Trio of U.S. squads bolster strong REB basketball tourney lineup

Title: Trio of U.S. squads bolster strong REB basketball tourney lineup
Date: December 12, 2012
Original Source: The Edmonton Journal
Synopsis: I am doing a short internship over the holidays at The Edmonton Journal. My latest piece was a preview/feature on the REB High School Basketball Invitational Tournament. This article appeared in the Dec. 13 edition of the Edmonton Journal.

EDMONTON – They say to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best. Edmonton high school basketball teams will get their chance this weekend at the REB Invitational Tournament at Jasper Place.

The tournament, which is now in its 31st year, is rich in tradition and history. That tradition includes inviting some of the top schools from the United States. This year, three U.S. squads will make the trip north hoping to continue the strong track record of American teams, who have won the tournament in 15 of the 30 years it has existed.

There’s Woodrow Wilson High School from Dallas, Texas, which won the tournament in 2010. They also have three Grade 12s who will be playing NCAA Division-I basketball next season in Zach Coleman, Trey Washington and Chance Houston, and they play four players 6-foot-7 or taller. They’re also the third-ranked 4-A team in all of Texas.

“It’s a learning experience and it’s a bonding experience,” said Woodrow Wilson head coach Patrick Washington. “Matt’s done a wonderful job putting together a terrific tournament, and I think it’s going to be really competitive. But we’re coming to try to win it all.”

There’s also J.W. North from Riverside, California, who are the top-ranked team in their division. They, too, have a pair of likely NCAA Division-I players in Adrian Hughes and Dorian Butler, and a junior, DeShone Taylor, with incredible shooting range. They also have Marcus Baugh, who will be suiting up at tight end next year for Ohio State’s football program.

And then there’s Mount Vernon, from Mount Vernon, N.Y., which has won the tournament three times, including in 1999, when they had an 11th grader who now plays for the NBA Charlotte Bobcats in Ben Gordon.

With this kind of competition coming in, the tournament has been built up to the point that it’s a must-play for any elite Edmonton-area team, with a Canadian and American waiting list that stretches from baseline to baseline.

“There are teams from all over Canada and the U.S. asking to get in each year,” said Matt Burrows, head coach of the Jasper Place Rebels senior boys’ team and the tournament co-ordinator. “We’re right where we like it right now, with a good American presence, which gets kids here excited.”

The success of the U.S. teams in recent years makes the tournament look like an uphill climb for the local squads. In fact, a Canadian team hasn’t won since 2008. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t talented teams looking to topple a Goliath.

“For teams around here, it’s a whole different level,” said Burrows. “Different size, speed and physicality. But there are a bunch of strong teams in the city here, too, plus some good out-of-province ones.”

Burrows’ Rebels are among those strong teams, having won the Totem Hoop tournament last weekend and placing third in the Mike Dea Classic two weeks ago.

“We’re feeling good about things,” said Burrows. “We’re happy with where we’re at right now. At the Mike Dea, we improved each game, and then we won the Totem Hoop. We’re definitely moving in the right direction.”

St. Francis Xavier, Ross Sheppard and Archbishop O’Leary will all join the Rebels in trying to bring the title back to Edmonton. Joining the local schools and the U.S. schools are Bev Facey from Sherwood Park, Western Canada from Calgary, Bishop James Mahoney from Sakatoon, White Rock Christian Academy from Surrey and Sir Winston Churchill from Vancouver.

While the senior girls’ side of the tournament doesn’t have U.S. teams coming in, it does have an NCAA player-in-waiting. Emma Wolfram of South Kamloops is a dominant 6-foot-5 centre who will be playing for Gonzaga University next year, making the No. 1 girls’ team in B.C. a favourite this weekend. The senior girls’ bracket has seven Alberta teams joining South Kamloops, including defending champion Western Canada from Calgary.

There are also junior boys’ and junior girls’ brackets with eight teams in each, and a slam-dunk competition to kick of the tournament on Thursday morning. Games then begin at 10:30 a.m. Thursday. The senior girls’ final is Saturday at 6 p.m., followed by the senior boys at 8 p.m.


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