BY Jose Colorado, Vancouver Sun
SURREY — There’s always a fine line to be had when fostering your child’s dreams.
You want to encourage but not inflate; allow them to dream but not falsely fantasize; constructively criticize but not compromise the end goal.
Imagine then the situation Alisha Tomley found herself in less than two years ago when her barely six-foot tall 13-year-old son, Miguel Tomley, told her his main goal moving forward was “to be the best player to ever come out of B.C.”
He doesn’t possess a seven-foot frame like fellow B.C. natives and NBA pros Robert Sacre (Los Angeles Lakers) and Kelly Olynyk (Boston Celtics) nor is he — by all the coaches’ account — the athlete Steve Nash was as a youngster.
But that’s all just hot air for Miguel Tomley.
“I see them all the same,” said Tomley, asked about his end-goal of reaching the NBA like Sacre, Olynyk and Nash. “I guess being taller is an advantage but everyone has to work equally as hard to get there — they all deserve it.
“With that being said, I want to be better than all three of them; I don’t care how they look.”
With big dreams, come some big cojones — and at 15-years-old, Tomley, may just have some of the biggest in B.C. basketball at the moment.
The audacity of Tomley’s pursuit isn’t what has overwhelmed coaches and family members the most — many aspire to reach the highest form of their craft — but rather the level of tenacity and accountability the youngster has held himself to at such a young age is.
“I remember in Grade 8 he came into the gym and he was asking everyone ‘who’s the best player in the school?’” said Par Bains, Tomley’s co-coach at Tamanawis Secondary School (Doug McKenzie is the other). “Everyone said Sukhjot (Bains) — who was in Grade 12 at the time — so he went straight up to him and challenged him to one-on-one in front of everyone. He would always do it.
“Now, don’t get me wrong, he never beat him but the fact that he was willing to do it tells you something about his desire to be the best.”
(Story continues below 2014 video of Miguel Tomley in action)
As a ninth-grader, Tomley burst onto the senior boys basketball scene last year averaging 25 points for the Tamanawis Wildcats.
For any sort of physical limitation Tomley may have yet to experience, he more than made up for it through a sheer force of will and a skill set beyond his years.
Tomley’s fearless approach and confident demeanour may have come as an oddity to those who were seeing the baby-faced guard on the high school scene for the first time last season. But for close onlookers it was exactly that spirit of perseverance and determination that had allowed Tomley to pursue his passion in the first place amid — at times — a tiring childhood.
“His attitude definitely comes from his mom,” said Bains, who noted Miguel’s mentorship role to his 10-year-old brother, Kevin. “She does everything she possibly can to provide for them and she’s at all the games and tournaments.
“I think Miguel really takes that to heart. When you see something like that everyday in your life, you start to think, ‘why can’t I work just as hard at what I want to do?’ ”
With Alisha Tomley pointing out her son’s set routine and discipline to finish homework as soon as he touches foot in the house, it’s clear Miguel is clearing up time and setting himself up for one thing — basketball.
And now as Tomley’s body (6-2, 180 pounds), game (26.3 points per game, 4.3 assists per game, 3.9 rebounds per game) and team (4-0) continues to develop, his journey brings with it the lingering question of just how good the Surrey native can become.
When it comes to the West Coast province, Bains is convinced Tomley is the undisputed champ in his grade and a “top five player in the province regardless of position or age.”
Yet the Wildcat coach’s experiences with Tomley have been largely limited to domestic competition with rare trips outside of B.C. happening.
The Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) — traditionally where the best prospects and tournaments in North America are held — provides a true indication of just how good Tomley can be and how much his game can elevate, says his AAU coach Pasha Bains.
“We actually have a running dialogue with him about when to make shots.
“When the game starts we get mad at him if he makes shots because then we know the other team says ‘ this guy is the man. Faceguard him. Don’t let him get the ball.’ He’s that good that we can tell him to wait (to score),” said Bains, who noted solid outings from Tomley against Mean Streets (former AAU team of No. 1 overall NBA selection Anthony Davis), CP3 All-stars and Boise Flite.
“And remember this is AAU basketball in some of the best tournaments in the states — almost unheard of to faceguard people since everyone is so talented. You can’t usually just focus on one guy.”
It is possible — some may even argue likely — that Tomley may never reach the legendary status he seeks among the Mount Rushmore of B.C. high school greats.
He’s trying to fill some gargantuan-sized shoes and even one of his closest mentors, Par Bains, concedes he must win “a championship or multiple championships” to even enter the discussion.
But for a player who is already wowing observers on both sides of the border, it’s all part of an evolving process that begun years ago with his mother. “He’s always been very hard on himself,” said Alisha Tomley, a lifetime Surrey resident. “Sometimes he would go home and cry after a bad game, other times he skips the whole sad part altogether and he’ll go straight to the gym burning mad.
“He’s crazy. But I have no clue whatsoever where his determination comes from. I think that maybe he just doesn’t want to end up in a dead-end (job) like he has seen so many other people around him do.
“He just wants to be somebody in this world and I support it 100 per cent.”
Two more B.C. hoopsters to watch on the hardwood
Grant Shephard | Kelowna Owls, 16, Grade 11
As the only B.C. native on the Under-17 cadet national team this past summer, it’s clear Grant Shephard has carried over his summer experience. The MVP of the Kodiac Klassic earlier this month in Port Moody, Shephard and his Kelowna Owls have given no indication as to why the school shouldn’t be considered the 4-A favourites at the holiday break.
Uyi Ologhola | Holy Cross, 14, Grade 8
Although Uyi Ologhola hasn’t even played a game of high school basketball yet, his status as a showstopper is already gaining steam around B.C. Legend has it that the 5-10 guard is already tomahawking, prompting St. Georges head coach Brodan Thiel to say “he’s the most athletic player he’s ever seen” following the Burnaby South Rebels Classic last weekend. Ologhola was also named player of the tournament in the same event.