FH Collins Secondary School made Yukon basketball history this weekend.
Former high school players representing 35 years of FH Warriors teams returned to the hardwood court to test their skills against the current players for the first installment of the FH Collins Alumni Basketball Tournament.
More than 70 players laced up their sneakers for the two-day event.
On the women’s side, the alumni players were divided into two teams — 1990s and 2000s, as well as the FH squad.
The men’s division was a four-team round-robin, with an 1980s team, as well.
Organizers Jamie Shaw and Ann Jirousek, (both phys-ed teachers and basketball coaches at the school) weren’t surprised by the interest in the tourney.
“Ann has been organizing a women’s alumni game for the past few years and the men have been asking for something similar,” said Shaw.
So they combined their efforts, and recruited some help from veteran hoopster Karl Gruber, a 1991 grad.
They had to turn more than 30 interested players away due to schedule limitations. So next year’s installment looks to be even bigger.
There were even requests from other school teams to enter, but Jirousek said that the strict alumni-only policy was the heart of the whole event.
Besides, if you played high school basketball before the mid-‘90s, you played for FH anyway.
Jirousek lifted the idea for the tournament from her own high school in southern Alberta, which she described as a big-basketball school — with FH’s smaller pool of players, they divided teams by the decade.
“I think this is a great idea,” said ’73 grad John Debreceni, who played with the 1980s team.
Debreceni recalled taking the train to Skagway for games against the Alaskans, and playing in the first two Arctic Winter Games with his FH team.
Although some players are getting grey, the passion for the game hasn’t diminished.
“There’s a huge rivalry between the men’s ‘80s and ‘90s teams,” said Shaw, a ‘91 grad (he coached the current FH boys instead of playing in the tournament.) “And the ‘80s men beat the 2000’s earlier today. Those guys are in phenomenal shape.”
“I think it’s great for our players to meet people who have gone before them,” said Shaw. “There are a lot of people that have spent a lot of hours in this gym.”
Shaw’s former teammate and ‘91 grad Doug Roe returned for the first time in a decade to play in the tournament. Roe serves as director of men’s basketball operations at Douglas College in New Westminster, BC, and his team went undefeated and won the national championship this season.
“I’ve had a great year in basketball, and playing with all these guys, especially here in this gym, is like the cherry on top,” said Roe.
Roe recalled the early ‘90s team as “probably the best high school team ever out of the Yukon.”
“We’d play against the men’s league, and those guys that had just graduated — that’s where the rivalry comes from.”
He added that more high schools in the city mean the talent is spread thinner, but he’s glad that the sport is thriving in the territory.
“I remember when we built the first outdoor court over at Christ the King school — now there are courts all over town.”
“Basketball has gone up and down over the years,” said Shaw. “I think things are heading in the right direction.”
There is a healthy women’s league, and although there is currently no men’s league, Shaw thinks the interest is there — all it would take is someone to do the organizational work.
May Nguyen, a 2007 grad, returned after her first post-secondary season playing with Kwantlen University College in Vancouver. Nguyen is one of the few recent, if not the only, female FH player to take her game to the next level.
The difference between high school basketball and the post-secondary game was a real eye-opener, she said.
“I didn’t know what to expect, the speed of the game is way faster,” she said. “I think my understanding of the game has really grown as well.”
Tournament feedback has been overwhelmingly positive.
“We wanted this to be something worthwhile, especially for the people that come from outside,” said Shaw. “And it’s been great, it’s been a really fun couple of days.”