Two For The Show
Published by Gabe Lee on March 10, 2010
Vancouver, BC- British Columbia has been producing some legitimate guards lately; two names have really stood out the most.
As the 2010 edition of the Telus AAA B.C. Championships dawns, some things have changed while some stay consistent.
The Yale Lions of Abbotsford have climbed their way to become the Lion Kings of British Columbia, ranked #1. While WRCA have dropped to a tie for sixth, their 6-foot-4 point guard Eli Mara, who recently committed Trinity Western remains a top player in the province at the moment. The defending champions, Saint George’s Saints, have come on strong in the second half of their season as a result of their do-everything guard, Emerson Murray, who has just returned from a major ankle surgery.
If Nike were to advertise this year’s tournament using their most valuable puppets campaign (Lebron and Kobe), Mara and Emerson would be ideal commerce mates. They are prominent figures of last year’s tournament, leading teams that finished in the top four respectively. Eli’s name is made for big screen (the Book of Eli), and Emerson has sparked the media’s eye by sporting his ever changing hairdos ranging from the fresh prince cut of last year to his new Chris Bosh spikes.
Parallel to bringing up Lebron and Kobe in a conversation with a casual NBA observer, the mention of Murray and Mara cause polarizing opinions amongst high school basketball enthusiasts across British Columbia.
Emerson Murray has proved those who’ve doubted him wrong time and time again. When Luke Braund suffered a season ending injury last year, many thought the Saints title chances went down with him. When the Saints narrowly made the provincials via the backdoor qualifier, the nay-Sayers emphasized no team has ever won five games (as opposed to four if you’re a higher seed) to win it all. Murray put his stamp on B.C. basketball history when he nailed a MJ at UNC-esque baseline jumper with two seconds remaining to give the Saints a 63-62 edge in the finals versus Vancouver College. The rest as they say is history. “He can perform in clutch situations as was shown last year when he scored the bucket to send the semi-final game against South Kam in to OT and then he scored the game winner in the Championship game”. Paul Eberhart coach of BC provincial U-17 team praises.
Murray’s a freak athlete, making him worth the price of admission; the 6-foot-3 combo guard is attracting the likes of UCLA, Baylor, Washington State, Utah State, Portland, Hawaii, and Portland State among others. His electric pace allows him to turn any situation into a fast break, in many instances he has demonstrated the ability to dribble past an entire team converting a lay-up with either hand on the other end. Eberhardt reaffirms “He is a very creative and talented offensive player with a very good package of one on one moves. He has a deadly pull-up jumper and he has three-
point range.” Despite not receiving as much attention about his defense, “Emerson has a good all-around game at both ends of the floor.”
Eli Mara has played at the Varsity level for White Rock since enrolling at the Academy in grade eight. This has accelerated his mental maturity because he now sees “this has really shaped me in how I play and lead the team because I have been on both ends of the spectrum on a team. In grade eight I came off the bench and was one of the followers on the team and now my team relies on me to guide them”. Needless to say the experience of playing at this level for five years compared to his peers playing in their second is invaluable.
What Murray provides with his athleticism, Mara enforces by his strength. “In grade eight was when I learned how to work hard and be tough because every practice I would go up against guys who just throw me around”. Now he’s the one doing the throwing around. “Eli is strong and aggressive and he has outstanding overall athletic ability.” Coach Eberhardt echoes.
Mara admits he sees himself as the “quarterback” of a potent Warrior offence. His passing ability is often overlooked but his court vision on full display is simply breathtaking. His favorite target? None other than Portland bound 6-foot-10 big man Riley Barker.
“I think with both players you want to try and take the ball out of their hands and make someone else beat you. They are both great players who have great leadership so the less they have the ball the better “. Eberhardt offers.
Deciding between the two would be similar to butcher a quote I once heard about choosing Lebron or Kobe, “it’d be like asking me to choose which of my internal organs I like best-my liver or my kidneys. I am attached to both of them”.
“I think they are both very valuable to their team’s success because of the important experience and leadership they provide. St George’s is clearly had a tough time without Emerson but I suspect WRCA might have the same issues without Eli.”
However a dark horse who is very much relevant in the best player in the province debate is Vancouver College guard Philip Scrubb. His versatility, length, and clutch decision making were all prevalent in College’s two game sweep of St George’s in the last month, exorcising the demons of last March. A larger leadership role has been bestowed upon Scrubb since the graduation of guards Harrison Mair and Will Campbell, Scrubb has done all that has been asked of him and more, upping his ppg to 22. “Phil, in every game where it matters is just unbelievable,” said Irish co-coach Bill Disbrow. “I am just dazzled by Phil. My IQ as a coach is a lot higher when he is on the floor.”
On that fateful March evening when a new champion of British Columbia is crowned, then and only then can this debate be resolved. When the dust clears and the debris is swept off, there will only be one puppet left standing.