How bad was the regular season losing streak for the Rockridge Ravens senior boys basketball team before this season?
Consider this: before this season, Rockridge’s last win in the North Shore league came when their current head coach was still in elementary school. In fact, when Rockridge last won a game, coach Amir Samani was still living in Iran – his family moved to Canada after his Grade 6 year – and he had never before played a game of basketball.
The date was Dec. 20, 2012, and the Ravens scored a 62-53 home win over Sechelt’s Chatelech Secondary in a North Shore AA league game. They didn’t win another one for the next six seasons, putting up a record of 0-42 in North Shore league play from the 2013-14 season to 2018-19. Overall from the 2010-11 season to 2018-19, the team went 2-62.
This season, however, has been different. A lot different. Rockridge, now at the AAA level, started this season with a tight 72-69 exhibition win over Collingwood, and then proceeded to win their first four league games, including victories over Argyle, Bodwell, Sentinel and Howe Sound. They haven’t just broken their slump. They’ve smashed it to pieces.
What impressed Samani following that first tight win over Collingwood, however, was that his team didn’t react like it was some sort of miracle. Winning, it seemed, was now their business.
“What surprised me after the game was that all of them had a different step to them, they were talking about how they loved that feeling and they wanted more.”
The team is being led by a pair of talented players – Grade 12 Aryan Ghasemi and Grade 11 Yurdan Rozumnyj – each averaging more than 25 points and 11 rebounds per game, with fellow Grade 12 Pasha Rahmatian also putting up solid numbers.
Samani, who co-coaches with Rockridge teachers Curtis Campbell and Joey Balzer, is a story himself, having just graduated from nearby Sentinel Secondary in 2018. Samani, 19, plans out practices and handles a lot of the Xs and Os for the team while his co-coaches handle administrative duties. Samani may be young, but he already has an extensive coaching background that includes head coaching spots with other school teams below the senior level, as well as three years coaching with the West Vancouver Basketball Club run by former national team member Greg Meldrum.
“I had a lot of good opportunities to learn from good coaches when I was playing myself,” said Samani, who with Rockridge has focused on getting the Ravens to play hard team defence and to share the ball on offence. He’s seen a big improvement even since that first win over Collingwood, he said.
“That win was one of the most horrible basketball games I’ve ever seen,” Samani said with a laugh, adding that Ghasemi and Rozumnyj scored nearly all of the team’s points in the win. “It was just an ISO-ball game. That’s when I told them that we [need to] work on becoming a team, rather than just having two guys who are ISO players.”
The winless seasons now seem like a distant memory as Rockridge continues to win and improve. The players all stated a common goal at the start of the season, said Samani.
“They all said they wanted to win provincials.”
There will be more tough tests ahead, including a pair of games against Carson Graham – undefeated in league play so far – to end the regular season Jan. 28 and Feb. 5.
Samani, speaking before Monday’s game, said the Ravens still have some work to do to change the perception of the Rockridge basketball program.
“Every game we go into, people are still expecting us to be an underdog, they still think that they have a chance,” he said. “We always have to make sure that we don’t get ahead of ourselves, everyone still is going to be coming out swinging.”