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No Regrets tournament ready to take off

Event co-hosted by five North Shore schools is about more than just basketball

If you give a student a game to play you can keep them busy for a couple of hours, but if you give them something to believe in you can inspire them for a lifetime.

That, at least, is the theory organizers hope will play out at packed gyms across the North Shore this Thursday as the second annual No Regrets basketball tournament tips off.

The tournament was born of a union between the longstanding North Shore Invitational Tournament and the Quinn Keast Foundation. When the North Vancouver-based foundation latched onto the tournament last year and helped rename it No Regrets, they brought with them a number of high-energy hoops fanatics to expand the tournament’s reach, including the addition of a girls draw for the first time ever as well as extra fire for the tournament’s fan-friendly “spirit games.”

The union, however, has brought more than just some extra muscle to run the event, says longtime tournament director Larry Donohoe. It’s also brought extra meaning to the games. Donohoe, a sports guru at Carson Graham secondary, knew Quinn Keast, the Handsworth secondary student who was killed in a pedestrian accident on his grad night 10 years ago. Donohoe coached Keast in the provincial program before his death, and, like many coaches around the North Shore, remembers him as a special teammate who played hard, played well and played fair. Merging the North Shore Invitational with the Foundation and rebranding it with one of Keast’s mantras – No Regrets – was a “no-brainer” decision, said Donohoe.

“It just makes it more special to me,” he said. “It means a lot for me personally. I know for my players, too, as they learn the story it means a lot to them. This is kind of must-see-TV now, the kids want to be a part of it because they know what it means.”

It means a lot to the organizers as well, including Quinn’s twin sister Jamie, who has immersed herself in the event as the tournament director on the girls side. It’s fantastic to watch a new generation of players rally under her brother’s banner, said Jamie.

“I think it’s cool for people to come to something where they might not know the person behind it, but there is a message there,” she said. “It means a lot to me to see it continue on and mean something to people. … It’s definitely cool for me to see. I wish I had been able to take part in a tournament like that back in my day.”

One of the cornerstone features of the tournament is the No Regrets scholarship, given to players who are dedicated to team success, display unselfish offensive skill as well as a commitment to relentless defence, make the players around them better and demonstrate strong leadership qualities represented by respect for teammates, coaches, game officials and opponents.

In other words, the scholarships go to players who play like Quinn did. Not the tallest or fastest player on the court, Quinn still made a huge mark in every game he played, including an epic 17-point, 16-rebound performance in Handsworth’s 82-65 win over Kitsilano in the provincial AAA championship game during Quinn’s Grade 12 season.

“Quinn wasn’t the end-all, be-all when it came to players, but I think there were some qualities in him that aren’t as common in athletics anymore, and I think those are the kinds of things we want to see,” said Jamie. “It’s giving back to the community, not just the player that scores the most points or gets the most rebounds. (Someone) who tries hard on both ends of the floor, is a team player and a leader on their team.”

Over the years the Foundation has focused less on Quinn the person and more on the legacy of the life that he lived, an emphasis that continues with the tournament scholarships, said Jamie.

“For me it’s about seeing the legacy of my brother continue on. These athletes that are playing in this tournament are what, 16 years old? They were six years old when the accident happened. They know nothing about it, so I think it’s more about getting those qualities that we want to see in our scholarship recipients and really branding those qualities. We want players to demonstrate those qualities not just on the court, but off the court as well.”

The tournament also puts an emphasis on its spirit games, Thursday matchups in which teams across the North Shore get to host a game during school hours in hopes of attracting a raucous crowd. On the girls side the spirit games will be played at Handsworth at 11:30 a.m., at Argyle at 12:30 p.m. and at Carson Graham at 5:30 p.m. On the boys side Handsworth hosts at 2 p.m. while Carson Graham, Collingwood and Argyle will get the action going at 2:15 p.m. Thursday

By all accounts Handsworth has set the standard for spirit game craziness – even Crazy P of BC Lions fame was there banging his drum last year – but Collingwood also put on a good show too, said Jamie, adding that she hopes the hoops will be rocking at all the gyms this year.

“A lot of fans don’t get out to games in the evenings when kids are doing their own thing, so I think it’s a good chance for the high school kids to see their own teams and get them hyped for the season.”

The rest of the draw is filled out with teams from across British Columbia, as well as a boys team from Northwest Territories and another from Alberta. The championship games will be held Saturday in the new gym at Collingwood School, with the girls starting at 5:45 p.m. and the boys to follow at 8 p.m.

The fact that the tournament has a boys side and a girls side, as well as the arrangement of having five different schools team up to co-host the event, makes the No Regrets tournament a unique one on the B.C. high school calendar. Organizers are hoping it will continue to grow to become one of the province’s premier events.

“We’re not aiming to get the best of the best, the top-10 teams in the province,” said Jamie. “It’s not one of those tournaments. We just want teams that will come and have fun and throw a good spirit game.”