The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament tips off this week. Players to watch include (from left) Yale's Patrick Vandervelden

The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament tips off this week. Players to watch include (from left) Yale's Patrick Vandervelden

Hoop dreamers: Nine players to watch at Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament

The Abby Police City Basketball Tournament tips off this week. We’ve highlighted players to watch from each of the nine secondary schools.

The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament, a city-wide hoops extravaganza, tips off this week. To celebrate, we’ve highlighted players to watch from each of the nine secondary schools represented.

Patrick Vandervelden, Yale Lions

The slam dunk is the quintessential basketball highlight, but a really great shot-block can be just as sweet.

Patrick Vandervelden of the Yale Lions had such a play two weeks ago during his team’s home tourney. Facing the Bateman T-Wolves, Vandervelden charged out at a three-point shooter, unfurled his 6’9” frame and hammered the ball off the wall.

“The crowd just erupted,” he recalled with a grin. “It changed the game’s momentum for us.”

Vandervelden, who played for the B.C. U17 team last summer, is best known for shot-blocking (he had 11 in one game vs. Mouat last season), but Lions coach Al Friesen says the development of his all-around game is “fun to watch.”

Putting on weight might be Vandervelden’s biggest challenge – the lanky centre tips the scales at 160 pounds, and joked that he must burn too many calories chewing his food.

Tessa Ratzlaff, MEI Eagles

As a standout in both basketball and volleyball, Tessa Ratzlaff had options that most high school athletes can only dream of.

But variety can also tend to complicate things, and the MEI senior found it difficult to whittle things down to one post-secondary destination.

She recently knocked that off her to-do list, though, signing with the Trinity Western women’s basketball program. She’ll join the Spartans in the fall of 2014.

In the meantime, Ratzlaff has a promising senior season to attend to. Her Eagles are ranked No. 7 in AAA, led by the dynamic post duo of Ratzlaff and Taylor Claggett.

“We work well together,” Ratzlaff said. “If teams are doubling one of us, the other will be open.”

Jerome Carretas, Bateman Timberwolves

Bateman senior boys coach Virinder Braich calls Jerome Carretas his most versatile player, and that versatility shone through during the photo shoot for this article.

Asked whether he knew how to spin the ball on his finger, Carretas asked, “Which finger?” and proceeded to rotate the ball on all five digits with the greatest of ease.

The T-Wolves are a smallish team, even more so due to injuries they’re enduring early in the season. The six-foot Carretas, a talented guard, has proven to be their Swiss Army knife – he has the ability to play any of the five positions on the floor as the need arises.

“It’s really physical down there (in the paint), but I like it and I’m used to it,” he said.

Amara Hundal, Abby Traditional Titans

Abby Traditional’s Grade 11 girls basketball players are an awfully special group.

Back in 2011, during their Grade 8 year, they won the Fraser Valley championship and finished third at provincials – tremendous accomplishments for a smaller school that wasn’t previously well-known for athletics.

They’ve had a couple athletes transfer out since then, but the remaining core has gelled into a speedy, fast-breaking squad. Leading the way is shooting guard Amara Hundal.

“I’ve been playing with most of the girls since Grade 6,” she said, reflecting on her team’s bond. “We’re just really great friends, and basketball brings us closer.”

Tristan Etienne, W.J. Mouat Hawks

Given how brightly the spotlight figures to shine on him during his senior season, Tristan Etienne might consider wearing sunscreen 24/7.

The prodigious 6’10” centre – arguably the best big-man prospect from B.C. since current NBA players Rob Sacre (L.A. Lakers) and Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics) – recently landed a full-ride scholarship from the University of Washington Huskies, an NCAA Div. 1 program.

His Hawks began the season ranked No. 3 in the new AAAA tier, and they got off to a great start, knocking off the No. 1 Tamanawis Wildcats of Surrey 75-67 in exhibition action.

“It’s still early, so we can’t make too much of it, but it’s a confidence-booster,” said Etienne, who notched 31 points and 14 rebounds vs. Tamanawis.

Moriah Konynenbelt, Abby Christian Knights

When the Abby Christian Knights walk into a gym, people can’t help but stare.

It’s not every day that you see an AA girls program with three players in excess of six feet tall, but that’s precisely the luxury the Knights enjoy with Moriah Konynenbelt, Amanda de Waal and Rebekah Van Huizen.

“During warm-up, other teams will just watch,” Konynenbelt said with a chuckle, reflecting on the intimidating shadow her team casts. “It’s kind of like, ‘Oh hi, we’re nice, I swear.’”

Konynenbelt, at 6’2”, is the Knights’ leader, and she’s been working hard at adding an outside shot to her terrific post game.

Travis Van Vliet, St. John Brebeuf Bears

St. John Brebeuf senior boys coach Len De Julius frequently reminds his players that improvement is determined by how hard you work when nobody’s watching.

Travis Van Vliet, the Bears’ 6’5” senior centre, took that message to heart and enters this season with a much more versatile game than he had as a Grade 11.

“The fundamentals I work on mostly are the inside post moves,” he explained. “But more recently, I’ve been trying to improve my outside game – ball handling and outside shots, three-pointers . . . so that I’m not one-dimensional.”

Van Vliet will need to draw on his full skill set this season as the Bears, a traditional Single A school, move up to AA for the first time.

Revine Gill, Rick Hansen Hurricanes

Digging in on defence isn’t necessarily as glamorous as lighting it up offensively, but Revine Gill and the Hansen Hurricanes senior girls relish that type of blue-collar work.

“Our defence is absolutely crazy this year,” Gill enthused. “That’s what we’re pretty much known for. We’ve got some quick bodies.”

All five Hurricanes’ starters, including shooting guard Gill, are in Grade 11, and they’ve got big dreams over the next two seasons in the AA league.

“We’ve got very high hopes for this group,” co-coach Bo Sidhu said. “Our goal this year is to qualify for provincials, and next year we want to make some noise.”

Sirban Gill, Abby Senior Panthers

Sirban Gill has fashioned a reputation as a deadly three-point shooter, but he’s hoping to gain notoriety for his all-around game this season.

With an eye on becoming more of a factor driving to the hoop and at the defensive end, the Panthers senior forward has put in a great deal of work in the weight room, and revamped his diet. He’s exchanged his beloved Big Macs for salads, and it’s paid dividends.

“Fast food, chips, junk food, candy, I got rid of all that stuff,” he said with a grin. “I lost 10 pounds, so I’ve gotten way faster. I’ve been working out and shooting almost every single day.”

Gill’s squad opened the season ranked No. 3 in the province in AAA.

CITY TOURNEY AT A GLANCE

• The Abbotsford Police City Basketball Tournament runs Dec. 11-14 at seven different schools around the city.

• From Wednesday through Friday, games will run at the following gyms:

Abbotsford Senior – senior boys and girls

Bateman – Grade 9 boys

Hansen – junior boys

Mouat – junior girls

Abby Christian – Grade 8 boys

MEI – Grade 8 girls

• The finals run all day Saturday at the Columbia Bible College gym.

Gr. 9 boys – 9:30 a.m.

Gr. 8 girls – 11 a.m.

Gr. 8 boys – 12:30 p.m.

Jr. girls – 2:15 p.m.

Jr. boys – 3:45 p.m.

Sr. girls – 5:30 p.m.

Sr. boys – 7:30 p.m.

• For full schedules, visit abbypdbasketball.ca.

• The Abbotsford News will have post-game updates at abbynews.com during Saturday’s finals.

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