Another Prince Rupert basketball star is set to have a busy summer, as Kai Leighton was named to the U15 Team BC squad last week.
Leighton, 14, joins Liam McChesney who was named to the U17 team earlier. Leighton showed off his promise this past season in his first year as a Charles Hays Rainmaker. His raw scoring ability was a consistent highlight.
The tryouts were held at Vancouver College a few weeks ago, which Leighton said involved a lot of one-on-one skill tests and then some five-on-five at the end.
“I think it was my shooting and just that I was a bigger guard so I can take smaller guys, take them into the post or if a bigger guy tries to match up with me on the perimeter, I can take him,” Leighton said.
Lloyd Scrubb, from Vancouver College, will be coaching the team this season. He praised Leighton’s abilities.
“Kai shoots the ball well from the mid-range and from the three-point line. He also competes on defence. I believe he will play at the three and four spots with us, using his ball skills to take bigger defenders off the dribble,” Scrubb said, adding that Leighton will use his good size to post up smaller defenders inside.
His involvement with Basketball BC will include three tournaments in the United States and then the Canadian National Basketball Championships in Regina at the end of July. He is in Vancouver right now, starting to practice with the team before a pair of May tournaments in Salem, Oregon and Seattle.
Leighton said he feels he has a lot to contribute.
“I think that I bring leadership as an elite guard and a lot of hard work,” he said.
The ninth-grader has some goals in mind that he would like to achieve before next season, when he will be joining the senior Rainmakers as a Grade 10 player.
“I want to get faster. Everything has to be sped up and I have to get stronger. At the junior level, I could push guys around and dominate guys but I won’t be able to do that at the senior level so my game really has to improve and I have to get bigger,” Leighton said.
He also qualified for the North America Indigenous Games but chose Basketball BC because it means more basketball and he said it’s something he has always wanted to do.
This past season as a first-time Rainmaker, Leighton said he thought he played well.
“It was more my teammates doing a good job of getting me open and getting me looks that I wanted. I was just able to hit those shots that my teammates got me and it was a good season,” he said, adding that he thought his shooting improved over the year.
He also expressed his gratefulness to his coaches for helping him out all season and his family for paying for his trips and constantly supporting him.