Tigers roar into second season
Saint Paul’s Jerywn Tutanes is a member of the Niagara Tigers Grade 11 team.
The Niagara Tigers boys travel basketball program started its second season in impressive fashion with its Grade 11 and Grade 10 squads winning two of four games in the first weekend of Niagara Signature league action.
“It is an extremely high level and for our kids to go .500 is amazing. It’s because it’s kids from throughout the region,” said Pat Sullivan, who cofounded the Tigers along with Tarry Upshaw.
Sullivan believes Niagara can compete with larger centres only by consolidating its talent.
“As soon as we separate into clubs or municipalities, we simply don’t have the depth to compete at the highest levels,” he said. “Tarry mentioned the other day while we were at the league that he believed we were changing the face of Niagara basketball by showing up and competing in events like the Nike Signature league and having some success. That is unprecedented.”
There has been a dramatic drop in the number of local male players moving on to play post-secondary basketball and one of the Tigers’ goals is to change that trend.
“It may take a little bit of time, but I do see a few of our kids in the Grade 11s and 10s doing it,” Sullivan said
He feels Niagara has good players and their skills are enhanced by competing against the best of the best.
”I know they are different kids when they come back from a weekend in Mississauga or the GTA,” he said. “It’s wild and intense and they come back different, more motivated and with their eyes a little bit more open.”
The Tigers have added three teams this season. They are running teams from the Grade 5 to the Grade 11 level, including two teams at the Grade 5, Grade 7 and Grade 8 levels. The second teams are developmental squads and there’s also a few developmental kids at the other levels who will fill in when there are injuries.
“The response has been really good and that makes us feel great because it’s word-of-mouth,” Sullivan said. “People are happy with the value they are getting and the parents and kids are enjoying it.”
The high school squads league are playing in the Nike League, which is held over four weekends and runs until the middle of June. The grade school kids are competing in an Under Armour league in Toronto over two weekends.
All the younger teams will go to Cleveland, all the teams will play in the Canadian National Invitational Tournament at the end of year, and the high schools teams will play an event in Indiana in July
“Last year we really focused on training, but Tarry thought we needed to play a little bit more and that’s a really competitive league,” Sullivan said.“It gives us a little more focus for areas that we need to work on.”
The goals for the Tigers organization remain the same.
“We always have to remind ourselves that we are a developmental program so the idea is that every kid gets better,” Sullivan said. “We want our teams to do well and they will do well if the individual kids improve.”
Sullivan feels that has happened.
“We said we were going to provide something that wasn’t currently available, we were going to compete at a high level, we were going to offer opportunities that weren’t going to be offered at the time and that the kids would improve and enjoy it.”
The organization wants its coaches to develop as well.
“We have had a couple of nights where we got together and talked about philosophy and we brought in Victor Raso to do a clinic with regards to defence,” he said. “We want to have a common philosophy right from our Grade 5 kids. Obviously everything is done at a different level but there’s a focus that can carry over.”
The next step in the program evolution is to get more people involved.
“You can never have too many qualified, passionate coaches, and young coaches. I feel there is a need for that,” Sullivan said.
The Tigers have a partnership with Ridley College and rent that school’s facilities while providing some sponsorship dollars for Rildey’s prep team.
“We typically have four or five of our groups going at once and to have a central spot is nice,” Sullivan said. “Ridley has been extremely accommodating in allowing us to use their facility as a home base and partnering with us to provide an elite program.
“Jay Tredway from Ridley has shared our vision of creating a program that serves the entire Niagara community and can elevate the sport of basketball for our kids in the region.”
The Tigers also have a partnership with Jeff Aldham, who has worked with the Niagara River Lions.
“He will be helping all of our players in terms of some strength and conditioning component as a means of improving their athleticism to perform better on the court,” Sullivan said.
Below are the rosters for the Tigers teams:
Grade 5: Sam Riddell, Carter Ethier, Jalen French, Eric Kaufman, Dexter Clarke, Marc Olivier Michel, Jonas Kpanabom, Liam Williams, Fionn McMahon, Willy Kibowa, Gianni Lostrocco, Josh Johnson, Elijah Kpioyo, Andrew Cheng, Aidan Lucchetta, Sadiekie Haides, Max Hardy and Hudson Hough.
Grade 6: Quinten Ethier, Farouk Akasha, Ashton Gidney, Azlan Dhami, Hagen Generao, Jack Ciocca, Austin Hinds, Andrew Ens, Kaleb Reid and Ethan Verseci.
Grade 7: Luke Midgley, Ryan Love, Jared Cook, Tavish Mcmahon, Luke Johnson, Noah Gmoser, Sawyer Neufeld, Nathan Wan, Matthew Kleinsmith, Matteo Scaglione, Kai Schatz, Vincent Pucce, Alex Bray, Sam Bolch, Luca Rescigno, Brandon Bell, Dylan Klassen, Nathan Sansaet and Sam Gatto.
Grade 8: Chad Thorpe, Coltin Elwell, Campbell Hastings, Rylan Lauder, Dean Defrancesco, Jeremiah Thompson, Nate Rose, Nick Rawsthorne, Cam Larmand, Anthony Heyes, Caleb Stewart, Riley Stewart, Quinn Johnston, Graham Midgley, Matt Futino, William Hastings, David Badalov, Owen Phillips and Brady Pupek.
Grade 9: Alex Ruiz, Aaron Sanchez, Nixon Provesano, Wes Hanlin, Darrell Abubo, Nathaniel Ens, Ben Johnson, Luca Namestnik, Jayson Madume, Lucas Chindemi, Lucas Ponting, Quinn Bendlis and Vlad Brundula.
Grade 10: Christian Barone; Johnny Graovaz, Trent Thorpe, Kenny Anaebonam, Enrico Gibson, Max Riddell, Sacade Kasamba, Connor Landell, Owen Dobbie, Grady Vanderschloot and Wyatt Devellis.
Grade 11: Jimmy Hillyard, Kayleb McGlaughlin, Cormac McMahon, Quinton Duemo, Josh Ens, Jerwyn Tutanes, David Jones, Andrew Zezela, Cole Arnold, Noah Monteforte, Ethan Smith and Austin Ladouceur.