An elite basketball team from Sin City is ready for their first foray north of the border.
The Findlay Prep Pilots, a high school basketball powerhouse from Henderson, Nevada, are the main attraction at this weekend’s Tsumura Basketball Invitational at the Langley Events Centre.
The Pilots, currently ranked second among all American high school boys’ basketball teams by the USA Today, have won three of the past four prestigious ESPN national high school basketball invitationals.
“We like our group,” said Pilots coach Todd Simon.
“We have a lot of great kids who are really putting the time in, working hard and learning a lot.”
The Pilots have six players already committed to NCAA Division 1 schools for their post-secondary basketball.
Point guard Nigel Williams-Goss is off to Washington, while two other guards — Al Freeman and Stanford Robinson — will attend UCLA and Indiana, respectively.
Indiana just happens to be the top-ranked NCAA team right now.
The Pilots also boast an imposing front line built around a trio of near-seven footers.
Christian Wood, a six-foot-nine shot blocker who plays like a guard, is off to UNLV.
Fallou Ndoye, a six-foot-10 strong, physical post player, will play at Mississippi State, and six-foot-11 Benas Griciunas — a skilled post player who can also shoot — has committed to Auburn.
“We play hard, we play together,” Simon said when asked to describe his squad.
“We try to play the game the right way in terms of making extra passes and running the floor.
“We play an up tempo style that scores a lot of points and all that good stuff.
“A solid brand of basketball.”
This will be the team’s first time playing in Canada.
“It seemed like a new, unique experience for us.”
The Pilots will play a pair of games at the LEC: Saturday at 8 p.m. against the Walnut Grove Gators and on Sunday at 5 p.m. versus the White Rock Christian Warriors.
The Gators were second at the B.C. AAA senior boys’ championships, losing a heartbreaker in the championship final to the Terry Fox Ravens.
Walnut Grove returns all but two players from that squad and should be once again led by Grade 11 phenom Jadon Cohee, who earned first team all-star honours last year.
The Warriors finished third at the provincial championships and are a perennial power.
“We know Walnut Grove has a tremendous player and they are both very good programs,” Simon said about his two opponents.
“I do have a tremendous amount of respect for what the coaches have done and the programs they have.”
The tournament will also feature the W.J. Mouat Hawks — who play the Gators on Sunday at 6:30 p.m. — the Sir Winston Churchill Bulldogs and the Terry Fox Ravens.
The tournament will also feature some of the province’s top senior girls teams in the Brookswood Bobcats, the South Kamloops Titans, the Oak Bay Breakers and the Riverside Rapids. The Titans and the Bobcats open the season ranked first and second, respectively.