The National Preparatory Association is proud to announce St. Michael’s College School, out of Toronto, Ontario as its third member of the league.
The St. Mikes Blue Raiders join Toronto Basketball Academy and New Brunswick’s Rothesay Netherwood as the first NPA members introduced.
The St. Mikes basketball program, rich in tradition, has been under the watchful tutelage of Head Coach Jeff Zownir, who enters his 22nd season at the helm for the school. Zownir notes the program’s storied history, as he remembers his time as a student-athlete at SMC, and how that has transitioned through the years.
“Guys like Dan Prendergast and Mike Lavelle, were great coaches in the past, who were really great role models for myself and the guys I played with,” Zownir recalls. “Prior to me playing there we had some great athletes like Leo and George Rautins, George Papadakos, there were a number or people who set the tone in terms of the basketball side of things.”
St. Mikes has been a powerhouse on the Canadian basketball scene for nearly a decade now, taking home three of the past five OFSSA championships in the highest division. The structure for athletics had been in place well before that, as St. Mikes has had traditionally dominant hockey and football programs, but Zownir points out that any program is only as good as its players on the court.
“I think we’ve always said we run a pretty good program, but of course you need some outstanding players, players who will play at the next level, to bring your program to that peak,” said Zownir.
“We were fortunate with some of the kids that we got into the program that brought us to another level.”
Recent alumni include South Carolina’s Duane Notice, Oregon State’s Malcolm Duvivier, and St. Bonaventure’s Nelson Kaputo–all of which have proudly represented the Canadian national program in their careers, in addition to the SMC.
“Having those guys in the program that are the right fit, who can handle the academic load, while at the same time being leaders on the basketball court, it’s been a really fun experience.”
“I think once you get that winning atmosphere and the culture, it really passes itself along from one generation to the next.”
The National Preparatory Association provides a new opportunity for St. Mikes who, despite being a private school, has focused on playing in the traditional private high schools in orange county and high school structure in Ontario. St. Mikes has competed in some of the top tournaments on both sides of the border, but has also stayed in the private school league CISAA and competed in OFSAA.
“I think its a great opportunity for our program, there’s a real shift in the way basketball has carried itself out in terms of the high school scence,” says Zownir.
“Going back 10 years now, there’s been so many kids that have left Canada to go to the States. The most important thing for me is that the kids are staying in Canada.”
“I’ve always said, if the best kids are all here, our games would be as exciting as any game in the US, guaranteed. Now we’ve got kids across the board that can compete with the Americans, we had it on a smaller scale many years ago, but now we have so many good players that want to be playing at the Division 1 level, playing professionally, playing in the NBA, and I think that opportunity is here.”
St. Mikes will field another strong team this season, led by National team member Danilo Djuricic, a prospect with an incredible shooting stroke and one of the most versatile defenders in his class.
“Obviously Danilo Djuricic, we are looking for him to have a great last year at St. Mikes, help put him in a D1 program that’s best suited for him,” said Zownir.
“I think we had a really young team last year that got some great experience, there was a lot of growth there, but we are looking for guys to step up. Guys like Kobey Lam, this will be his third year playing senior basketball, he’s only grade 11 but he’s got some talent and has shown he can play at that level. Guys like Inaki Alvarez, Sam Rautins, they did some good things last year but it wasn’t consistent”
SMC will expect new additions to the roster before the fall, however the returning players have high expectations, stemming from themselves and coach alike.
“Those guys gotta step up and be better, and I know they will be. We have a high intellectual style of basketball, these guys have to think and play, sometimes coming up from junior they are not used to that, but having a year under their belts will really help.”
Every wave of up and coming Blue Raiders features elite level guards, and there is another one surfacing by the name of Kyle Duke–who is one of the top young prospects in his class.
Duke played junior Basketball for us last year, he’s an incoming freshman, but he’s a very highly touted guard, and we know he can step in as a possible varsity player as well.”
St Michael’s past has been filled with a strong basketball tradition, the present maintains the same level of excellence, and the future is ever evolving.
The SMC Blue Raiders will compete for a national title in the NPA, tipping of this fall.
Different level, but the same championship pedigree.