GLIMPSE OF THE FUTURE
U of A Golden Bears host high school basketball showcase
The University of Alberta Golden Bears basketball team may be on their exam hiatus, but there will still be high-end games taking place at the Saville Community Sports Centre on Saturday.
The Golden Bears are hosting their third annual High School Showcase, featuring four top teams in the city.
The Strathcona Lords will face the St. Francis Xavier Rams (5 p.m.) in the opening game, followed by the Harry Ainlay Titans against the Archbishop O’leary Spartans (7 p.m.) in the second contest.
“It’s just a single night affair. We do it to kick off the high school basketball season,” said Golden Bears head coach Barnaby Craddock. “I think it’s pretty cool to have those guys come into our campus and play. We host it just like one of our Golden Bears games, so it’s got the full bleachers out, and it’s a cool place for those high school kids to play.”
Having four high school teams play on the Golden Bears’ home court allows Braddock and his coaching staff to get an up-close look at some of the top basketball talent in the city.
It also give players a sense of what it might be like to play for the Golden Bears once they graduate high school. The basketball program at the U of A has always recruited heavily within the city, and a number of players on this year’s roster are homegrown.
“We’d love to have as many Edmonton guys on the team as possible and Alberta guys after that,” Craddock said. “The mandate is that we want to be competitive for a national championship. If we have to reach further than the province of Alberta in a given year and we do that with our recruiting, we will. But it’s obviously fantastic to see some of these local kids up front, first and foremost. That’s what we would prefer to have in our program.”
The two games serve as the regular-season opener for the Metro Edmonton High School Athletics Senior Boys Basketball season. The rest of the league begins play Monday. The high school basketball league runs from December through March.
“It’s a good time, the crowds have been pretty good, around 1,000 people per game the last couple of years we’ve held this,” Craddock said. “We get a pretty nice turnout. One year, it was around -30 C. It was one of the coldest days of the year and we still had about 1,000 people there. It’s been pretty well attended for a high school basketball event.”
The showcase event also allows Craddock to maintain a good relationship with the high school programs throughout the city. In order to stay competitive in an ever-growing Canada West Conference, the University of Alberta has to compete against more schools for top high school prospects.
“We’ve got some great high school coaches that have been doing a great job through Edmonton for years now,” Craddock said. “One of our alumni, Dave Youngs, has been doing a great job at Ross Sheppard. The coach at Harry Ainlay, George Hoyt, does an awesome job.
“There are other young, up-and-coming coaches that are doing a great job. I think the Edmonton basketball community is thriving, there are lots of passionate people on both the boys’ and the girls’ side. We’re talking about expanding this to girls’ teams in the future as well.”