Semiahmoo Totems will look for a fourth straight tournament title during the 29th edition of the Surrey RCMP Classic, which gets going Sunday (Jan. 12) and runs until the following Saturday (Jan. 18).
For 2020, 48 senior and junior teams will shoot for glory in the all-Surrey high school boys tourney, with a championship final played at Enver Creek Secondary’s gym (14505 84th Ave.).
Among Canada’s largest high school basketball tournaments, the Surrey RCMP Classic involves close to 700 teen athletes playing a total of 87 games during a busy week of action. Schedules and scores are posted to surreybasketballclassic.info.
The tourney still holds fond memories for players including Kyle Grewal, a two-time Classic all-star during his days with the Enver Creek team in the mid-2000s. A dozen-plus years later, at age 31, Grewal has completed his law degree and now lives in Sydney, Australia.
“I remember Grade 9 and I got an all-star award at the RCMP, and that was pretty special because I hadn’t been so great at basketball prior, so it was huge for me, and I was on cloud nine,” he recalled in a phone call. “It finally paid off, all the work I’d put in. I was 14 that year.”
A few seasons later, Grewal earned a Classic scholarship that paved the way for his post-secondary education.
“It was one of the first scholarships I got, the Roger Pierlet scholarship, so it was special,” Grewal recalled. “That’s when I kind of realized that hey, I can have university paid for, at least part of it. My mom still has the scholarship award framed and it’s on the wall at home, and it’s nice to see when I come back home.”
Riley Barker, another Classic standout, is a firefighter in Vancouver now, and he sure brought the heat as a two-time MVP at the RCMP Classic from 2007 to 2010, when his White Rock Christian Academy team won the tournament three times.
“Those were some fun games,” Barker remembered. “For the team it was one we always looked forward to because going in, being a strong team in the Lower Mainland, we knew we’d have a good chance of winning it but we also knew there’d be those one or two Surrey teams that flew under the radar and would bring their best against you. There were always good, tough matchups.”
After high school, Barker went on to play NCAA ball at the University of Portland, and also ventured overseas.
“For the current players my advice is, it doesn’t matter who you’re up against, just go have as much fun as you can,” Barker said. “The biggest thing to recognize is that you’re in high school and this will be some of the best times you’ll have playing basketball – just playing against other guys your age and potentially meeting people at the tournament that you might reconnect with later in life, someone that could help with a future job or in other ways.
“Connections are made there, and that includes the police officers,” Barker added. “Go say hi to them, because it’s their tournament and they’re there to interact with the players.”
Only Surrey schools are allowed to participate in the Classic, which has grown from eight teams to 48 over the years. As in previous years, 24 senior teams are involved, and this year 24 junior teams will play.
The inaugural tourney, held in 1992, was co-ordinated by Rick Inrig and RCMP officer Norm Massie. Inrig is still involved as a tournament co-director, along with Kevin De Boice, while Massie has since retired and now lives in Ontario.
From the start, the tournament was designed as a way for police and school students to enjoy positive interaction.
“The goal has been to encourage a healthy attitude towards high school sport and foster positive relations with the RCMP,” Inrig said. “Many of the tournament’s talented athletes have graduated and gone on to play university and college basketball in Canada and the United States.”
Among them is Adam Paige, a six-foot-eight forward with the Golden Bears at the University of Alberta. He won a pair of Classic titles with Semiahmoo Totems in 2017 and 2018, but had graduated by the time the school team won its third consecutive championship last year, in a 89-82 triumph over Lord Tweedsmuir Panthers.
“Semiahmoo wasn’t always a big basketball school in the past, but now having the three (Classic) championships has been huge for the school,” Paige said.
He has fond memories of playing in the Surrey RCMP Classic.
“One of my early memories was in Grade 10 when we actually got bounced out in the quarter-finals, I think it was, and just the energy, it was amazing,” Paige said of playing in the Classic. “And then getting to the finals the next couple of years, it was where I wanted to get to. And just reading the program they have and seeing all the players from the past, all those names, something like that also motivated me. It’s just a great event.”
Paige’s advice for current players is to enjoy the experience of playing in the Classic.
“It’s just something you want to soak in as much as possible, even if you’re not playing a meaningful game,” Paige said. “It’s just cool to be playing the other schools from Surrey, ones you might not play during the year because it’s triple-A or quad-A – just being able to show your basketball skills and being around like-minded students. And if you can go to the championship game, try to get there because it’s super fun.”