Riverhawks are building hoop dreams on the hill

RON BARRY For the Telegraph-Journal | January 17, 2019
SAINT JOHN • The young athletes who play boys’ varsity basketball at Rothesay Netherwood
School can shoot hoops better than any high school team in New Brunswick.
To draw an analogy from Spike Lee’s 1998 movie classic, He Got Game, well, They Got Game – the Riverhawks on the hill, that is.
Currently riding the crest of a 17-game winning streak, the National Preparatory Association (NPA) member is coming off its third successive tournament victory of the season in New Brunswick – they posted a 4-0 record at Kennebecasis Valley High School’s Riverboat Classic last weekend, including an 115-87 championship win over the Fredericton High Black Kats.
This weekend, the bright lights of New York beckon as the Riverhawks head to Holy Cross High School in Flushing, Queens for the Gotham Hoops Winter Classic. Their tests? Eduprize School of Arizona and New York’s very own Broome Street Academy and Thurgood Marshall Academy.
For head coach Damian Gay, tournaments like Gotham are precisely what his players need, from both a competitive and recruiting standpoint.
“You can stay around home, play in your league – we’ve played games and won by 65 points,” said Gay. “Certainly, within the top four or five league teams, anyone can win on any given day, but if you’re going to get better fast, you’d better find a way to get beat a lot. You have to find teams that are going to challenge you.”
Tournament organizers have confirmed Syracuse and Old Miss recruiters will be at the New York event. There will also be other Division One schools represented, as well as those from other classifications.
Rest assured,they are plugging into the RNS program.
“There’s a long list that’s starting to build up for some of our guys - some pretty prestigious D-1 schools,” said Gay.
For instance, two Division One teams – the Iona Gaels and the University of Tennessee- Chattanooga Mocs – are looking at Shyheim Malcolm, a six-foot-six senior guard from Toronto.
There’s six-foot-threepoint guard Kellen Tynes, a 17-year-old Grade 11 student from Dartmouth, N.S. who’s ranked 10th among Canadian players in his age class and is currently on the radar of the Butler Bulldogs out of the Big East Conference.
Schools with the pedigree of Harvard, Yale, Princeton and Stanford are looking at some of the younger players. And, among Canadian universities, six-foot-ten senior forward Ben Dowell of Middleton, N.S., has committed to the Atlantic University Sport’s Memorial Seahawks. The roster also includes five other Grade 11 players - Caleb Sooley, Dan Luck, Dan Keripe, Javier Azagra and Jack Fifield, along with athletic Grade 10 high-flyer Samuel Alamutu and Matthew Pennell.
Top to bottom, the Riverhawks are a program on the rise. They are currently ranked ninth among all high schools in Canada and everything they do on the court is building toward the NPA Divisional Session next month in Montreal and the big enchilada – the NPA national championships, which run March 20-24 in Toronto.
As the program raises its bar, the Riverhawks may eventually transition away from local competition.
“We’re at a weird stage right now,” said Gay, who has heaps of respect for the N.B. schools that found room on their schedules to play RNS when it started this journey three years ago. “We’re about three years ahead in the development of the program. I didn’t expect to grow this quickly, but we are where we are - we’ve taken a giant leap in development this season.
“The eyes are on the prize – the ultimate goal is, we’re working on being the best basketball program in the world. That’s been the goal since Day One.”