tournament games to help iron out their fundamentals before the new year, Sawka said.
“There are no easy games. Even the old guys — they move the ball really well, cut really well and all that kind of stuff you know better than any high school team. So it makes it challenging,” he said.
The tournament, first hosted at the now-gone Prince Rupert Secondary, was founded in 1994 in memory of Jim Ciccone, a former Rainmakers player and minor league basketball coach. He was tragically killed when a drunk driver took his life earlier that year.
Ciccone played basketball with the current senior boy’s coach, Mel Bishop, and coached Sawka when he was in high school.
“I enjoyed him as a coach,” Sawka said.
From Sawka’s youthful perspective he said the late coach was demanding and worked his students hard, but he always carried a great sense of humour.
Not only is the tournament to remember a much-loved Prince Rupert coach, as well as a yearly reunion, the $40 player entry fees, go to sustaining basketball. Half of the money goes back into the Rainmaker basketball program while the other half goes toward the Jim Ciccone Memorial Bursary.
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Norman Galimski | Journalist
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