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REB 40th Anniversary Tournament: Players to Watch

Written by Harrison Paulichuk

After three days and twenty-plus hours dedicated to watching high school basketball most people would need a break, but I was left wanting more after this year’s REB. This tournament was more than just a sequence of games, it was a spectacle. Jasper Place you really know how to put on a great tournament! Before I dig too deep into the players I scouted at the tournament, I want to just send a huge shoutout to the planning committee, teachers, students, and volunteers who helped with the tournament. There were so many moving parts that went into making this weekend possible. From the livestreaming and the behind-the-scenes work to the coaches who dedicated three days to coming to Edmonton with their teams, this was executed flawlessly and from a spectator’s perspective it was a joy to indulge in. Organization cannot be an easy feat for a tournament this size and I want to thank and congratulate everyone who was involved for putting on a phenomenal event. Attending my first-ever REB has single-handedly raised my expectations for all future tournaments and will now be a staple on my calendar each year it comes around. So, thank you again to everyone who made this tournament what it was; a wonderful 40th anniversary event. 

Now, on to the reason I attended the tournament in the first place, the athletes. With so much going on I attended as many games as I could but being only one person, I will admit that I unfortunately cannot be in two places at once and did miss out on a few games. I did make sure to watch at least two games of every team, so I was able to formulate a sound understanding of what each squad brought to the table here at this year's REB. I want all the readers to keep in mind that two games a piece is still a small sample size so if a player did not get chosen to one of my tournament teams, it does not mean that they went unnoticed, they may have just not stood out as much as other players did. Have any questions, concerns, or nominations that I may have missed? I would love to discuss it and even come to more of your team’s game this season so please feel free to contact my email at any time so we can have a conversation about it! Without further ado, here are this year's REB all-tournament teams.


All-REB First Team

This is the first of three teams that I made for this tournament. This team includes the best and most consistent athletes from the tournament, regardless of team standing or performance. I feel like an all-tournament team needs to focus on individual play regardless of team results because let's be honest, not every team has what it takes to be on the winning side of a tournament this tough. So, I do not believe it would be fair to count out players who were on the losing half of the bracket. Second, I was drawn towards all-around athletes and players with high potential versus strong one-sided players. Sure, your player may have been able to rain it in from downtown at a high clip, but could they play defence too? Could they notice when their teammate was open and get them the ball inside? These are just a few of the things to me, that differentiate a solid performance from a great one. So, for the All-REB First Team, I chose the players who made the biggest impact on both ends of the floor and the players who have the highest potential to replicate this performance consistently, maybe even at a post-secondary or professional level.

The first player on this list was the strongest in the tournament and will be no surprise as he was also the Varsity Men’s REB MVP. Kelowna Secondary's Nash Semenuik looks like a star in the making. The University of Alberta commit came to his future home and left no one questioning why he is already signed to an elite U-Sports program. The 6’1 guard hit shots that I didn't even think were open. His offence was electric to watch, and he lit up opponent’s defences inside out with a three-point shot that knew no range and a quick first step that would leave even the best defenders in his dust. Not only was his footspeed impressive, but the speed of his shot was what won me over. Semenuik was able to release shots before defenders even had time to think about blocking him. The way he played made the game look easy and better yet, he let the game come to him. Rather than trying to force up bad shots or throw passes where they shouldn’t be he took his time and read the play as it was unfolding in front of him, reacting only when he either found or created the room for a good shot, lane, or pass. Defensively he was no slack either, pestering the other guards and making a team like Poughkeepsie settle for forced shots at the end of the shot clock during the finals, which they hadn't had to do all weekend. Nash was the best player in the tournament without a doubt, but the next player on this list did give him a run for his money when I was putting together these teams. 

The second of five on this team may get me some hate from Jasper Place as this player took the beloved home team and absolutely torched their defences in the bronze medal game, leaving no one guessing who would be going home with some fresh hardware. This player is Archbishop O'Leary's Karan Singh, and in my opinion one of the best players that I’ve seen in the province right now. With the ability to create space off the dribble, he was able to find his shots with ease anywhere he chose. Whether he was driving hard to the rim and drawing a foul or hitting a contested step-back J with the clock expiring Singh was easily able to navigate any defence that was sent his way. The standout part of his game besides this offensive ability was his phenomenal IQ. Just from watching you could tell how well he was able to read defences and offences and able to pick them apart piece by piece. This came as no surprise though, as Singh just emanated confidence the whole time he was on the floor and rather than rushing any plays, just like Semenuik, he was patient on offence and waited for the right time to strike on the defence. Defences would send a double team to him, and he would find the hole between the players to go through, or around it and find his open teammates. There was hardly any stopping him and the way he picked apart Jasper Place's defence in the bronze medal game was just unfair.

The third player on this list may have the greatest potential of all of them simply due to his size and play style. This player was Ross Sheppard's Carson Bartlett. Playing the role of a stretch four/center for the Thunderbirds makes Bartlett a scary player for any kind of defence to try and figure out. So many times, over the weekend I saw him step out for a deep three and drain it like a guard and then return to the post the next play and dominate the other team's big man with a flashy post move. Besides this scoring ability, his intangibles are off the charts with a stocky 6'5 build alongside the ability to jump out the gym and throw it down on full display as one of the finalists in the dunk contest that was part of the opening ceremonies. When Bartlett put his head down and would drive to the hoop, you better get out of his way or be ready to put up some kind of fight because he is going to find contact one way or another. All weekend he was a monster finishing down low through contact and most of the time would also end up pushing through and getting the and-one. This is the entire reason Ross Sheppard beat Centennial in a nail-biting first-round matchup. Bartlett subbed in with two minutes to play and scored close to ten consecutive points. This guy was a menace on both ends of the floor as well, using his sheer size and athleticism to block several shots and force turnovers against players who underestimated his perimeter defence as the team’s center. The potential is just oozing off this kid and he is nowhere near his ceiling so get ready for a great season Thunderbirds!

The next player on this list may surprise some as he may not have been as flashy or high usage as some of these last three that were mentioned. He simply played his role to perfection and did it with a type of quiet confidence. Meet Western Canada's Anthony Brady. A 6’0 tall, confident guard who is patient with the ball and one of the best scorers to touch the floor this weekend. He lit up most teams from beyond the arc and did it with a type of calmness that you don’t see very often, showing very little emotion. He was able to take the ball to the hoop when needed but was happy to shoot three plus threes per quarter if the defence let him. Brady did not need the ball in his hand to produce either and would create lanes and look for his teammate with some great off ball movement as well. on the defensive end, he stayed hungry, waiting for opponents to make a sloppy dribble or a weak pass, taking that ball away and never looking back. A very unselfish player who was able to find open players and run the offence with ease with the ball in his hands. He appeared to have such a vast understanding of the game that it was a shock to learn that he was only in eleventh grade. I can be the first to say that I cannot wait to see what he has in store for next year, but I believe that his development will come much quicker than that after the performance I saw this weekend.

The last All-REB First Team member for this year was a rotation player who became a star by the end of the tournament. Besides the first game, Centennial struggled with their guard play and had to switch their rotation up a few times. This is where Cruz Layton stepped into a starring role and never looked back. Another player only in eleventh grade who decided to take charge of the offensive initiator role on the floor when his team needed him most. Cruz was a spark plug for this team and whenever they were on the bad side of a run or needed a quick bucket, they would give it to him. He always managed to find an open shot or lane and give the team exactly what they needed. No matter who they were playing the teams just couldn't find a perimeter defender who was able to get in front and stop him from blazing a bath to the hoop, most of the time leading to a drawn foul and shots or a bucket. When he wasn’t heading to the rim, he was pulling up from well beyond the three-point line and draining both open and contested shots confidently. Being a spark plug for this team came on both ends of the floor as Layton was able to step up defensively on several occasions and smother opposing guards into a bad shot or a forced turnover. Cruz went from a role player to a star player in front of everyone who was watching this weekend and may be looking towards a larger role for the team going forward this season.


All-REB Second Team

The Senior boys’ side of this tournament had twelve teams. With only ten All-Tournament players selected only the best of the best got a selection. The second team consists of players who were solid all weekend but just did not stand up to the first-team players. These spots went to players who may have had a weaker single game followed by an all-star performance or players who were simply lacking something to get over that top-five hump. Regardless, these next five were as elite as they come and earned all the props that they will be getting here.

The first player here was a standout on a team that played some of the best all-around ball I saw this weekend. The Poughkeepsie Pioneers from New York deserve some props for showing the strongest team chemistry and defence in the tournament and playing a very team-oriented game. This does make picking a single athlete from this group very difficult though as everyone showed some kind of promise and spark. The standout I chose after watching them in the finals though, was Prince Boone. This slippery guard was a menace off the dribble and hard for most defences to contain. Using his speed and athleticism to break defenders down and finish through contact down low was just the start of what made him stand out though. The whole team had scorers on it around the perimeter but the thing that helped Boone stand out from the pack his offensive aggression. Whether the Pioneers were up or down on the scoreboard Prince stayed aggressive and kept attacking, looking unfazed by any defensive pressure or score deficit. He was able to shoot confidently from deep and seemed unfazed by defensive pressure closing in on him. Boone also played a key role in the team’s elite defensive game plan, always pressuring the ball handler from half-court and using his hops and athleticism to clog passing lanes and grab a few steals along the way as well. The hustle on this kid was continuous all weekend and I am excited to see how far he can take his career.  

The next player on this list was not even on my radar until a massive final game made me question how I missed such a phenomenal player the last time I watched Ross Sheppard play. The Thunderbird’s Kai Dunkley took advantage of some weaker defences from Western Canada and put his full scoring potential on display. My initial scouting report had him as being a point guard who was a catch-and-shoot three-point threat at the most, but I found out in a hurry that Dunkley was not to be underestimated. His ball security was some of the best in the tournament and he was phenomenal at using an extremely quick first step to get around defenders. While driving to the hoop he was able to hide the ball from defenders well and finish contested shots at the rim. Stopping this kid seemed almost impossible in his final contest and having a strong supporting cast that he was able to find from anywhere on the court only helped strengthen his case as he had phenomenal vision and put on a passing clinic at times in the game. Like this wasn't already enough, Dunkley had to reinforce himself as a volume scorer from deep with a quick release, scoring more than once from beyond the arc. There was no stopping this kid and his confidence scoring the ball was a joy to watch.

Speaking of scoring with confidence the next prospect may have shown some of the most elite and transferable talent in this entire tournament. Jasper Place's very own Owen Hickey was a standout in this tournament to me. A 6'3 shooting guard who has the confidence to shoot NBA distance threes on command. Hickey used his stocky build and athleticism to comfortably shoot from the perimeter and take the ball to the rack, finishing through contact comfortably. All weekend he was able to read his defenders and make smart decisions early on, whether that meant passing to the open man, taking it to the rack or shooting. When the on-ball pressure was tighter, he had the choice between bursting by the defenders or shooting a clean looking shot with a hand in his face, seeming almost unbothered. Though not as stand out as his offence, his defence was still present, making some key stops and using his athleticism and ridiculous hops to erase shots at the rim. This all may sound great but the reason why he's on the second team and not the first team is due to his consistency shooting the ball. In his final two games he struggled with his shot tremendously. This is not an issue I see following him throughout the season though as he seemed too comfortable behind the arc to not be a deep threat. I believe his ceiling is much higher than his floor at this point and look forward to following his game throughout the season.Though I was not thrilled at an inconsistent role and production for this next prospect I still felt he deserved to be recognized on the second team.

Filip Cavarkapa, the 6'0 Guard from Centennial was honestly my favorite player to watch in the tournament…when he was on that is. By on I mean both on the floor and playing his brand of basketball. He had a ridiculous first game of the tournament and looked like he could be the best prospect of the entire weekend. Then the next game he had a torrential drop-off and found himself resting comfortably on the bench. The reason he made this list at all though was first and foremost his defensive presence which rarely failed during the tournament. Filip is a lanky guard who moves well on his feet and when he commits, can stop any player or position on the floor. In the final game of the tournament against Magrath Cavarkapa had 2+ blocks on perimeter shots in the first half. During his first game, not only his defence drew me in, but his offensive brilliance. The first shot I saw him make was a turnaround corner three as the shot clock was expiring. It wasn't a forced shot either; it was a shot he wanted to take and looked comfortable doing. He scored from the perimeter with ease which opened lanes for him to take the ball to the rack and drive straight into defenders’ chests while maneuvering the ball outside of his body and finishing at the rim with a foul. At the end of a tight game, they called his name consistently and he delivered. I think the potential that this guard brought to the table is not something that should be overlooked. I will be following this young man during the season more to hopefully see a star in the making.

The final player on this list was the strongest and most dominant center in this tournament. Kymani Palmatier is Poughkeepsie’s second player on the all-tournament second team. This kid was a force down low and even though he may have been undersized for a center at 6'3 he did not let that slow him down. He grabbed every rebound he could get to and recycled more than a handful of looks for the Pioneers down the stretch of big games on their journey to the finals. He used his size well to back in smaller opponents and when he wanted to, he could m ix it up and finish creatively with a deep bag of faders and baby-hooks from in the paint. Finishing through contact is the name of the game as an undersized center and is just another place where Palmatier thrived, drawing several fouls, and earning his way to the line regularly. When pounding the ball in the paint wasn’t working, he was able to take the ball outside and shoot a consistent clip from the three-point arc as well. He may not have always been the best defender down low on bigger centers as he lacked some of the footspeed that was required to stop taller guys down low, but he could bother opposing centers enough to force them into missing several shots. Being the sheer offensive force that he was gave him enough ammo to make the second team and prove his potential to be a star on his team.


REB 'Got Next'Team

For the final team, I wanted to do something a little different than the first two. The point of the REB Got Next Team is to showcase some of the elite young talent that showed out at this tournament. Much like the other lists, winning had no factor in this and I was more focused on individual performances along the way. I looked for the players who were in eleventh grade or younger and showed streaks of greatness over the weekend. A few of these players were not too far off making my top ten list as well but given their age, they still have a year more than most of the All-REB players to perfect their skills and prepare themselves for the next level which may come as even more impressive. I believe that these kids will be ready to take a jump from good to great before the next REB tournament but for most of them on this team, I believe that jump will come much sooner. Coming to a tournament of this calibre and having to perform in high-stakes games can't be easy but these kids seemed to thrive in the limelight and should be on everyone's radar going forward!

The first player on this team is a high-flying, athletic forward with an edge. Archbishop O'Leary's TJ Wal is a 6'4 slasher who plays with a smoothness to his game. Being a high-usage player and capable of scoring in bunches he already looks like he is primed and ready to lean into a star role on his team but other times his age comes through. During his final game of the tournament, Wal was ejected before halftime due to a controversial call for hanging on the rim after punching a breakaway slam. This wouldn’t have been an issue if he didn’t already have a first tech from getting into a scuffle with the other team in the first quarter. He will not soon forget this moment and I am sure will take this as a lesson for the future that he can grow from. As far as his on-court play goes though, he has a high release and whenever he's in the paint likes to play above the rim and finish strong, usually through or overtop of smaller, less athletic defenders. He likes to take advantage of his athleticism on both ends of the floor, being a solid defender and able to block shots with ease using his strong defensive IQ. With such a big presence down low, it is important to note that Wal is also comfortable stepping outside and hitting deep threes confidently through whatever coverage is put in front of him. There is such potential here and I will be watching him throughout the season to find out if maybe he was just having an off- tournament and has reached the potential that I believe he has sooner than I thought.

The second player on this list could not be any different than the last. The 5'8 point guard from Foothills Jerry Baker likes to use his speed and footspeed to freeze defenders off the hop and set his team up for looks that have you wondering if he has eyes in the back of his head. For a smaller guard, Baker played phenomenal on-ball defence and has great footspeed to back that up. He has some of the best handles at the tournament and was able to command the floor with the best of them. Using a combination of a quick first step and an IQ to protect the ball, Baker was surprisingly great at finishing off the drive. He had an IQ to play with his height and has perfected finishing high so that taller defenders had no chance of sending his shot back. Though he seemed hesitant to shoot and more confident to take it to the rack, he did still have a clean looking three point shot and was a threat if left open. Most of his damage was done either by cutting through the lane or finding open teammates off great passes. This kid may not have had the size of most guards at this tournament, but he had what it took to be the best player on the court at any given time and I believe, with a few extra tricks in his bag and another year of experience, Baker could be next up. 

Though he was named a tournament all-star already, I believe that Lincoln Kosinski has much more to show than he did this weekend. The 5'11 guard from Jasper Place was a lethal scorer and when his team fell apart, he kept firing and tried his best to put them on his back. His shot from the perimeter was lights out and his eye to find open lanes off the dribble was impressive for a grade eleven kid who was not always a first option on his team. Kosinski was not afraid to take the ball into a crowded paint and find contact, sometimes even finishing and making the and-one play. The only reason I did not believe he was ready to make the all-tournament teams yet was the other end of the floor. His defence was often a second late and he was not able to stay in front of stronger guards without fouling. His passing was also not always accurate as it could have been for a player who wanted to take over the game at times. These things will come though and by no means were they bad, I just believe that he needs some time to perfect them. These will come with playing during the season and I do not doubt that this kid can be the star player that JP wants him to be by the end of the season. 

The first time I saw Jiothiang Wuor play for the All Saints I remember thinking to myself "This could be the best center in the entire tournament". By the second time I saw him, I was certain that he had the potential to be the best center to come out of this tournament. Wuor is an athletic, 6’7, lanky inside-out center. His potential is off the charts. He showed that he could play a big game down low, making post shots and finishing high above the defence. He hit turnaround post shots from the paint with ease and boasts a clean stroke from wherever he is on the floor. On the defensive end, his sheer size alone allows him to clog the paint and intimidate smaller guards from even trying a drive. I watched him go from one side of the paint to the other in a split second to send a shot off the back board start a fast break opportunity for his squad. His skill set as a center is solid and exactly what anyone wants out of that position plus more. But wait, there's more. This kid steps to the perimeter on defence and has the footspeed to defend guards with ease off screens and switches. He looks comfortable, like a guard out there. Not only defensively can he play on the perimeter but offensively as well. In the final game of the tournament, I saw Wuor nail two threes in the first half of the game. This is ridiculous for his size because defensively there is almost no way to prevent a kid like this from shooting. I believe that Wuor has star potential and once he tightens up his handles and a few other elements of his game, he will be nearly impossible to defend.

The final player to make the REB Got Next team is Strathcona's Owen Gateretse. A forward who can run the court like a guard and has the basketball IQ of a vet, even though he is still in grade eleven. He has the build of an elite basketball player already being 6'5 and lanky with handles that can get him by most defenders. I saw the drive and determination of this kid that can only lead to success. He made smart decisions on offence and is elite at getting himself to the rim. He is not afraid of finishing through contact and several times during the tournament I watched him drive into the paint begging defenders to contest him, usually ending with him earning a trip to the line. This guy had a great IQ, and I don’t think I saw him take a bad shot. If he was contested or couldn’t find a way to the rim, then he would find a way to get an open look for his teammates. Gateretse is oozing with potential, and I believe that all he needs is a more consistent shot to break his whole game wide open. This would force defenders to stay truer to him and open more lanes for him to take it to the hoop. This guy has all the makings of a great basketball player now I just need him to put it together and take off during the season.

The sheer amount of talent that I was presented with did not make picking these teams easy. I loved every second of learning what they had to offer though, and I would do it again in a heartbeat. Let me know what you think of these teams. If you haven’t ever seen any of these guys play, then you are missing out and I would add them to your list of young talent to watch next! Feel free to reach out if you'd like me to come scout your team play next!

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