New boys travel basketball program launching in Niagara
A pair of former university basketball teammates are banding together to create an elite spring and summer travel basketball program in Niagara for boys.
Tarry Upshaw, the head coach of the Ridley College prep team and a national team coach in Hong Kong, China, Jamaica and Canada, and Pat Sullivan, the long-time head coach at St. Francis and a former assistant with the Brock men’s team, have been granted a franchise in Zero Gravity’s Adidas Select Series.
Sullivan was approached by Upshaw, who felt there was a void in the spring and summer for travel basketball programs for boys.
“My experience has been similar,” Sullivan said. “Certain kids from our high school have had to travel elsewhere to play at a higher level because there wasn’t something available for them locally.
“Our goal is to make it more of a Niagara-based program to draw kids from Grimsby to Fort Erie.”
Upshaw wants the program to provide skill development, strength and conditioning and exposure.
“We are trying to have a forum in the spring and summer so kids don’t have to travel to Hamilton, Mississauga or wherever to try and get some exposure,” he said. “It will give them a few opportunities to be seen. You never know until you go.”
Sullivan is hoping other coaches will get on board with the program.
“We are going to be looking for coaches to travel with these kids and do the competition aspect of it and I would hope the people from other clubs would be interested,” he said.
Sullivan knows there will be some initial reluctance from basketball associations to send their kids to the program.
“We need to work in conjunction with the various programs and I know that for the majority of them, whether they are playing in the CYBL (Canadian Youth Basketball League) or OBA (Ontario Basketball Association), March through May is when a lot of them are finishing up,” he said.
The focus of the program is to fill in gaps for players looking to train year round.
“There could be some crossover in terms of training and the odd competition but the idea is not to replace them but to provide another opportunity and a little extension to the season for those who want it,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan and Upshaw plan to work with all the coaches to develop a common philosophy for the teams.
“We will try and figure out what best practices are and go from there,” Upshaw said. “He will lead what he leads, I will lead what I lead and with others we will do it as a group to do the the best things for the kids.”
The teams’ name will be the Niagara Tigers.
“I looked around and there was no Tigers that I saw and I coach at Ridley and we are going to run it out of Ridley,” said Upshaw, in explaining the nickname.
To get the ball rolling, all interested coaches are invited to attend a meeting Dec. 28 at 7 p.m. at Jack Astor’s Bar and Grill on Ontario Street in St. Catharines.
For players, workouts and information sessions will be held Jan. 3 and 4 at Ridley College in St. Catharines. Grade 7, 8 and 9 players will go from 10 a.m. to noon and Grade 10, 11 and 12 players will go from from 1 to 3 p.m.
“A lot of it will depend on demand and numbers but the key is getting the word out and explaining what the goals and possibilities are in terms of training and playing and take it from there,” Sullivan said. “We are hoping for the best but we’re not exactly sure what the response will be.”
The goal is to have under-14 and up teams playing this spring. The schedule would consist of training and three to five tournaments.
“We have talked with the girls side but in conversations with some of the various club coaches, they feel there isn’t as much of a need at this point,” Sullivan said.