Organizers of a massive new preseason basketball tournament with strong North Shore roots are hoping it grows into an annual event that will help teams prepare for the season ahead and help players prepare for life after high school hoops.
The Big Ticket is the brainchild of North Vancouver’s Anthony Beyrouti, head coach of the Argyle Pipers senior girls team and the founder of the VK Basketball club. The tournament is an ambitious event that sees boys and girls junior and senior teams – 64 in all – competing in four divisions at gyms around the Lower Mainland and Fraser Valley before converging on Simon Fraser University for playoffs and finals. Tournament organizers won’t just be handing out championship medals though – 40 graduating Grade 12 players will receive $1,000 scholarships at the end of the tournament to go towards their post-secondary education. Those scholarships are at the heart of the vision that organizers have for the event, said Stephanie Bell, who is handling marketing and communications for the Big Ticket.
“It’s born out of (Anthony’s) vision to make sure that kids are supported financially after they leave high school,” said Bell. “That’s the idea behind the 40 $1,000-scholarships that we’re offering. It’s that everybody, no matter how big, how small your contribution is to the team, you get support as you move on to post-secondary.”
The money for the scholarships is coming from two $20,000 donations, one from the North Vancouver-based development company Onni Group, and the other from Beyrouti’s ticket broker business, venuekings.com.
Bell is another North Shore connection for the tournament – she starred at Argyle before playing five seasons with the UBC Thunderbirds. The Big Ticket follows in the footsteps of the HSBC Classic (later the Telus Classic), an annual preseason event that operated in the Lower Mainland for several years. Bell remembers those tournaments as something that every player looked forward to.
“In my last season of high school it was particularly cool because I was fortunate enough to receive one of those scholarships,” she said. “It was something that I got used to playing in year after year and in my Grade 12 year it was just the cherry on top with that. … It was always something for everybody to look forward to at the beginning of the season. It was exciting, it got everybody seeing who was who and what each team looked like right off the bat in a larger-scale tournament.”
Those tournaments eventually faded away, however, and the Big Ticket has jumped in to serve as the big icebreaker for basketball season.
“This was really born out of the need to fill that void and get everybody excited right off the bat,” said Bell. “This is the first tournament of this high school season. It’s just getting everybody really hyped up off the bat, with the added extra incentive of the scholarships.”
Scholarship recipients, 20 boys and 20 girls, will be chosen by a selection committee based on criteria such as community involvement, coach references and transcripts.
As for the action on the court, play is already underway at eight gyms, with North Shore teams from Argyle, Seycove, Collingwood, Handsworth and St. Thomas Aquinas taking part. The semifinals and finals will be played Friday and Saturday at SFU’s West Gym. A big thrill for players will be tipping off on the same court that the Clan plays on in their NCAA games, said Bell.
“It’s a very beautiful new venue and we hope that it will be packed in there,” she said. “The idea is just to facilitate that exciting university atmosphere that these kids will aspire to play in when they are older.”
Full schedules and results can be found at bigticketvancouver.com. Tickets for the playoffs can be purchased at the door, or at a reduced price at venuekings.com. All proceeds from the SFU games will go back to B.C. high school basketball while ticket sales at host schools will go to those programs.