Ezekiel Appollos is enjoying every moment he has left as a high school athlete.
The 17-year-old Charles Hays Secondary School (CHSS) student has played on the Rainmakers soccer and basketball squads for the last three and four years respectively, and hopes to compete in provincials in both sports before he graduates.
“It’s kinda sad that my high school sports career is coming to an end,” he said. “But it’s a good feeling because I went through this whole process with my friends. I’ve made all these connections with my coaches and teammates and I have to give it all to them and for the school and represent them.”
Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, Appollos’ love of sport came as a young child playing soccer with his cousins. He said it’s the first sport he remembers playing.
“That’s a big staple in schools everywhere,” he said. “Even if we didn’t have a ball, we’d tie a few plastic bags together and play some soccer. It’s a big tradition here.”
Appollos’ family moved to Prince Rupert when he was four years old when his mother, a nurse, was offered a job as a nurse at the regional hospital. He said the most vivid thing he remembers about his new home was how much the weather changed compared to South Africa.
“Seeing all this different weather,” he said. “It’s sunny, it’s rainy then it’s snowing. It was crazy.”
The first winter Appollos spent in Prince Rupert left an impression on him that he never forgot. His family lived in a house suite with a hot tub, and Appollos remembers spending time in the hot tub with his sisters after long days of playing outside in the cold.
“We always made do because my sisters were always there for me and we were always there for each other,” he said. “We also had a lot of family and friends.”
Aside from the weather, Appollos said one of the most challenging things about adjusting to life in Canada was the fact that his mother worked a lot when they first arrived. He said he spent a lot of time with his sisters during this time and took up new sports as a way to make friends. While soccer was his first love, Appollos found a new passion as a hockey goalie, enjoying the teamwork, the connections he made and the skill that went into stopping the opposition from scoring.
“It’s so much fun,” he said. “Grabbing a puck out of midair coming at you really fast and making a good save.”
Appollos played hockey to the bantam level before taking up soccer and basketball in high school. While he had grown up playing soccer and was comfortable using his feet, Appollos soon learned that basketball is a game that utilizes the hands and requires an entirely different skill set.
He said the adjustment was difficult at first, and in his first organized basketball game as a Grade 9 student at CHSS, he remembers attempting a three-point shot that missed the hoop completely, hitting the top of the backboard instead.
“It was probably the worst thing that could have happened,” he said, laughing. “It stuck with me for my whole basketball career.”
Coaches and teammates helped Appollos to improve his game steadily, showing him the fundamentals of how to shoot correctly, where to be on the court at any given time and how to have correct footwork. In particular, he credited Kevin Sawka, Mel Bishop and Ryan Bishop with making him a better basketball player.
“They taught me a lot about basketball IQ, knowing where to be on the court, and knowing what to do on the court during plays,” he said.
Appollos eventually went on to play forward and shooting guard for the Rainmakers senior boys basketball team, a deep and talented squad who is ranked second in B.C. this season. He has also played on the school’s soccer team for the last three years.
This year, the Rainmakers made it to the provincial tournament for the second year in a row after a come back, 3-2 win against Kitimat on Oct. 28. CHSS fell behind a goal in the second half of the game before rallying in its final seconds to qualify for the provincial tournament.
Appollos, who was forced to sit out the game with a concussion, said watching the game was extremely intense, but seeing his teammates’ win was sweet.
“It was outrageous, everybody was in awe,” he said. “It was so clutch, it was crazy.”
Even though these will be his last experiences playing sports at a high school level, Appollos said he is appreciative of his journey, grateful to the people who have helped him along the way and excited about what the future has to offer. He said he plans to try out for teams at the university level if he can.
“I think it’s just a new chapter in my life and I’m ready to explore it and write my own story,” he said.