Basketball Community Spotlight: Vernon Alumni

The old stomping grounds.  Flicking on the lights to an empty gym. The sound of a perfect swish and squeaks of fast footwork.  Road trips full of hoops, jokes and laughs.  Reminiscing back on your old high school basketball days always evokes great memories so it’s pretty special to return to your old gym for the holiday alumni game.  In Vernon, they have stepped up the alumni game to the next level with a focus on helping young athletes.  For the third consecutive year, Jeff Samuel and friends have invited all the basketball alumni from School District 22 and surrounding areas for an all-school alumni tournament.  The Greater Vernon Basketball Alumni (GVBA) tournament not only reconnects old teammates, but also rekindles old cross-town rivalries all in an effort to raise money for local high school athletes.  The two-day tourney has nearly doubled its fundraising ventures through a silent auction and generous local business sponsors.  

This year, the basketball community has raised $7,500 with 100% of proceeds given to local high school athletics and scholarships:

- $1,500 GVAB Trevor Samuel Memorial Scholarship (Recipient school TBD)- $500 GVAB Women's Champs Scholarship (Kal)
- $500 GVAB Rec Div Champs Scholarship (VSS)
- $500 North Okanagan Youth & Family Services Society Young Girls Self-Esteem Program (not Provincially funded)
- $4,500 to High School athletics — these dollars are used by athletics directors of the schools to purchase new uniforms, upgrade equipment, and help students in need of financial assistance with travel and other costs associated with playing high school sports!

With a full men’s division and a growing women’s tournament of 4 teams, the gym is full of former stars, their young children and (grand)parents who can relive their years of cheering from the smelly high school bleachers.  You could feel the joy of being back out on the courts with old friends and battling for boards against rivals.  It’s a bit of a time warp during the games, but as soon as the final buzzer sounds, the post-game talk is more about catching up on jobs, kids and travel as well as downing some Advil and Gatorade to avoid the inevitable aches and pains.  Regardless of how strong your game is or how rusty your shot is, the alumni game is a great excuse to bring the family down to the gym, find your old school jersey and sport some new bball kicks. 

The 2017 edition of the event offered a 3-point competition and a Subway half-court shot worth $5,000!  Organizers hope to keep growing the event each year and to see full representation from all the schools.  The tournament has alumni from around Vernon and Lumby but alumni from Armstrong, Winfield and Salmon Arm are also invited.  The majority of athletes were from Fulton who dominated the finals (Fulton vs Fulton in the men’s final and Fulton (with a few VSS) beat VSS in the women’s final).  

Hope to see this kind of alumni event pop up across communities around BC.  Great way to reconnect over the holidays, get a run in and help out some aspiring young high school athletes with scholarships.  Win-win-win!

3 point winner: Joe Brown (VSS 2009, Langara Falcons); honourable mention to female finalist Madison Kaneda (Fulton 2008, UBC-O Heat)
Women’s Champion: Singles (Fulton/VSS)
Men’s Champion: Fulton 2.0