Jairus Miclat and more than half the Vic High Totems’ senior boys’ basketball team will vouch for that.
“It’s hard, you know, without friends, relatives and my girlfriend,” Miclat, a shooting guard with the Totems said of the difficult transition he has made since moving from the Philippines 10 months ago.
Basketball has helped smooth over the change.
“I always played back home, street ball,” he said proudly. “They play it everywhere, on every street.”
And they play it passionately as the Totems displayed Thursday in their opener of the Island triple-A senior boys’ championship at Vic High, using Miclat’s 17 points — including three three-pointers — to out last Ballenas 57-44.
The Totems broke open a tight, nervous game by outscoring the Whalers 20-8 in the fourth quarter.
“They’re our speed guys and they also have a lot of skill,” Totems coach Cory Ahlers said of his Filipino contingent, which makes up half the team. “You probably notice the three-point shooting, but also the defence and the pressure.
“They are kind of our sparkplugs, enabling us to get going because of their speed and pressure which create turnovers. It makes it tough on the other team, but also amps us up with what they bring.”
They jacked up a jam-packed gym on Thursday and Miclat, Raphael Macsaquit, Danzil Binag, Mike Guting and Kendrick Laurian all have a role in it. Ryosuke Tsujii of Japan and Shelton Htet of Burma are also members of the international team.
“All those guys play a big part, spreading the floor with their three-point ability, pressure, intensity and speed,” said Ahlers.
And that’s not lost on Vic High athletic director Greg Pitre.
“Filipino basketball is a very important part of their culture, which I’m still learning. Everyone plays — there’s church basketball, state basketball, town basketball. They play it year-round and it’s incredible how they come over and every kid seems to play,” said Pitre.
“Most of these kids come to us and jump into high school right away and they integrate quickly, I feel, into the schools and feel comfortable. Basketball plays a big part of that,” added Pitre, who was overjoyed with the school spirit the renewed basketball program has brought to Vic High.
“It’s been amazing and so much fun to see everyone get involved, from the players to the athletic leadership kids who are scorekeeping to the dance team to our kids learning how to be fans. It’s so neat.”
It wasn’t so neat for the Whalers, however, who drew the Totems in Game 1.
Liviano Canil did have 21 points for Ballenas, including nine from the free-throw line in the third quarter as the Totems were in foul trouble. Top scorers Lyndon Hamilton and Chris Niketas were held to seven and six points, respectively.
In other triple-A results, Wellington defeated Mount Douglas 79-62; Nanaimo District dumped Mark Isfeld 60-51; and Carihi beat Reynolds 53-30.
At the quadruple-A event at Belmont, Cowichan defeated Claremont 72-60 and Belmont downed G.P. Vanier 102-56.
Double-A host and B.C. No. 1, Brentwood College, opened with a resounding 69-25 victory over Glenlyon Norfolk School at the Mill Bay school, while St. Michaels University School peppered Kwalikum 59-29; Lambrick Park won 86-45 over Highland; and Shawnigan Lake tripped up Parkland 68-58.