Something as minor as an ankle injury won’t keep Deboe Truss off the floor this week at the Interior Savings Western Canada Basketball Tournament.
In fact, the Grade 12 guard can’t fathom any circumstance being severe enough for him to miss the premier event of the Kelowna Owls’ basketball season.
“Break both my legs, both my arms and I’ll still get out there somehow,” joked Truss, who played in the Western Canada tourney for the first time last year.
“Ever since I was in Grade 7 I watched this every single year and just imagined, ‘Wow’ these are triple-A players and this is such a big event.
“Now to be playing in it, it’s a big thrill to play in front of the home community and show everybody what we’ve got.”
With four of the top five teams in B.C. and the top-ranked team from Alberta in the mix this week, many observers consider it one of the toughest fields the Western Canada tourney has seen in years.
It’s also one of the rare occasions in recent memory that the Owls can be viewed as a legitimate contender for the tournament championship—and with good reason.
The No. 5 provincially-ranked Owls have already knocked off No. 2 Burnaby South and No. 3 Van College this season, while taking the No. 1-ranked R.C. Palmer Griffins down to the wire before losing 70-63.
Owls head coach Harry Parmar said now it’s a matter of his talent putting it all together over a three-game span against some stiff competition.
“The guys are in a position now where they believe in themselves and that they can beat anyone on any given day,” said Parmar. “Sometimes you want to win it, but you just don’t have the horses to get there. This year, we think we have all the pieces in place that we need to do this. If we’re well prepared and focused, and take it a possession at a time, there’s no reason we can’t win it all.”
Led by seniors Truss, Luke Hennig, Charlie Lewthwaite and Tanner Leimert, and Grade 11 sensations Braxston Bunce and Mitch Goodwin, the Owls play an aggressive, up-tempo game designed to outrun and outwork their opponents.
With the pressure cooker of playing inside a jam-packed KSS gym, it’s a style of play that Hennig hopes both the crowd and his younger teammates will feed off.
“For the younger guys there are some jitters at the start, but once we get going with our high pace game, the crowd can really turn for us and that can be a big advantage,” said Hennig. “We need to use the crowd because they’ll be there for us all the way.”
As for the prospects of winning the school’s first West Can title since 1982, the graduating captain assures nothing would be sweeter.
“To finish off your high school days with a win here, it doesn’t get any more special than this,” added Hennig. “I’ve been growing up and playing with most of these guys all my life, so to win it with those guys would be really something special.”
The Owls will play their first game Thursday at 8:15 p.m. against Saskatoon’s Holy Cross Crusaders.
Meanwhile, the Owls tuned up for the tourney on Friday night at UBCO with an 87-74 win over No. 10 St. George’s. Charlie Lewthwaite led the way for KSS with 25 points, including seven three-pointers.