It’s a tournament that is now impacting multiple generations.
With the Surrey RCMP Basketball Classic about to enter its 27th year, those who played in the tournament as a teenager are sometimes watching their offspring compete in the event for the first time.
The fact that a high school basketball tournament is seeping into the annual schedules of families across Surrey shows just how far the tournament has come.
“There’s some meat to it, and there’s passion behind it,” said Panorama Ridge Secondary principal and tournament organizer Kevin De Boice.
“Parents and grandparents are reading the brochures, and sometimes they’re just as excited as the students,” he said.
That kind of engagement is one of the reasons why the tournament is one of the most well-anticipated events in Surrey.
“Over the years it really grew in stature, De Boice said. I like to think of it as one of the most quality tournaments in the province.”
After beginning in 1992 as an eight-team tournament, the annual showcase now features 22 senior teams and 20 junior teams.
Over 600 players take part in this annual tournament.
Surrey’s basketball boom
De Boice was around for the tournament’s humble beginnings when now-retired RCMP officer Norm Massey helped De Boice and fellow school district employee Rick Inrig founded the tournament.
“At the time, community policing was just starting up in Surrey,” said De Boice. “We wanted to engage community policing with youth, and this is what we came up with.”
According to De Boice, Massey won an award from the RCMP in Ottawa for his involvement in starting the annual tournament. That was the moment when Surrey’s annual event went national.
Still, the tournament is very much about Surrey, and the schools competing with each other in the province’s largest district.
Teams outside of Surrey have wanted to get involved,” De Boice said, “but the tournament has been maxed out for a number of years.”
“The tournament grew in size fairly quickly.”
With Surrey’s growth and the inclusion of private schools in the tournament, it shouldn’t be a surprise that the tournament has been at capacity for a number of years.
The tournament used to include senior girls team back in the late 1990’s, but the Surrey Fire Fighters Association has taken over in supporting the ‘Goodwill Sr. Girls Basketball Classic since 2001.
It’s allowed De Boice and the rest of the organizers to continue to find ways to make this tournament better every year. They branched out by adding the junior boys’ tournament to the schedule after the girls developed their own tournament. They also hosted a three-on-three tournament in past years as another way to drum up enthusiasm.
One of the most exciting ideas that De Boice and company came up with was the inclusion of an alumni tournament for the 25th anniversary of the games in 2016.
Organizers were able to grab enough alumni to set up a 12-team tournament between previous players from the annual event. Fleetwood Park ended up winning the bragging rights.
“What we learned is that when you throw them all together in one facility, it was just like old times for most of them because they knew each other from previous years,” De Boice said.
“It was amazing to watch because they wanted us to do this every year.”
De Boice admits that it took a lot of organization to arrange the event. The tournament was moved to the Langley Events Centre that year to accommodate the 12 extra teams.
While the organization component prevents that from happening every year, the popularity of the one-off event shows just how much the tournament impacts those involved.
“When you hear stories from like that from alumni, you start to realize that this really is a big deal for kids.
Aside from the alumni, organizers also branched out by hosting an all-star game in March, featuring some of the best players in high school basketball. That tournament includes both guys and girls from high schools across Surrey.
From the court, to the classroom
One of the other ways that the annual event rewards and engages kids in the community is through scholarships handed out.
“Last year, we gave out $7,000 in scholarships to students,” said De Boice.
There are two scholarships with deep community roots that are awarded. The one that hits closest to home for most in Surrey would be the Chris Mohan and Ed Schellenberg Scholarship, which was added in 2010 in memory of the two innocent lives lost in the Surrey six murders.
Mohan played in the tournament back when he was in high school at Queen Elizabeth Secondary. His mother, Eileen, now attends the event every year to hand out the scholarship.
The other notable award is the Roger Pierlet Scholarship, which was added in 2004 in remembrance of one of the first police officers who was killed in Surrey.
The acknowledgment of these two Surrey natives, including one that played in the event, shows how deep this event is entrenched in the community.
De Boice says that some of the factors that go into picking the winner are academics, community work, volunteer work, a letter on why they deserve the scholarship and of course, basketball.
While only a select few leave the tournament with scholarship money, all of the participants in the event go home as winners.
“The tournament is a great culmination of players coming together for their schools,” said De Boice. It helps develop programs and gives kids bragging rights.
Tamanawis Secondary and White Rock Christian Academy hold most of the bragging rights in recent history. White Rock Christian has won ten titles overall, but Tamanawis has won four of the last six tournaments.