NEWTON â€” Even though he was in Grade 8, Tamanawis Wildcat Miguel Tomley was named a first team all-star at last year’s junior provincial basketball championships. This year, he is taking the step up to play at the senior level.
Despite being two or three years younger than his teammates and opponents, Tomley made a decision at the start of the season to challenge himself and play at the highest level of high school basketball.
"It’s a lot tougher to get by people and do things that I would do against kids (who) are my age or a year older," admitted Tomley, now in Grade 9.
The six-foot-one guard said the main difference he notices is the strength and conditioning level of playing at the senior level, something both his high school and club coaches say he addresses by being a "gym rat."
"It’s just hard work. It’s what he does in his spare time," said Tammy co-coach Par Bains. "He’s always working out."
Fellow coach Doug Mackenzie said it was a seamless transition for Tomley to make thejump to senior, as he was a standout player on the junior team and has already played with most of the players on the senior team.
Like any athlete, Tomley hates to lose, but Bains said the sentiment is on another level when it comes to his 14-year-old guard.
"It doesn’t matter what it is. He could be playing ’21’ against me or playing a game of basketball, he hates to lose.
"I’ve only seen that type of drive from one other player, and that’s Sukhjot (Bains) from last year," said the Tamanawis coach.
Mackenzie added the biggest concern he had about Tomley was his mental strength and whether he would be able to cope playing senior basketball.
"It’s a lot more physical, there can be more pressure and it can wear a person down, but he is mentally tough," he said.
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The mental toughness isn’t something only seen by his high school coaches. Tomley plays basketball year-round with DRIVE, a basketball academy started by Pasha Bains and Chad Clifford â€” two former B.C. high school provincial MVPs.
"Physically he’s ready to play senior in Grade 9, which is remarkable, but I actually think it’s mentally that gives him more of an edge to play senior. He’s got an aura of confidence around him," Pasha Bains said.
Tomley’s dream is to play NCAA Div. 1 basketball and one day hopes to make it to the NBA. Unlike most Grade 9 basketball players, he has already been added to the University of Portland and Seattle University’s recruiting lists.
All of his coaches agree that the sky is the limit for Tomley, and he has already set a goal to leave a legacy."By the end of my high school career, I want to be the best player to ever come out of B.C. â€” better than Steve Nash, better than Kelly Olynyk, better than all of those guys," he said.
But in order to make it to the NCAA and his beloved UCLA Bruins, the Grade 9 student understands he can’t just focus his energy into what he does on the court.
"We went to play a game this past week at Kits," Par Bains recalled. "We got there a little bit early. He pulled out his math book and was going to do his homework in the changing room before the game."
Mackenzie, who is also one of Tomley’s math and science teachers, added: "He works very hard in class. He doesn’t want to waste time in class because he wants to spend it on the court."
Tomley has set a standard that "books come before basketball."
"If I put my books last and I don’t take care of my grades the way I should be taking care of them, I’m not going to go where I want to go," said Tomley, the MVP of last year’s junior RCMP tournament.
"I’ve got to manage my time and make sure I get everything done."
Last season, the Fraser Valley champion Wildcats returned home from the provincials with a bronze medal, the school’s highest-ever finish at the tournament.