November 2, 2018
ROTHESAY • Four years ago the boys basketball team at Rothesay Netherwood School was getting beaten handily, according to its head coach Damian Gay. Now the team attracts students from across the country looking to turn their skills at the hoop into funds for their future.
Gay,a math teacher at the private school and former professional player with the Saint John Mill Rats, started his volunteer coaching gig six years ago when the team was at the junior varsity level. Wanting to give his students more to work for, the team was moved into the single A division in the New Brunswick Interscholastic Athletic Association.
“We took our lumps for two years… and then I had an idea to grow a program,” he said.
One of the founding members of what is now the National Preparatory Association, Gay wanted to give his players a chance to improve with the new program.
“My big thing, is that if you’re going to do something, you want to be the best at it. And I wanted to show kids here that you can be the best basketball player in the world if you want to be, and I wanted to provide a program at Rothesay Netherwood School that allowed them to do that,” Gay said.
Three years after the league was founded, 13 schools from Saskatchewan to Nova Scotia play across three divisions.
Eastern teams met at RNS last weekend to face off in the second of five tournaments held outside of divisional and championship play.
One of the top-ranked high school players in the country for his age group, Samuel Alamutu, 16, joined Gay’s team from Toronto, seeking out a spot on the team half-way through his high school career. His coach back home recommended the program to him after his nephew, Shyheim Malcolm, did well on the team.
Gay says three years ago it seemed crazy that players would be moving from Toronto to Rothesay specifically to play basketball, but being sought out by parents and students alike shows the growth of the program.
Gay calls the program Rothesay's best kept secret, saying that now that it's grown, it's easier to recruit players from across the country.
Alamutu says the program was attractive for the academics as much as the basketball, and he enjoys being pushed to work hard by his teachers as well as his coach.
Likewise,shooting guard Caleb Sooley, 16, joined the team three years ago from Mount Pearl, N.L. with an eye to turning his high school basketball career into a university scholarship.
Sooley's parents,Kelly and Glen, say their son has been in talks with Maritime universities like Dalhousie, and is even starting to get interest from schools in the United States for when he graduates in 2020.
"I’m looking to get into a business undergrad and eventually into law. Basketball gave me the opportunity to come to this school and get a great education... so I’m very appreciative of that," he says.
Sooley says the weekend tournament was a boon for the area, giving top talent the chance to see the East Coast while playing some good basketball.
Kellen Tynes,ranked No. 10 in the country for his age class, joined the program from
"I would argue he’s at least top five and he’s definitely the top point guard in the country, no question," says Gay.
Tynes says the ranking feels good, but he's not going to settle for the slot and he'll work to climb the ladder. Tynes also wants to turn his skills into further schooling, aiming to do something with law once he's out of high school.
RNS won two of its four games during the weekend play, including one against GTA Prep from Toronto. It was a victory the players said was all the sweeter after a loss to the team last year.