Rupertites are used to being represented on the provincial stage in basketball – the most popular North Coast sport by far – but this might be a new one.
Not one, but two young Grade 8 Prince Rupert students have emerged through the thick of the toughest tryouts of their lives to make the final roster of Basketball BC’s under-14 provincial team.
Eric Lees and Liam McChesney, soon to be Charles Hays Rainmakers when they enter Grade 9 in September, both returned from Langley’s under-14 provincial team selection camp among a group of over 40 invitees from all over B.C. in late May.
They’ll fondly remember the moment that they were told they made the cut. The tryout process? Not so much.
“There was three days of gruelling, just hard three-, four-, five-hour practices. They had to determine out of almost 50 kids, 24 that would be on the team after three days … They were long hours of blood, sweat and tears. Everyone was just exhausted by the end of it and if you didn’t ice your legs by the time you got back to the hotel or wherever you were staying, tomorrow was just a bad day,” said Lees last week.
“It was really, really hard,” added McChesney.
“We did this one shooting drill that I like, where you shot the ball and closed out on the line … and we did a lot of defensive work because that’s one of the most important parts of the game.”
Through the scrimmages and drills, the four coach selection committee took aside each player in a one-on-one meeting and told them their fate with the team.
“They started calling us in one by one and they told us what our strengths and weaknesses were,” said Lees.
“They told me my athleticism is quite high for my age and that I should really use that and that I have a lot of raw potential that they’d like to mould into something great for Team B.C.”
Right alongside Lees was the equally talented McChesney, whose older brother Justin has made the under-17 team as well this year.
“I tried to be confident going in, but it’s pretty hard with the high level [of basketball],” said Liam.
“They told me that I would be playing shooting guard. I played shooting guard all this season with [Prince Rupert Middle School coach] Mr. Dalton in Grade 8,” he added.
For Lees, he’ll have to adapt to a couple changes as he’ll take on the shooting guard position as well, or as a small forward – a switch from the usual power forward role he played with the Storm.
“It’s a new experience that I think I’m going to love a lot,” he said.
Liam had done some early prep work to get ready for the tryouts.
“I’ve been working with Justin and [Rainmaker] Rosendo [Masocol] and they’ve just been trying to get me to make this team,” said Liam.
“[Justin’s] just telling me to shoot because he thinks I’m really good at that and just stay confident.”
The two friends are happy that they’ve got a fellow Rupert player along with them in the summer-long experience, guaranteeing the province will have at least two northern B.C. representatives on the squad.
“It’s awesome to have one of my Prince Rupert friends there. I honestly thought that [Liam] was going to make it and I wasn’t, so I really worked my butt off to try and be there with him and I was quite thrilled that we both made it … It makes it a lot easier for our families because we can plan things together,” said Lees.
Up next for the duo is the possibility of billeting with a host in the Lower Mainland while they attend tournaments in B.C., Washington and Las Vegas in July.
To help raise funds for his summer-long excursion with the talented team, Lees has set up an online donation page at www.makeachamp.com/hoophelp. Interested donors can help out the well-spoken athlete there.
Though it may be tough to look past July’s exciting opportunity, Lees is equally psyched to put on the Rainmakers jersey in September and adds his thanks to Charles Hays senior basketball coach Mel Bishop for recommending him.
“I’m really excited to represent the Rainmakers and show that Prince Rupert is ridiculous at basketball,” said Lees.