A new spring basketball league for young players will build the foundation for the sport in Sooke for years to come, say organizers.
Sooke Basketball Club is behind the league, which is for boys and girls in grades 3, 4, and 5. The club has four teams with 10 players each.
Right now, many more players want to join the league, but the club’s Trevor Bligh said they’ll move ahead with the season, with the hopes of expansion next year.
“The number 1 thing is we want to provide an opportunity for these kids that are excited about basketball to get in there and we know once that opportunity is provided the league will grow,” Bligh said.
Bligh is one of the coaches for the new league. He’s always been a competitive athlete and has coached the Edward Milne community school senior boys’ basketball team for more than two decades.
He said that playing basketball changed his life.
“Basketball saved me. It kept me straight when I was sometimes going in the wrong direction, and I’ve used it to help other kids.”
Bligh will lead the new league, which runs for eight weeks and includes practices and games. He is looking forward to serving as a mentor to his young players.
”They have a lot of energy and they’re always really willing to learn which is really exciting.”
The spring league is part of a greater plan to create a feeder program for the high school’s senior basketball program.
Bligh drew inspiration when he entered a team into last fall’s Victoria City Night League, which has been around for more than 60 years, and is the stepping stone for powerhouse high school basketball teams from Oak Bay and the West Shore.
Over the years, Sooke has been unable to compete competitively at the high school level because of a smaller population and no development programs.
“In order to be competitive in the future we needed to create an in-house program,” Bligh said. “We need more kids in basketball who can compete at a higher level.”
The development doesn’t stop at the junior grades, however.
The Sooke Basketball Club also has a boys under-17 team, which later this month plays in the Best in the West tournament in Vancouver. It tips off with teams from Washighton State, Alberta and B.C. Other tournaments and exhibition games are also planned.
Former EMCS’ alumnus Alex Wright is coaching an under-15 team, consisting of players in grades 7, 8 and 9. The team’s players mainly practice and train together and will play up to three exhibition games this spring.
“It’s a great experience,” Bligh said.
BASELINES … The Sooke Basketball Club hosts a team from Denmark from May 16 to 19. Over the four-day stay here the Danes will play games against Sooke, West Shore and Oak Bay clubs.