Just a few hours together was enough to have the Team North basketball crew believing things could be different this time around. Traditionally, the regional reps at the Ontario Summer Games have not fared particularly well, matching up on the hard court with some of the top talent in the province.
But making the jump from a player who participated a handful of years ago to now coaching the team, Ken King is encouraged by what he sees.
"I like everything," King said on Friday as the squad worked out over four days at the Ben Avery Gym at Laurentian University.
"The fact that we were able to pull kids from all corners of the region is excellent. I like the fact that we can bring in smaller, really quick guards that can shoot well and a 6-10 forward that we can post up."
It is, perhaps, the presence of 16-year-old Jonah Fogg from Sault Ste. Marie, the hulking inside presence of the aforementioned post, that most catches the eye watching the group of Grade 9 talent continue their practice sessions.
Yet it is unlikely the offensive end of the court will constitute the make-or-break element for this squad once play begins in Toronto in mid-August as part of the 2012 Games.
"We have a lot of talented guys and I think we can score on anybody," Sudbury guard Adrian Kuchtaruk said. "But if we can shut down other teams, then we'll have a chance down south."
In addition to working on a general game plan that his team must execute, King has also been focusing on building a certain amount of confidence within the 12-player roster that was finalized over the weekend.
"Just making them believe that they can work hard enough and be good enough to compete with the kids from anywhere in the province," King said. "Just being from the north isn't a handicap, by any means."
Having just completed his first year at Lockerby Composite, Kuchtaruk said he is pleased with the pace of play at tryouts, as well as the first weekend of workouts.
"It's a lot more competitive," Kuchtaruk said. "Every single guy is one of the best in northern Ontario. You have to work that much harder to make the team, to get playing time. And you get better playing with better guys. It's a really good experience."
A graduate of MacLeod Public School, Kuchtaruk enjoyed a smooth transition to high school basketball, one made that much easier by the presence of a very familiar face within the secondary school coaching ranks.
"The coaching of Eddie Picco made me a lot better, especially on defence," Kuchtaruk said. "Quick feet — that was the most important thing. And creating more pressure, working harder on the defensive end."
Team North will open play on Aug. 17, facing South Simcoe at noon and Central East in the evening. On Aug. 18, they will battle Central West and the Capital region, hoping to move on to the semifinals on Sunday.
Posted by Laurel Myers