So veteran St. Michaels University School coach Ian Hyde-Lay was more than grateful when Mack Catto transferred to the secondary school and decided to hit the hardwood after taking a year off from basketball.
“He hasn’t played in a year so he’s just finding his way and re-acclimatizing on the court, but obviously he’s a physical presence, for sure,” Hyde-Lay said of Catto, who is more known for his baseball exploits.
But hey, six-foot-seven is six-foot-seven and demands some attention, especially under the glass.
“We haven’t had a legitimate big man for almost 10 years,” admitted Hyde-Lay, who also hasn’t had a provincial champion since 1992 when someone by the name of Steve Nash patrolled the floor for the then Blue Devils, who are now the Blue Jags.
You might remember the kid.
But that was then and this is now and Hyde-Lay’s Blue Jags are off to an 8-0 start to the 2012-13 senior boys basketball season with Catto chipping in wherever he can.
Senior guards Mark Yorath, Dawit Workie and Georgios Ikonomou have been key in the start as SMUS is ranked No. 1 on both the Island and the province among double-A teams. Brentwood College is rated fourth in B.C. and Lambrick Park, at No. 7, have Island teams making some early noise.
“Those three provide great leadership and defence,” Hyde-Lay said of Yorath, Workie and Ikonomou.
David Pollen, an outstanding rugby player, is also coming back after a year off the hardwood and Wayne Lin is a hard-working reliable forward, added Hyde-Lay. Grade 11 athlete Matt Rud is also coming into his own.
“He had a career high at PCS [Pacific Christian School] on Tuesday night,” Hyde-Lay said of a 25-point and 10-rebound performance in a 66-46 league win. “It was a great effort by Matt as we were missing several kids because of exams and injuries.”
Hyde-Lay’s team will be put to an even further test as Abottsford’s W.J. Mouat — an honourable mention among B.C. triple-A schools — visits SMUS for an exhibition game on Saturday at 5 p.m., after taking on Oak Bay tonight at 7:30 on an Island visit.
The Blue Jags will also take part in the Gary Taylor Alumni Classic at Oak Bay starting Thursday, facing Aden Bowman of Saskatoon. With any luck the Jags could face the host Bays, who are ranked No. 1 on the Island and No. 8 in the province in triple-A.
“For us, we got out of the blocks well, but it’s early for everybody,” said Hyde-Lay. “Results in late November and early December don’t count when it comes down to the end of February and playoffs.”