North Van basketball camp aims to create true team players

Coach Bijan wore No. 8 for a reason.

Like many wide-eyed youngsters who once sat captivated by the living room TV as Kareem’s skyhook, Bird’s ruthless jump shot and Magic’s physics-defying fast break passes transformed game time into Showtime, Bijan Jiany dreamed that one day he too would have his moment of hardwood and hoops glory.

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And like many kids with such feats of athletic marvel on the mind, his basketball goals fell a bit short – at least for a little while.

“I failed many, many times as a kid. I got cut eight times before I made a basketball team,” Jiany tells the North Shore News, adding defiantly: “I wore No. 8 as a reminder.”

Jiany’s basketball journey is a testament to the old adage: He who leaves the game, loses.

Jiany never left the game. In high school, when we didn’t make the team, or was let go, he would rebound from his initial defeat by trying again and again and again. He would go at it harder and faster and better, striving to practise as much as possible, wherever and whenever he could. He might have experienced some defeats along the way, but he was never defeated.

Jiany has taken his persistent athletic attitude and applied it in a way that he might help other kids achieve their basketball goals, whatever they may be, he says.

“When you’re not good at something, you’ve got two choices: you can quit or you can keep going,” says Jiany. “I had to teach myself how to play and through lots of repetition and persistence I just created a craft to coach.”

Jiany founded Ball Lab in 2015 with the goal of inspiring “limitless possibilities” for young athletes and to “create elite team players through the sport of basketball.”

As Jiany and his staff prepare for an upcoming batch of summer camps for youth ranging from kindergarten to Grade 10, hosted at Ball Lab’s space in North Vancouver, he is ecstatic about the basketball conditioning and fundamental skills they hope to impart to young athletes. He’s also jubilant about basketball’s ascendency in Canada following the Toronto Raptors recent championship run in the NBA Finals.

“It feels close to us now. It feels closer to home. I think it’s good for the culture, the community – more than anything it just gets the kids active and playing in team sports. I think that goes a long way,” he says.

Among Jiany’s many personal basketball achievements – which include coaching at high school and university levels, playing collegiate basketball in the U.S., and recording Douglas College’s first ever triple-double game when he played on their team early in his basketball career – he says some of his favourite moments now are educating a new generation of young athletes to be their best.

“The basketball court was my second home – and now it literally is my second home because I come to work and it’s a basketball court,” he says, adding that kids at this summer’s Ball Lab camps can expect to learn basketball fundamentals through a series of fun drills.

Weeklong Ball Lab summer camps start July 8 and run until the end of August. Different camps will run for two- to three-hour sessions through the week, with groups separated by age range, from kindergarten to Grade 2, Grade 2 to 4, and upwards until Grade 10.

There’s also a charitable component to this year’s camps, notes Jiany, with Ball Lab hoping to raise $10,000 for BC Children’s Hospital Foundation this summer.

“We’ve experienced their care there … and the staff there is just amazing,” he says.

Ball Lab is hosting a fundraiser for BC Children’s Hospital this Sunday, June 23 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at 1801-R Welch St., North Vancouver. By donating $100 or more to BC Children’s at Ball Lab this Sunday, you’ll also nab your kid a summer camp spot of your choice.

Visit balllab.ca for more information or to register for Ball Lab summer camps or other skills and training programs.

This story originally appeared in the North Shore News Summer Camps special section, which highlights local summer camps for kids.

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