Ontario’s Top HS prospects battle at Ryerson University

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TORONTO,ON –Ryerson University is lucky to have Roy Rana as its men’s basketball team head coach and not simply because he was selected to the coaching staff of the International Team at the 2011 Nike Hoop Summit.

On March 30, 2011, Rana organized the second annual Battle of the Boards high school showcase at Ryerson’s Kerr Hall Gym. For the second year in a row, Ryerson was home to the best high school talent of six different regions of Ontario and if that showcase was any indication, the future of Canadian basketball is very bright.

“I’m very happy, it’s a great turnout,” said the Rams head coach. This event is important for Rana, because as he explained, we have the tendency to celebrate the McDonald’s All-American game, the Nike Hoop Summit, but not so much the high school talent. Which, in his eyes, is plenty. “There’s great talent on the floor, it’s a great community event.”

Rana explained that he was more fan than coach at the event. “You’re always looking for talent and for somebody that you can add to your program, but bigger than that (this event) is just a chance to give back,” he said. “It’s my roots, right? It’s where I come from, and I want to give back to it.”

This was not lost on the players, as most were thankful to Rana for organizing such an event again this year. Hassan Abdullahi, a guard from Pope John Paul II, has played in both Battle of the Boards and praises Rana. “I really give a shootout to Rana, because he’s trying to get all the Canadian guys some exposure,” said Abdullahi. “I really like Rana as a person and as an individual, because he is taking time out of his day to showcase our talent.”

In the first of three games, players of the Peel region bested players from Toronto Catholic 105-97 in what was easily the closest game of the three. The emphasis was definitely placed on offense rather than defense as is expected from such all-star type of events and a common theme throughout the night.

Abdullahi was thrilled about the game. “It’s a really great experience with a lot of great talent,” he said before adding that he has his eyes set on joining the Stoneridge prep school in California. If all goes well, Abdullahi will join a division 1 program before long. He said that, “You just have to work hard and make some sacrifices that pay off in the long run.”

The boys of Toronto Public dominated the second game, 116-104, against a team of Independent players coming from different developmental programs. Elite athleticism was on display in this game with players such as West Humber’s Darlington Osazuwa, NLP’s Theon Reefer and Oakwood’s Kevin Blake apparently intent on upping the ante with ridiculous dunk after ridiculous dunk.

“I thought that… the Toronto team’s athleticism was pretty special,” said Rana. “Darlington (Osazuwa), Aaron (Best), Kevin (Blake), those guys really put on a good show.”

Aaron Best displayed the skills and versatility that Eastern Commerce has seen all year long. “It was a great experience overall,” he said. “Everybody knows each other pretty well, and it was just a fun game.”

In the three-point shootout, Kevin Pangos, of Denison, won the event by showcasing the shooting touch that helped land him on the radar of Gonzaga University, which he will join next season. “Oh I’m pumped,” Pangos said of joining the Bulldogs. “I want to go as soon as possible, but unfortunately you got to finish school and all that.”

The dunk contest crowned Daniel Tulloch, of Glen Forest. He was the last contestant to go in the final round and had seen the other finalists, Reefer and Osazuwa, struggle with their dunks. Tulloch won the event with two strong and impressive dunks in that final round.

In the final game, players from the York region beat the boys of Durham 115-101. The game likely convinced the remaining skeptics that the Vaughan boys are for real. Ten of the 12 York players were from either Denison or Vaughan, and this familiarity with each other’s style of play helped the team overcome a strong Durham team.

“It was a lot of fun,” said Pangos. “Playing against some of the best players of the Durham region and playing with the best players of the York region was a lot of fun.”

Pangos was thrilled to be playing with Troy Reid-Knight, Andrew Wiggins and four other players of the Vaughan team this time, rather than against them as he’s used to at Denison. He said that, “It’s kind of our little rivalry.”

Jahmal Jones, a Ryerson rookie this year, was the poster-boy of last year’s Battle of the Boards and reflected on his performance. “As the cover athlete, since I was coming to Ryerson, I wanted to impress and put on a good show and was a bit nervous,” he said. Jones explained that the step from high school to the CIS is a very high one, perhaps more than is expected.

“Sometimes I like to watch even more than I enjoy playing basketball, because you learn so much,” the Ryerson point guard said.

If he did on Wednesday night, it’s likely that Jones liked what he saw.



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