It has been a trying season for the North Delta Huskies, who have fought adversity to head into the Fraser Valley AAA tournament in third place.
“The main thing is there’s no pressure on us. We’re not the number one seed, we’re not the favourite,” head coach Jesse Hundal told the Reporter ahead of Tuesday night’s game against Delta Secondary. Because of that, he expects his team to have a great showing at the tournament, despite not having a big player in the line up.
The Huskies’ overall record going into the game against DSS Pacers was 21-6 including the pre-season, but Huskies coach Gary Sandhu said the record doesn’t matter as much as how the team performs at tournaments. This season, they’ve already won two: the Burnaby South Rod Thompson Memorial and, in early January, the Chancellor tournament, which Sandhu called the “most prestigious AAA tournament.” The team has been on a streak over the last two years and he hopes it will stay that way.
“Last year, we won the Fraser Valley title against Pitt Meadows and finished third in the provincial [championships], so it was a very, very successful year,” Sandhu said. “This year, we just hope we can match what we did last year.”
The competition in the Huskies’ division is very tough, he added, and he hopes the injuries that have plagued the team this season won’t affect their post-season run. In December, Vikramjit Hayer sustained an extensive knee injury, leaving the team without a go-to forward in the paint for much of the season. Sandhu said the loss of Hayer makes it tougher to play against bigger teams.
“We lose a lot of our size when he’s not in the line-up,” Sandhu said. “It does not mean we can’t beat [the other teams], it’s just tough because we’re a small team that’s really quick, and he brings a level of toughness and size that can’t be matched.”
Hundal said losing Hayer shifted the dynamic on the floor as everyone else has had to work harder to make up not only for a big presence on the court, but a motivational leader and “a guy who would pick up the garbage” off the backboard. However, it gave the rest of the team the opportunity to step up in roles they otherwise would not fill, such as rebounding and posting up on opponents.
“Every team goes through adversity and I told [the players], you can feel sorry about yourself because nobody else is going to feel sorry for you, or you can use the lessons that we taught you and just find a way to come together and find a way to win,” Hundal said.
That wasn’t the only handicap the Huskies had to deal with in the 2018-19 season. During a pre-season game in late September, point guard Arun Atker caught an elbow in his jaw on a defensive play and was out for a month and half with a concussion. He is still working on getting back into the shape he was in before the incident.
“About a week after getting back into practicing, I slowly got back into the mix of things,” Atker said, adding that practicing by himself has helped him get back into the groove.
“Obviously, conditioning wasn’t the same because you can’t really do anything, sitting at home.”
After graduating, Atker’s looking to play basketball at the collegiate level either in Vancouver or in Northern B.C. “There are no scholarship offers yet, but I have worked so hard,” he said. “It’d mean the world to me.”
Huskies’ guard Suraj Gahir, arguably the team’s best player, feels good about the post-season and said the silver lining to all the injuries and resulting losses in those division games is that younger players had a chance to cut their teeth on the hardwood.
“I think it helped our Grade 11 [players] especially because they got to play by themselves. Our Grade 12’s were out,” Gahir said. “Losing games really helped us because we know how it feels to lose now and we don’t want that feeling again.”
Gahir plans to head south to the United States to play in division one basketball after he graduates, pending the college draft later this year.
After winning their first game against the Westview Wildcats 69-55, the Huskies are set to take on the Thomas Haney Thunder tonight (Friday, Feb. 22) at 6:30 p.m. at G.W. Graham Secondary School in Chilliwack. For tournament results, head to fvbball.org/playoffs/aaa-boys-draw-2019.