Storm's season ends with captain's return
Unfortunately for the Southridge Storm, the return of captain Austin Chang was not enough to vault the team to a spot on the podium at BC High School Boys 2A Basketball Championships earlier this month in Langley.
But the Storm, who went into the tournament as Fraser Valley champions, still finished better than they went in – they were seeded 12th and finished 10th – and part of that boost in the rankings can be attributed to the return the Grade 12 guard.
Aside from a brief on-court cameo in the team’s last home game of the regular season – for seniors night – Chang had not played a minute during the season, after injuring his knee in a pre-season practice.
“I was running back on defence, and I turned to look at the ball, but my knee just kind of didn’t come with the rest of my body when I turned, and it popped out,” he explained.
Chang said his knee didn’t immediately hurt after the play, but when he went to put weight on it after, he knew something was seriously wrong.
“I could feel the pain when I did that, and I could tell just feel something wasn’t right,” he said.
“I just felt like right then, it was the end of my season.”
It turns out, he had a torn meniscus in his knee. The injury required arthroscopic surgery, which he underwent in Dec. 2.
For the next few weeks, he had to keep all his weight off his injured leg, and after that, began a lengthy rehab process which started, Chang said, with “basically learning how to walk again. It was pretty tough.”
Sitting out was tough on him mentally, too, he said – especially during his team’s post-Christmas basketball trip to California.
“It was hard to sit on the bench and just watch the guys play those game,” he said.
As disappointed as he might’ve been at his predicament, he handled it with aplomb, Storm head coach Steve Anderson said.
“He was there every practice, every game. He was incredible.”
Chang figured his time on the bench actually helped his game in the long run, and also made him realize he might make a good coach one day.
“You see things different when you just watch. You see why certain things happened on the court,” he said, adding that his summer plans include coaching at a handful of basketball camps.
Chang continued to sit out as his teammates rolled through Fraser Valleys, eventually winning the title game over Pacific Academy in late February.
And though he his health was closer to 100 per cent when provincials began March 4, Chang still sat out the team’s opening game, a 71-61 loss to Elphinstone. A day later, however, he came off the bench to play 13 minutes in a win over Golden. He scored just one point, and missed his three shots from the field.
“I felt good out there. I’d been testing my knee in practice, so I knew my limitations, but when I got out there in a game, I had all this adrenaline, and I didn’t (think) about it at all,” Chang said.
“Mentally, I was completely there, but physically, I probably didn’t get some of those shots off like I normally would.”
Regardless of his on-court rust, his presence alone provided a boost, Anderson said.
“It was emotional for the guys, I think, to see him come back. He came in and played solid minutes. We didn’t want to overdo it, but he was able to contribute.”
After losing that opening tilt to Elphinstone, Southridge was bumped to the consolation bracket, where they ran the table until the consolation final, which they lost to Highland 56-53 in overtime.
“We had every opportunity to win it, but we just couldn’t pull it out,” Anderson said. “But we played very well. We’re happy with how we did. You always want to finish higher, but we gave a great effort.”