The fruits of the labour that brought together the local basketball program in the form of the Sudbury Youth Basketball Association (SYBA) were fully showcased last weekend, as the group hosted their year-end banquet.
Filling the upstairs hall of the Caruso Club, the SYBA group celebrated the successes of no less than 13 teams donning both the Jam (girls) and Selects (boys) colours at tournaments across the province.
Like most other sports that feature athletes who compete at both the high school level, as well as their club teams, balancing both schedules and using the additional experience on the court is key to helping both programs.
Lockerby Viking Grade 10 sensation Allie Chown gets it. Pressed into a key role with the senior team at her school since the graduation of Samantha Cooper, Chown finds herself motivated in both settings, adapting her game to the different environments.
"I used to be more of a defensive player, but this year, especially with Lockerby, I have to do more scoring, so I'm working more on offence instead of defence now," noted Chown, not long after being named MVP of the U16 SYBA girls team.
"Club basketball is more competitive. It makes me want to be more competitive, to be the best there, so it challenges me a lot."
Looking to crack the Team North roster this month in the hopes of attending the Ontario Summer Games in Windsor, Chown is looking at moving her game forward, hopeful of pursuing basketball beyond her high school career.
"I need to learn to play at the next level, speed up my game, my shot, my defense - work on all areas," she said.
One year younger, St. Charles College freshman Gage Louis finds himself in much the same situation.
Blessed with above-average height through most, if not all, of his youth, Louis is expanding the scope of his talent as he gets older.
"I think I have to improve my decision-making skills, my speed and my ball handling," he said.
Manning the post more often than not, Louis provided a couple of concrete examples of the need to think quickly out on the court.
"Things like passing out of a double team, backing down an opposing post and seeing someone cutting — just making smart choices on the floor," Louis outlined.
Like Chown, Louis seeks to leverage the experience of club ball to the benefit of the Cardinals basketball teams.
"It gives me an advantage, because I can kind of act as a role model when I go back to my school team, because I have a little more experience than some people," noted the MVP of the Selects U15 boys team.
Battling northern Ontario adversaries throughout the school year, Louis admits to having a fondness for one particular set of opponents.
"I enjoyed the Soo a lot," he said. "A lot of the players there are fun to play with, and against.
"A lot of them are very, very competitive, and the games are close, which pushes me a lot."
Chown and Louis were just two of the individual award winners, as recipients for all teams aged U15 and above were unveiled:
Girls U15 Jam
MVP - France Courtemanche
MVP - Jaclyn Groom
MIP - Amanda Graffi
Girls U16 Jam
MVP - Allison Chown
MIP - Jade Gauthier
Coaches Award - Katie Albert
Girls U17 Jam
MVP - Laura Graham
MIP - Nicole Conlin
Coaches Award - Andrea Zulich
Boys U15 Selects
MVP - Gage Louis
MIP - Kevin Goho and Noah Giommi
Coaches Award - Matt Kuchtaruk and Alain Huneault
Boys U16 Selects
MVP - Matt Bell
MIP - Aidan Risto
Coaches Award - Rhys Burke-Elgee
Boys U17 Selects
MVP - Noah LaPierre
MIP - Martin Mrochek
Coaches Award - Adrian Kuchtaruk
Coach Kyle Beers and the U19 Selects will officially close out the 2013-2014 SYBA season this coming weekend, heading to Cambridge to take part in the Basketball Ontario provincial championships.