It seemed like there wasn’t even enough time for the sweat on the 2008 Seneca Sting Invitational court to dry before this year’s champs, the West Hill Warriors’ senior boys, were back in practice.
After taking the top spot, the boys were back on the court in their home gym for practice first thing after classes on Monday.
“It felt good,” says Taylor Johnston, one of the team’s three returning starters. “We haven’t won a big tournament in a while. We came in second and third in a lot of tournaments, but to actually win one now, it felt really good.”
“You know, we worked hard to get that far,” adds Adrian Tomlinson, another returning starter. “There’s all that team effort, all the guys stepping up, contributing in their own ways, and we played good together.”
This year though, according to assistant coach Elliot Kirshenbaum, is different than previous years. With a replacement by Nate Philippe of former head coach Wayne Dawkins, who left to coach at Seneca College, the pressure has been on the players to adjust to a new style of teaching.
“This is a huge year,” says Kirshenbaum. “It’s new coaching, it’s a new philosophy. Nate’s brought it with him. We let individuals shine, but you have to share the ball.”
“I don’t do as much individual skill development as much as team development, team offenses, team defenses,” says Philippe. “I guess that’s where myself and coach Dawkins are different.”
But even with this shift in philosophy, the team seems to be adjusting just fine.
“Coach Dawkins and coach Philippe are different, and bring different methods to the game, different ideologies,” says Johnston. “But it’s still basketball, you still have to win, play defense, move on the basket.”
And indeed this tight focus on the game has been paying off for the Warriors so far.
“We had a good start to the season,” says Philippe. “So far we are 11 and 1, we’ve had six wins over the top 16 honourable mention teams, we won the Seneca tournament and we were the runner up in the Vaughan tournament. So far so good.”
And players seem to be taking the philosophy of playing as a team, and winning as a team, to heart.
“I appreciated the most the Seneca Championship because we won it as a team,” says Tomlinson. “It’s not about the [individual] accolades, it’s about the team.”
Coming up next is the Eastern Conference Holiday Classic, from Dec. 11 to 13, which Philippe is anticipating as a big challenge.
“There’s some very tough teams in that tournament. So it’s going to be a good test for us,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll win it. We’re definitely not putting any limitations on it.”
As for OFSAA, both Tomlinson and Johnston are confident in the Warriors’ ability to make it to the top.
“I think we’re going to make OFSAA,” says Johnston. “I think if we play as a team and continue to get better every day, we can get a medal.”
“We haven’t made OFSAA in, like, three years now, and I think this is the best chance we have to make it,” says Tomlinson. “Anything less than OFSAA is not good enough for us.”