Wednesday, April 21, 2010 10:00:00 MDT PM
Two former Archbishop Jordan Scots basketball players participate in an alumni game last Saturday afternoon at the 40-year-old Sherwood Park high school.
I’m actually quite ashamed to admit this, but I really had no idea how epic the magnitude of basketball was during the early years of Archbishop Jordan Catholic high school.
As a member of the ABJ Scots basketball program from 2000 to 2003 – and a dedicated supporter to this day – I always heard stories about how dominant the teams were back in the 1970s and 1980s, and there was just a general feeling that you were part of something special any time you put on the uniform.
I thought I understood how important it was to be an ABJ Scots basketball player, but I reached an entire new level of appreciation for the sport’s sacredness to the school during the 40th anniversary last weekend.
Current ABJ teacher and former Scots basketball player and coach Kevin Siwak organized an alumni celebration for anyone who had suited up for the school’s hoops teams in the last 40 years. There was a social night last Friday at the ABJ cafeteria, in addition to alumni games on Saturday in the gymnasium.
I attended both events and was really in awe of how many former players showed up to reminisce about their playing days and reconnect with old teammates. The social night gave me a huge blast from the past, as I flipped through old newspaper clippings, programs and photos from the early years of Scots basketball.
I had an idea about how dominant and well-known the team was back then, but I wasn’t even close. The Scots were provincially, and even nationally, renowned for their basketball prowess. In a column from 30 years ago, former Sherwood Park News sports editor Terry Garth called the team one of the best in Canada.
The Scots, under the direction of coaches Gerry Karpinka and Father White, captured three consecutive 3A provincial championships between 1975 and 1977. Then, under new head coach Wayne Ashton, they pulled off the three-peat again in 1981.
Ashton, who previously played for ABJ and graduated in 1973, was also my coach in the 2001-2002 and 2002-2003 seasons. Together, we had the honour of being part of the last 3A-level basketball team in ABJ history, since the school’s population bumped up to 4A standards the following year. We went out on a strong note, hosting the 3A provincial championships and finishing as the sixth-best team in Alberta.
The Scots’ dominance didn’t slow down when they were moved up to 4A, though, and the ladies have really gotten in on the act as well. In the past five years, the ABJ girls have won three Edmonton Metro League Premier Conference titles and three medals at 4A provincials (bronze in 2007 and 2009, and silver in 2008).
The boys have won two Premier Conference titles and also captured the consolation title at the 2009 provincial tourney.
The alumni games on Saturday afternoon were also a blast. First, the ladies strutted their stuff, though most players were from the recent championship teams.
Next up were the classic Scots – the gentlemen who pioneered the program in the 70s and 80s. And the games concluded with the younger guys, including yours truly.
Basketball was ever-present at the gala banquet later that night as well, as pretty much every speaker mentioned ABJ’s dominance in hoops, and it seemed like everyone in the room was a former player.
It was really remarkable to learn so much more about the history of Scots basketball and how vital it was to the school, and I know future teams will continue to make history for the legendary program.
Ye never mess with a Scot – especially on the basketball court.