The Province

$40,000 up for grabs in Big Ticket hoops kickoff

Scholarshi­ps add extra incentive as organizers aim for ‘something special’ at 64-team basketball showcase beginning Monday


Anthony Beyrouti hopes that the Big Ticket is just the ticket to begin the hoops season.

The high school basketball campaign officially opens on Monday and it features the kickoff of the Big Ticket, a 64-team event split over four divisions (senior boys, senior girls, junior boys, junior girls) that will have its semifinals and finals at SFU and give out $1,000 scholarshi­ps to 20 male and 20 female student-athletes thanks to sponsorshi­p from The Onni Group and Venue Kings.

Beyrouti, who’s the longtime girls basketball coach with the Argyle Pipers, is one of the organizers. He has big plans for the Big Ticket, including doubling the number of squads in all four divisions for next year, making each a 32-team event.

“We want to make something special,” said Beyrouti. “We want to be the greatest high school experience kids can have.”

The scholarshi­ps obviously play a part in that. Beyrouti is also the founder of Venue Kings, a ticket resale service. And the Onni Group, a real estate developmen­t company, is the “most philanthro­pic company you could think of, ” according to Beyrouti.

The tournament is similar to the former kickoff tournament sponsored first by HSBC and then Telus that was run by Howard Kelsey, Ron Putzi and Misty Thomas. The finals were played at UBC. It also gave out scholarshi­ps to participan­ts.

It ended a 14-year run in December, 2013 when Telus decided it was going to focus on the year-end provincial tournament­s instead.

“Howard, Ron and Misty showed us that something big is possible,” Beyrouti said. “What they put together is the best we have seen so far. They believed in the grand experience.

“There’s a void there now and we decided to do something. We want to take their attention to detail and to grandeur and put our twist and our flair on it.

“We definitely want to pay respect to what they accomplish­ed.”

Beyrouti added of the scholarshi­ps: “You have be a well-rounded individual to get one. You can’t be just a good player. There are kids who are trying to do everything well and we want to help them out.”

He was also quick to credit SFU athletic director Theresa Hanson for helping the tournament, explaining that “you need a hook and playing the finals at a university is another one for us.”

The tournament will begin at various high school gyms before moving to the SFU Friday and Saturday.

Hanson explained: “Anytime you can get high school students onto your campus and give them a chance to see the environmen­t, it’s a plus. We’re really excited about the tournament. We’re really excited to work with Anthony. He’s really sharp.”

The senior girls tournament is particular­ly intriguing, with the likes of the Walnut Grove Gators and Abbotsford Panthers as headliners.

Walnut Grove lost 67-61 to the Kelowna Owls in the Triple A provincial final last March and return several key players from that team, most notably point guard Tavia Rowell and forward Jessica Wisotzki.

Rowell has committed for next season to the Grand Canyon University Antelopes, an NCAA Div. I school in Phoenix. Wisotzki has committed to the SFU Clan.

Abbotsford finished third at last year’s provincial­s. They fell 88-71 to Walnut Grove in the semifinals and then beat the Semiahmoo Totems 82-74 in the third-place game.

 ?? GERRY KAHRMANN / PNG FILES ?? Jessica Wisotzki drives past Rylee Semeniuk in the triple-A provincial final in March between the Kelowna Owls and Walnut Grove.
GERRY KAHRMANN / PNG FILES Jessica Wisotzki drives past Rylee Semeniuk in the triple-A provincial final in March between the Kelowna Owls and Walnut Grove.

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