For the first time in six years, a new face is at the end of the bench for Elgin Park Orcas’ senior girls basketball team.
Rob Wilson, formerly the head coach of Elgin’s senior boys, has moved into the girls’ game, taking over the coaching reins from Stu Graham, who stepped down after six years at the helm – and 10 years at the school in total.
“It’s been really good so far this year – I haven’t found it to be a real big change, going from boys to girls. The game is still basically the same,” Wilson said earlier this month, a few weeks into the hoops season.
Wilson and this year’s squad have big shoes to fill; under Graham, the Orcas qualified for B.C. championships six consecutive years, winning it all in 2008. Last year, they finished ninth.
“It was a good run, and a great group of girls every year,” said Graham, who is still sticking close to the court as a board member of Basketball BC and also as a coach with Basketball Canada’s Centre for Performance.
“I talked to Rob before he took the team, and I told him that I thought he’d really enjoy it.”
And while this year’s roster has just two returning players from last year’s team – seniors Melissa Boettcher and Madelyn Dekerf – Wilson is confident in his group.
For the first time, the Fraser Valley conference has been split into tiers, with the top teams like Langley’s Brookswood Bobcats and Coquitlam’s Riverside Rapids occupying Tier 1, and Elgin Park and a slew of other Surrey squads – including Semiahmoo, Earl Marriott, Seaquam and Lord Tweedsmuir – in the second tier.
“We’re not quite as strong as we maybe have been the last few years, but we’ll hold our own,” Wilson said, adding that a return to the top tier is maybe only a season or two away.
“We’ll be pretty good, pretty competitive.
“There’s a lot of enthusiasm and a lot of athleticism on this year’s team.”
All teams from the top tier will automatically qualify for provincial AAA championships, while Tier 2 squads will fight for four spots, Wilson said.
The Orcas were 4-0 in league play before breaking for the holidays, and will hit the court again in the New Year, alongside other local squads at the Surrey Firefighters Goodwill Classic.
Elgin Park has dominated the Firefighters Classic in recent years, winning five straight tournament titles from 2006-10, but saw their streak halted last January, when they were upset in a preliminary-round game against Lord Tweedsmuir.
Holy Cross won the tournament.