It’s billed as the “little team that could.”
The U13 Similkameen Thunder finished its first club basketball season in fine form, winning almost half its games on the 24-game schedule.
The idea of starting a club program began some time ago when a group of parents got together and formed a plan to put the community back on the basketball map.
Cole Marven was one of those people.
He was a member of the last Similkameen Elementary Secondary School team to go to the provincial championships, two years straight in 2000 and 2001.
He now has an eight-year-old son, Nash, and a bunch of other local kids he wants to see one day have that same experience.
“Keremeos is kind of known as a small town but we’ve always had really great basketball. So we just decided to put a club team together,” said Marven, who is assistant coach working along side head coach Mishak Potash.
“When we looked around five years ago, we saw kind of a dip in our high school basketball and to me that’s a reflection on what’s happening when the kids are younger. The club is a really cool experience for the kids, you get to play some big, well-established programs like Kelowna and Penticton.”
Marven described club play at that level as a “real eye opener” for the young team, going up against other players who started the game when they were just seven years old.
“They don’t really get to see what other basketball is like, so when you go out there and you see these kids (from other clubs) working in an organized program it’s really something,” he said. “But the way we did this year, I think we have some of the best athletes going for a small town.”
Unlike some of teams the Thunder played, the Keremeos club goes with the concept of equal playing time for everyone.
For that reason as well, everyone who signed up at the start made the team.
The club is parent-driven, and parent-funded and the Keremeos players are not “cookie cutter” according to the coach, noting each player is coming from a very diverse background.
“That’s what I love, we have ethnicity and it’s cool to see. We’re grinders here,” said Marven.
There were a few times during the season, which ran from January to June, where the team didn’t fair so well on the scoreboard. But Marven believes that only made his players stronger.
“Sure, some of the kids took it hard, but I told them you don’t always learn from your wins. But you do learn from your losses,” he said. “There’s always going to be somebody better than you, it’s up to you to improve. We improve as coaches just as players improve.”
Next year it’s hoped the club will have a U10 team and a U14 team, both with a single purpose.
“Our goal here is to make Similkameen basketball a name, and for that I’m really excited for this group and their future,” said Marven.