Struggling in the win-loss column this season, Pauline Johnson Collegiate’s senior boys basketball team is focusing on the bigger picture.
“Even though we’re still losing games, we’re finding positive things within that,” said coach Ian Jonker, whose team is 0-5.
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“Our scoring is getting a little better and our defence is getting a little stronger. We’re hoping to keep building on that.”
The Athletic Association of Brant, Haldimand and Norfolk season is currently on pause as students have pivoted to online learning due to a rise in COVID-19 cases. While students are to return to in-class learning Monday, it’s expected that extracurriculars, like sports, will not resume until at least Feb. 7.
When players were able to return to the court last November, the coach said his expectations were simple.
“We want to see how well they can compete and how strong they are against what we’d consider similar teams,” said Jonker, who first stepped behind bench for the Thunderbirds two seasons ago.
“About half of my team is back from when I coached two years ago. So, in that sense I can see how some of them are improving. With the Grade 11s, it’s seeing where they’re at and where they fit in.”
The Grade 12 and fifth-year players include Nicholas Poole, Chad Erskine, Thomas Hird, D’Shawn Wright, Ryan Hill, Jaxon Drydak, Darcy Allard and Kryshtian Hill. The Grade 11s who have had just one season of high school basketball include Jacob Markesano, Brandon Ma Pickard, Robert Smith, Zac Jamieson, Andrew Ward, Luke Talbot and Aftim Nassar.
Pauline Johnson traditionally has fewer players who play representative club level basketball than other teams in the AABHN league and this year’s team is no different. Because of that, they start a little more basic than some other teams might, said Jonker.
“We’re trying to build on skills and how to respond when another team throws a zone defence at us or full-court press,” he said.
Jonker said he has seen improvement.
“Our defence is getting better,” he said. “Our last season (defence) was a bit of a challenge.”
Sometimes when the losses pile up, it’s hard for a team to stay positive but Jonker said his players seem to be looking at things the right way.
“It says a lot about their character that they can find good aspects from the game and they can think about things they did well.”
The coach noted that, two years ago, the team sometimes got frustrated and took unnecessary fouls but this season’s team has shown maturity.
Jonker said he would love to see the T-Birds rewarded for their improved play.
“We do go out with the intent to compete and see how well we’d do,” he said.
“So, it would be nice to pick up a win or two. It would validate what we’re trying to do on the court.”
But, at this point, the first step is getting back onto the court.
“There’s definitely been a desire to play,” Jonker said.
“I think they would be disappointed if they aren’t able to continue and finish.
“I think they also understand that public health and safety is important. If we have to end the season hope they’re satisfied there were some sports.”