A new year and a host of new activities and events are getting set to take place at St. Michael’s College School (SMCS). One such event is the upcoming 59th annual Dan Prendergast St. Michael’s/Nike Basketball Tournament on January 9-11, which has been a staple on the athletic calendar at SMCS and throughout Greater Toronto Area (GTA) for decades.
“It was started by Mike Lavelle to allow for top-level competition here at the school with the best teams in the province participating,” says Jeff Zownir ’88, teacher and coach of the SMCS Blue Raiders Sr. Basketball team. “The late, Dan Prendergast, OSM continued that tradition for many years along with former faculty member, Greg Paolini. Some of the best players to have ever played high school basketball in Canada have played in this tournament over the years.”
For the first time this year, the tournament format will feature round-robin competition with four divisions of teams. Each division winner will advance to the semi-finals and then the championship final on Saturday, January 11.
“For the 50th edition we expanded the tournament to 16 teams because we had so much interest from top teams in the province,” says Zownir. “This year, we looked at going back to eight teams and two days, but we again had enough interest that we compromised and made it a 12-team tournament over three days.”
Among the 12 teams participating in the tournament, Zownir says, “All of them are top-level teams in the province and have a good chance to win their leagues while advancing to the provincial playoffs.”
The schools competing in this year’s tournament are: St. Michael’s College School, Pickering High School, Jean Vanier Catholic Secondary School, Holy Trinity Catholic Secondary School, St. Francis Xavier Secondary School, Vaughan Secondary School, Oakwood Collegiate Institute, Middlefield Collegiate Institute, Hon. W. C. Kennedy Collegiate Institute, St. Thomas Aquinas Catholic School, Pine Ridge Secondary School, and Riverside Secondary School.
“This tournament is always a great opportunity to gauge where your team sits in the province against many of the top teams,” says Zownir. “It gives a good indication of who will be competing for the OFSAA Championship at the end of the season.”
“I am looking forward to the energy and atmosphere,” says Grade 12 SMCS student Charlie Kuna Bukasa who had the chance to play in this tournament two years ago on the junior varsity team. Even despite the tough competition the team is getting set to face, he remains optimistic, “What I am looking forward to the most is celebrating with my teammates after winning the championship game.”
SMCS has won the Dan Prendergast St. Michael’s/Nike Tournament 12 times. The last time was in 2017.
“I’m looking forward to competing in front of the school and defending our home court with pride,” says Grade 12 student Jacob Gipson, who also had the chance to play in the tournament two years ago.
“My personal goals for this tournament would include being a great leader by setting a good example on and off the court as well as being able to bring the very best out of the whole team, coaching staff included,” says Bukasa.
“As a young team, we look to continue to grow and develop and get better by playing tough competition,” says Zownir.
Click here to see the schedule for the 59th Annual Dan Prendergast St. Michael’s/Nike Basketball Tournament.
The tournament will also be livestreamed on Friday and Saturday on our YouTube channel.