In A Klass Of His Own
Published by Gabe Lee on May 12, 2010
His recent Facebook status says it all.
“Just realized I’m going to school in California next year….where Arnold Schwarzenegger is the Governor and Megan Fox lives…YESSS!
Excuse him for not being able to curb his enthusiasm; for Yale’s Marek Klassen will be heading south of the border to San Diego’s Point Loma Nazarene University this fall.
While his love for San Diego does not run as deep as wrestler Rey Mysterio’s, who has the area code inked on his arm and names his finishing manoeuvre the “619”. Klassen has a rare opportunity to become SD’s favourite son since Ron Burgundy.
Upon being notified of Klassen’s signing, his friends and family wondered if they’d see Klassen playing to the always amusing comments of Dick Vitale on ESPN.
“I am asked by my friends a lot why I chose a small school and if they’ll be seeing me on TV. “
So why go small, fading away from the spotlight?
“After I tell them they won’t see me I let them know I chose a smaller school because I thought that it would provide the best environment for me educationally, and for basketball.”
Klassen’s senior year is what High School Musical’s creative team envisioned when plotting the character of Troy Bolton: a provincial championship, MVP of the championship game, continuing his basketball career at a post secondary institution, and recipient of the Outstanding High School Player award distributed yearly by Basketball BC.
The 6’0” guard is a blur equipped with handles that belong on the AND 1 Mixtape tour. “I really love to play off the dribble as much as I can, whether it’s to break people down to get jump shots or driving right to the hoop”. Klassen’s size, ability to stretch defences, and his reckless abandon draw comparisons to Golden State’s undersized point guard Stephen Curry.
Led by their speedy guard, the Yale Lions were ranked number one in British Columbia for much of the season. No surprise when their team’s anatomy is comprised of three prominent members from the provincial team; 6’2 slasher Nakai Luyken, 6’7 enforcer Matt Letkeman, and Klassen. Being able to field such big names renders the obvious: will everyone be satisfied with the amount of touches?
“The most important thing about our team was [that] the guys were all great teammates. We figured out our roles early into the season and then perfected them as the season went on. By the time provincials came we knew where our best looks came from and I felt like I knew each guy on the team’s game as well as my own” Klassen explains.
Yale’s ability to get out on the fast break was essential to their success as evident in their quarter final match up against Terry Fox, and the semi final versus Pitt Meadows; in both games they allowed their opponents to hang around until they were able to dictate the flow of the game (Often with Klassen initiating the break, and Luyken finishing).
“All year, our team knew there wasn’t a team that could stop our transition for a full game. So once they would get tired we would run all over them to break the game open with big runs. But obviously in the last final games we had a lot harder time running.”
What’s more impressive about Yale’s tendency to run for forty minutes is they do so albeit a tight rotation, speaking testaments about their conditioning. Klassen praises his bench for accepting their roles and pushing the starters to the brink in practice.
“Our bench was filled with guys that worked hard and put in tons of time to better the team. A team is only as good as their bench, and even though we played a tight rotation the guys who didn’t play went hard in practice and made the starters better.”
The final pitted two familiar foes against one another, the Fraser Valley’s #1 and 2 seed duking it out on the grandest stage of them all.
White Rock Christian Academy and the Yale Lions for the umpteenth time. The match up was also a rematch of the 2008 final (a 76-62 Yale triumph), a team Klassen played a limited role on in grade 10.
In comparing the two championship experiences Klassen reveals that “this year’s championship means a lot more to me than the win in 2008. I didn’t really contribute to the win in 2008, and this year was my grad year which made it a really special event for me.”
Yale’s 49-40 victory was a battle of attrition, with both teams struggling early to find rhythm especially the Lions who scored all of six points in the second quarter. Consequently Yale found themselves down eleven at half, an unusual situation for them. At times like these, spectators wish the “Wired” feature of NBA games, which reveals what was said inside the locker room, was a part of the high school basketball broadcast as the Lions came out roaring in the second half putting the clamps on WRCA.
Luckily for us, Klassen still vividly remembers Coach Friesen’s method of motivation. “At half time he just asked us ‘Where’s the fire in your eyes?’ and ‘Is this the team that you’re going to let beat you?’ He said it so calmly that everyone got that feeling of just how serious the game really was. But he didn’t need to say much none of the guys were ready to back down, and so we came out really fired up the second half, but also focused”.
Klassen had an odd stat line en route to his MVP trophy. 25 points, 17 boards, 3 assists, shooting a Shaq-esque 9 for 21 from the charity stripe, all while playing the full forty minutes. Just short of his season average of 28 ppg, 7 rpg, 6 apg, and 3 spg.
His 17 rebound performance (11 of which were offensive boards) in the final may seem surprising for the smallest guy on the court, “I take a lot of pride in rebounding because it’s almost all about outworking your check to get the ball” Klassen illustrates.
Klassen’s Quinn Keast Player of the Championship game is well deserved as he dominated every aspect of the game. His provincial teammates were both named to the first team all star squad at the conclusion of the game.
While Klassen and his teammates were serenaded by “We are the Champions” by Queens after their victory, subconsciously in Klassen’s mental Ipod Tupac’s “California Love” is on repeat in anticipation for September.
In the midst of people watching, observing Chargers and Padres games, visiting Sea World, and embracing the California lifestyle, Klassen hopes to continue do what he does best: bringing big glory to small schools.