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Totem free throw. Photo supplied by Tak Niketas.

© Copyright – 2016 – Victoria Sports News

The Vic High Totems AAA basketball team is off to their hottest start in several years, going 3-0 and in the process defeating teams with a higher provincial or island ranking. So far they have defeated the Royal Bay Ravens by the score of 61-31, followed by a 61-49 defeat of the Reynolds Road Runners and then they won their third game of the season over the Pacific Christian Pacers by the score of 71-51. Things are looking up.

“They are playing with more confidence now. Last year we had a solid improvement, but the kids were mostly in Grade 10 and 11,” shared team manager and assistant coach Tak Niketas. “Several of the kids who are in Grade 12 want to go out with a good final season and it shows in their play.”

It won’t be an easy ride the whole way for the Totems as they will enter tournaments that include higher ranked teams in their division as well as teams from the higher AAAA division.

“We want to play the better teams, so that we can get better ourselves, so that we are prepared for when we are hosting the Island championships Feb 25 and 26,” said Niketas.

“Last year it was me pushing them and instilling that desire to do well. This year they are playing for themselves. You can see a greater sense of cohesiveness as a team and better individual play,” added Niketas.

It also helps to have two coaches who have high level basketball experience. Niketas has been involved in sports his entire life including hockey and baseball and had accomplished good things at Beacon Hill Little League, but stepped back this year from coaching the Totems and is now the team manager and assistant coach, when needed.

Vic High’s new Athletics Director Greg Pitre has done a very good job supporting basketball, meanwhile former professional player Christopher Marsh, who is also an alumni and former University of Victoria Vike player is assistant coach.

“The kids are buying in. Chris helps as much as he can, but does have a young family at home, so he is the assistant coach, but we also have a good head coach in Cory Ahlers, who played in the Okanagan at the college level.”

The Totems made the news last year when it was discovered that the team would be competing in league play while wearing gym pinnies – used ones. Niketas contacted Victoria Sports News and started the ball rolling in getting coverage of their fundraising efforts. Other media such as the Times Colonist got on board, which resulted in enough money being raised to fund new tops for the team.

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Totem pride. Photo credit: Tak Niketas

Moreno Stefani, owner of Team Sales saw the stories and approached Niketas and offered him a deal he couldn’t refuse.

“After the stories came out, Moreno approached me and offered to outfit the team in basketball uniform tops, valued at approximately $80 each if we would buy the shorts, so that we would have a full uniform,” shared Niketas. “It was a very generous offer and they did such a good job with the uniforms, the Totems players are very proud to play for the team.”

This year, in addition to league play, the Totems have entered a couple of tournaments. Dec 10 and 11 they played in the Comox Valley and led Vanier, a higher-ranked team at half by 16 points, however, Lyndon Hamilton, the Totems’ leading scorer, fouled out with two minutes remaining in the third quarter. They lost the exhibition match by eight points.

During a recent Parklands-hosted tourney, the Totems defeated Port Alberni by the score of 102-60.

“There is excitement in the air that we are hosting the Islands. These guys are hungry to win and those two games were both good indications of their improvement,” shared Niketas.

Over recent years there has been concern over the removal of catchment rules, where players previously had to attend a school within their own catchment area. Those rules have changed, however, the downside of removing the catchment system is every kid who wants to play for Oak Bay with their million dollar floor and 60-million dollar school or perhaps St. Michaels, can attend and try out.

“Oak Bays’ best player lived across the street from Vic High. He could literally roll out of bed and walk into the foyer in a matter of seconds. With the old system, he would be playing for Vic High.”

Apparently, there will be some new rules around tightening up on the ease of choosing schools that are outside of student’s catchment areas.

“We believe we will see better players come over.”

“If you really love the game of basketball you can come to Vic High, as opposed to going to the big monster schools. At these schools, you have 40-50 kids trying out and some won’t make the team. You can’t have 40 or 50 kids on the same team, so they go without; that’s not right. At Vic High players can still play competitive ball.”

Niketas is seeking sponsors to get involved with the Totems’ and their hosting of the island championships in February. Sponsors will be provided with exposure during the tournament in the gym.

Contact: Tak (Gus) Niketas at 250-812-5353

Read last year’s “winning team” article, here>>

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