HALIFAX, NS–The 39th Annual Provincial Black Basketball Tournament was held in Halifax from May 18th-22nd. This year’s tournament had no “A” Division, which is annually made up of university and professional players, therefore, this year, the “A”-level-players, were sprinkled throughout the “B” Division. In essence, the “B” Division would provide a terrific platform for some of Nova Scotia’s top high school players to test themselves against many current and former, CCAA, CIS, Junior College, and NCAA players. Teams from Boston, Toronto, Montreal, joined six Nova Scotian teams to form a very talented “B” Division.
Auburn Drive Eagles, AJ Simmonds, Rickyle Beals, Shaquille Smith, suited up for Soul City, while fellow Eagles, Gentry Thomas, and Shaquille Johnson, played for P.U.S.H. Bert Beals and Dezzy Simmons of Cole Harbour Cavaliers, played for Soul City, while Cavs teammate, and Metro High School MVP, NPH #10-ranked Mandrez Downey, ran with last year’s tournament champion, Richard Preston. Tyler Scott and Marquis Clayton, both Nova Scotia natives, who played the 2010-11 season at Next Level Prep, in Oakville, Ontario, returned to Halifax, to play for Mathieu Da Costa in the PBBA Tournament. Rodell Wigginton, who now plays at Lee Academy in Maine, USA, joined Mandrez Downey on Richard Preston. DJ Smith, of Citadel High School, played for P.U.S.H. in the tournament.
DJ Smith, an 18-year-old guard, has now played in three PBBA Tournaments. This weekend he displayed his scoring prowess and defense, proving he could excel at the next level. DJ played nearly every minute for P.U.S.H., who were led by St. Bonaventure (NCAA D-1) commit, Chris Johnson, and Kilgore College (Texas, USA) big-man, Anthony Ottley Jr., a Toronto Native. Saturday evening, P.U.S.H. needed to get a win over Richard Preston, to advance to Sunday’s Final. DJ did his part, by exploding for 37 points to help P.U.S.H. get the win. For the tournament, DJ averaged 22.8 points-per-game; not bad at all for a teenager, who was named Metro’s High School Defensive Player of the Year last month.
The PBBA Tournament garners an enthusiastic environment year in and year out, with great fan support. “The crowd brings a lot of energy. They get you flowing and they push you to go harder,” explains DJ Smith.
In Sunday’s Championship Game vs. Historic Concord Baptist Church (Boston, MA), P.U.S.H. fell behind early and was never able to catch up. Boston was just too big and too experienced for the young P.U.S.H. squad. When their best big-man, Anthony Ottley Jr., was whistled for his third foul, only 11 minutes into the first half, it was obvious that it was going to be virtually impossible to contain Boston’s overwhelming size in the paint. Size proved to be the case, as Historic Concord Baptist Church cruised to a 104-87 win, to capture the 2011 PBBA “B” Division Championship.
Boston was led by Jamaal Brooks, who scored over 1000 points at the University of New Haven (NCAA D-II), and former Mount Ida (NCAA D-III) star, David Shaw. Against P.U.S.H., Brooks and Shaw both scored 26 points. Former UMASS (NCAA D-1) starter, Raheim Lamb, added 22 points in the win.
At times during the Championship Game, Shaquille Johnson, Gentry Thomas and DJ Smith were all on the court together as high school athletes. Although they didn’t get the win, playing in the PBBA Championship Game at the Saint Mary’s University Tower, was a great experience for the three secondary school standouts.
“I’ve always been able to rely on my size, but playing in this tournament really made me realize that I need to improve all aspects of my game so that I can play at the next level. There were a lot of big and strong players in the tournament, and I can’t wait to get into the gym to work on my game,” explained Shaquille Johnson, class of 2012, high school forward.
Class of 2012 guard, Gentry Thomas, started every game for P.U.S.H., and played very well. He scored his tournament high (16 points), against Historic Concord Baptist Church in a 108-89 loss on Saturday.