Photo by Chung Chow
While the majority focused on the present, the future was also playing out at the 2018 Dolphin Basketball Classic.
“There’ll be a time when the regular Dolphin guys are starting to age out, and we’ll need some of youth to move up. Dolphin is a Richmond tradition we want to ensure keeps going,” says Jessy Dhillon, with whom the Dolphin Junior Classic originated three years ago.
Overseeing the Richmond Youth Basketball League (RYBL), which is quite literally growing in leaps and bounds, Dhillon is also head coach of the McNair Marlins senior boys’ high school team providing him with the opportunity to view the roundball game from many perspectives. He is genuinely excited about its future prospects in Richmond.
“We wanted our RYBL kids to be part of (Dolphin),” he says. “The youth division is still in its infancy, but we have bigger plans moving forward. We really want to do a basketball week in Richmond, starting with some toddler camps and work our way up to this tournament.”
Dhillon was named RYBL co-ordinator in the spring of 2016, around the same time as organizers of the Dolphin Basketball Classic were looking to move the tournament to South Arm Community Centre. They were quick to embrace Dhillon’s vision for the youth tournament to run concurrently with the adult event.
Dhillon says interest in basketball is booming among the local youth population. He says while academies and clubs are popping up everywhere, RYBL also has a responsibility to keep up while maintaining or perhaps even enhancing opportunities for kids including those picking up a basketball for the first time.
“The experience of them being here (at Dolphin) and seeing the semi-pro and college athletes and perhaps trying to aspire be one of them (is invaluable),” he says.
Year by year, the number of players in RYBL is growing. The Steve Nash league is typically filled to capacity, while the spring programs are also gaining in popularity.
“We’re getting a lot of kids from hockey and soccer who want to play basketball as a spring sport with their friends,” he says. “And our girls’ program is also starting to boom. We’ve got some great parents and coaches, like Tim Carkner and Chris Kennedy, giving us a good base to help our numbers grow.”
At the elementary school age, there are about 500 kids playing in the spring and about 700 during the fall.
“We also have a high school division, and kids who don’t make their high school teams are taking advantage,” Dhillon says. “Before, when they didn’t make their high school team they were done. Now, they can not only play but some are even using RYBL to get ready for high school tryouts.”
But while Dhillon is excited by all the interest and growth surrounding basketball, he says it’s important to pause.
“I don’t want to drill basketball into kids’ minds,” he says. “I played playground soccer and football too. It’s important to let kids be kids and let them figure it out on their own. If they want to pursue basketball and go to the next level, by all means. But it should be their choice.”