SURREY — After watching more than 600 young players dribble, shoot and score for a full week, Rick Inrig and Kevin De Boice probably deserve a bit of a break from basketball.
As volunteers, Inrig and De Boice say they embrace the job of organizing one of B.C.’s largest and longest-running tournaments.
“I think you’d be hard-pressed to find any other community in the province right now that could compare with this type of tournament, in terms of numbers and support, and number of teams,” Inrig told the Now-Leader.
“I’ve been around basketball a long time, so to see this kind of stuff going on in Surrey, it’s good for Surrey.”
The tourney was first launched 27 years ago by Inrig and former RCMP officer Norm Massie, who has since moved to Ontario. De Boice was a coach at the time, and soon joined the tournament organizing team.
Inrig and De Boice first met on a basketball court years earlier.
“I was playing in Kelowna and he was coaching in Vernon, back in the early ‘70s,” De Boice recalled.
“We go way back.”
This year’s Classic featured 22 senior teams and 20 junior squads playing at school gyms across the city.
At Enver Creek Secondary on Saturday evening (Jan. 20), the senior-division final saw Semiahmoo Totems top Tamanawis Wildcats by a score of 73-64, to take the tourney title for a second year in a row.
“It was a pretty exciting game, that’s for sure — a game of two different halves,” said Inrig, noting the Totems’ effort to come back from an 18-point deficit at halftime against a Tamanawis team led by star guard Miguel Tomley.
In the junior division, Tamanawis beat Lord Tweedsmuir for the Classic championship.
Each year, the tournament distributes up to $10,000 in scholarships to deserving players.
This year’s Classic was dedicated to Raphael Alcoreza, the Panorama Ridge team leader who died in hospital on Dec. 7, just five weeks before the tournament began.
De Boice, principal at Panorama Ridge until his move to Tamanawis this coming Monday (Jan. 29), said he appreciates the outpouring of support shown for the Thunder players and team staff, in the wake of the student-athlete’s death.
“No question, the whole story around Raph actually became a positive thing around the tournament,” De Boice said. “The Vancouver Dragons (a fledgling pro team) got involved and created a $500 perpetual scholarship for a Panorama Ridge basketball player, in Raph’s name, which was great – things like that.”
As well, T-shirts printed with Alcoreza’s name and number 22 could be seen at school gyms across Surrey last week as the tournament continued.
“That (initiative) started at the school prior to the tournament,” De Boice explained. “The T-shirts were designed by people here, alumni and the coach, to raise money for the scholarship foundation, a fund they want to do here at the school, and the basketball community picked that up pretty quick, and the T-shirts really started selling. A whole bunch of players were wearing them, some whole teams, which was great to see. My guess is we’ll see those T-shirts worn all year, at the Fraser Valley and provincial championships.”
De Boice said many local teams paid tribute to Alcoreza in one way or another.
“We got cards and phone calls, especially from the local schools,” he said. “The Yale tournament coming up this weekend, the coach got hold of me and said they’re making a keychain in Raph’s name, and they’re going to give them to all the players in the tournament.”
Looking ahead, De Boice and Inrig both say they see no reason to take a break from organizing the 28th edition of the Surrey RCMP Classic next season.
“We have some more people directly involved, of course, in terms of picking all-stars and organizing a bit, those kinds of things,” De Boice noted. “I’m not retired, and Rick is more retired than not, as of this year.… We’re dishing off a few more things these days, and we’re involved in more or less the same way – me on more of the money side, and him more on the basketball side of things.”
Added De Boice: “He and I have been doing this for long enough, it’s not hard to find people to step in, necessarily, but sometimes it’s hard to give up stuff that you’re been doing for so long.”