Diego Maffia is about to make some university basketball team an offer it can’t refuse.
But the Oak Bay High School star, one of the most sought-after all-rounders in several seasons, could also have taken his game to the next level in soccer and volleyball as well.
“It’s hard sometimes managing your time with three sports and also schoolwork,” said the triple threat.
“But I grew up believing you should play as many sports as possible.”
That’s a breath of fresh air, if not wisdom, in an era of increasing sports specialization in Canada.
“Both my parents were athletes and played many different sports as well,” said Maffia, who in Grade 11, scored the winning goal in the 2017 Colonist Cup final to give Oak Bay the Lower Island soccer title, before being the second leading scorer in the B.C. high school soccer championship that year.
He came with his family to Canada in Grade 9 from Brazil, where soccer is famously popular, but also basketball and volleyball, in which the gold and blue national teams do very well.
Maffia has thrived not only on the courts and fields since arriving on the Island, but also in the classroom, where he holds an 85 per cent average.
The agile point guard, who leads Oak Bay into the Emerald Invitational at Vancouver College this weekend, said he can “distribute the ball and shoot from the perimeter” and that the basketball player he most patterns his game after is two-time NBA MVP Steve Nash of Victoria.
“I guess we picked the right city,” he quipped.
“I once got a picture taken with Steve Nash at the UVic high school tournament.”
Like the soccer, baseball, rugby and lacrosse-loving Nash when he was growing up in Victoria, Maffia excels in a number of sports. Unlike Nash, however, Maffia has decided on staying in Canada for university basketball, despite some U.S. offers.
“I like that you have five years of eligibility,” he said.
As for the choices he is considering, he said: “UVic is one of them, along with Calgary, and a few others.”
Maffia has led the Bays to a current No. 2 ranking behind the Holy Cross Crusaders of Surrey in the B.C. boys’ Quad-A top-10 poll and another run at the provincial title seems imminent. That quest was curtailed last year when the top-seed Bays, thought to have their best chance for the provincial title since the glory days of the 1970s, were stunned by a second-round upset that still haunts as unheralded Burnaby South slid up the middle to win its first B.C. championship since 1979.
After that stinging setback, Maffia, a Grade 11 star on last year’s Grade 12-heavy team, has brought Oak Bay back into championship consideration this season. That shouldn’t surprise anybody, but it has in some corners.
“When seven of our eight rotation players graduated, some people thought we would not be contenders as much this season,” said Maffia.
But playing with his Grade 10 brother, Lucas Maffia, has been a revealing experience for Diego Maffia on both the volleyball and basketball courts. When Diego was away at a national-team basketball identification camp in the fall and had to miss the Island high school volleyball championships, Lucas fluidly stepped into his older brother’s slot as starting setter on the then B.C. No. 3-ranked Oak Bay team.
The Maffia siblings continue together now through basketball season. Diego Maffia has become such a star in B.C. high school hoops, that fans in opposing gyms tend to get on him to knock him off his game. He likes nothing better than to coolly throw down a couple of three-pointers to silence them.
“That [noise] brings energy to the gym and you get used to it,” he said.
And then about the question Maffia is often asked.
“Yeah, people sometimes get weird looks on their faces when they hear my last name,” he said, with a chuckle.
But this family is all about sports. Lots of sports. And its plays them all well.
IN THE PAINT: Oak Bay opens the Emerald Invitational against Charles Hays on Thursday at 3:15 p.m. Belmont and St. Michaels University School are also at Van. College. Belmont takes on the host team Thursday at 2 p.m., while SMUS goes up against Semiahmoo at 5:30 p.m.