Sports

Ambitious plans for TransCanada basketball program

TransCanada Basketball is hitting the fundraising trail, setting the stage for a dramatic revitalization in 2013. The popular club program has big plans for next year, and needs money to make them happen.

“We’ve got a tight-knit group of U-14s, and we have a chance to make a real impact in their lives,” said Peter Kmyta, who is leading the fundraising charge. “We have a chance to put them into a league that will challenge them and take them to places they might not get to otherwise without the fundraising.”

Places like Las Vegas.

A couple years ago, a group of older TransCanada players went to Nevada for the massive Adidas Super 64 event. The plan is to take next year’s U-14 group to the seven day event that runs in July.

“It is the biggest club tournament in North America, with the top 64 teams in the United States invited, plus another 200,” said Jake Mouritzen, who is taking over from Mike Mannes as TransCanada Basketball’s head honcho.

If fundraising goals are met, Las Vegas won’t be the only highlight on the calendar. The plan is  to have the boys attend a hoops camp at Gonzaga University, home of the NCAA powerhouse Bulldogs.

“It’s one of the best camps in Washington, attracting top notch players from all over,” Kmyta said.

All of this is a step beyond the status quo.

Mannes has worked tirelessly over the last decade, but financial limitations have forced the program to stick closer to home.  Mannes and company travelled all over Western and Northern Washington, but big trips have been rare.

“Last year we had two teams (U-14 and U-17) and we kind of went back to bare bones,” said Mourtizen, who will be coaching the U-14s along with Mannes and Greg DeVries. “We ran from mid-April to the end of June, where the club season really runs until the end of August,” Mouritzen said. “We’ve never done what Peter is suggesting we do. If we meet our fundraising goals, the season we can offer compares with anything a kid would get with the provincial select team.”

Mouritzen and Kmyta see the 2013 season as the start of something big.

Mouritzen talks about a Washington State girl who won club state championships in Grades 3 and 4, and national championships in Grades 5 and 6.

“For most of us, we don’t even start playing basketball until Grade 7, usually,” he chuckled. “The idea is to continue to develop what Mike has done, with the idea that it’s OK to introduce kids to elite basketball at much younger ages.”

Mouritzen hopes to offer programs for boys in Grades 4-6 this year.

Eventually, he wants to see TransCanada Basketball providing opportunities for kids ages six to 17.

“If you go to Richmond, Burnaby, Surrey or White Rock these opportunities have been out there always,” Mouritzen said. “The reason we haven’t been consistently competitive in a long time is because our kids have to travel a long way to find those opportunities. It’s OK in soccer and hockey to be training elite players early, and it should be in basketball as well.”

The TransCanada Basketball program has yielded tangible results.

Three recent alums have netted scholarships.

Micah Cockrill ended up at Trinity Western University.

Lucas Mannes and Josiah Cockrill both signed on with Briercrest College in Caronport, Saskatchewan.

All were glowing in their reviews of TransCanada Basketball.

“Without TransCanada, I can honestly say I would not be a college athlete today,” Mannes said.

Mouritzen coached them all at GW Graham, and saw firsthand the benefits of playing club basketball.

“Getting to play 10 months of the year at an elite level as opposed to four or five, it’s hugely beneficial,” he said. “That’s why Canada is so great at hockey, because we have kids playing it 12 months a year. You’ve got to be playing the sport as many months as possible in order to give yourself the opportunity to go to the next level. And that’s what TransCanada Basketball is doing.”

Kmyta’s fundraising efforts will mostly be aimed at businesses, with a lofty goal of $35,000. A tall mountain to climb, but he feels it’s doable.

“This isn’t just about building better players, but better people, because sports teaches you the fundamentals that will help you in life,” Kmyta said. “You make commitments. You stick to it. You see success and failure and learn how to deal with both. Having kids doing this from a younger age can only help with that, and I believe local businesses will respond to that idea.”

Contact Kmyta for info at 604-819-3917 or email peter.kmyta@telus.net.

Also, get information online at tcathletics.ca

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