Matthew Daigle I Telegraph-Journal
Back in 2015, coach Damian Gay had a dream of turning Rothesay Netherwood School's boys prep basketball program into the best in history. When Gay started recruiting players, Andrew Milner was one of the first guys to buy into that dream.
Rothesay Netherwood went from a team in the A division to going undefeated against the best prep teams in the country in 2020. Milner wasn't there to see the latter happen, though, as he died in a tragic accident in 2019.
Now, Rothesay Netherwood is putting on a showcase tournament to put Atlantic Canadian basketball on display and to honour the late Milner. The first annual Milner Invitational Basketball Tournament will take place from Sept. 30 to Oct. 2 at Rothesay Netherwood School.
Part of the proceeds from the ticketed weekend tournament will be donated to the 4AM Basketball Camp, a program started in honour of Milner and whose proceeds support a scholarship in his name.
"I knew that we wanted to do something big to honour him, because quite honestly, the program would not exist [without him]," said Gay. "The key thing is just getting the message out, and obviously making it an annual thing and building upon it because we do feel like this is not only going to be a special event on the hill, it's going to be a special event east of Quebec."
The tournament itself will feature five teams mixed from the collegiate ACAA and CÉGEP out of Quebec. Along with the RNS Riverhawks, the teams include Cégep de Sainte-Foy, Crandall University, Thetford Academy and the University of King’s College.
While they’ll be playing against some university level teams, Gay said the Riverhawks would be at that level. In previous years, he said they’d have a pre-season tournament, and at the end of the 2020 season they were planning a banquet in honour of Milner but the COVID-19 pandemic got in the way.
“We were the No. 1 team in the country and undefeated going into national championships, we bought into it and riding an emotional high because we were obviously playing for Andrew that year,” Gay recalled. “I always felt like everything was incomplete, like I didn’t finish what I had set out to do, and I always had that void and I knew that we wanted to do something big to honour him.”
After being recruited to play at RNS, Milner later became captain of the team, and after graduation he took his talents out west to play for the University of Calgary. In 2019, Milner died in a canoeing accident in British Columbia.
“Andrew Milner was the kid that bought into the dream [of RNS basketball], and he bought into the concept of what we’re going to do,” Gay said. “He bought into it and that honestly means the world to me and it means the world to every one of our guys that preceded or proceeded him because we wouldn’t be anywhere without him.”
An Oct. 1 banquet dinner has been planned to coincide with the tournament. It will feature a keynote address from Carl English, a former Newfoundland professional basketball player and current manager for the St. John’s Edge in the National Basketball League of Canada, according to an RNS press release.
A table for the banquet dinner can be purchased for $800, Gay said, while single tickets will be $100 and adult with child tickets will be $150. Visit rns.cc for more information about tickets for the tournament and banquet dinner.
With files from Telegraph-Journal Archives