CORNER BROOK Frank Foo would rather just coach and not have to make the tough decisions that come with selecting a team.
Unfortunately for him, that’s exactly the dilemma he faces as the final try-out for the Corner Brook Regional High Titans senior boys basketball team goes ahead tonight from 7:30-9:30 p.m. at the high school gymnasium.
“It’s so hard ... they’re all good players, they’re all good kids,” said Foo after the first try-out on Monday night. “The easiest is trying to pick seven or eight good players, but when it comes to the last two or three, that’s really a toss-up.”
The Titans could be poised for big things this year with nine players — Daniel Foo, Ryan Harnett, Jay Warford, Adam Bursey, Nathan Burt, Graham Kenny, Daniel Humber, Ryan Park and Jordan Penney — eligible to return from last year’s group that won the Wendy’s Classic tournament in St. John’s, made the final in both the provincial 4A tournament and the Coal Bowl Classic in Nova Scotia, and the semifinal at the Hall of Fame Cup.
Of course, that’s assuming all those players make the cut this time and, perhaps more importantly, everyone avoids injury.
“No matter what players you’ve got, the players have to stay healthy and we didn’t last year,” said Foo, recalling losing now-graduated starters Tim Goosney and Ben Maynard just before the team hosted the 4A provincials last March.
“We were fortunate to make it to the final,” he added. “Any time you have a starter injured, it takes a lot to replace them — and sometimes you can’t.”
Foo was happy with the number of hopefuls out to Monday night’s try-out and wants to see even more there tonight.
“Then we’ll have to make a tough decision,” he said of selecting the final 12-man roster.
Explaining how he will go about making those choices, Foo said you can’t just overload on one thing or another. It’s all about balance.
“We can’t select all seven-foot guys or all five-foot guys,” he said, noting that a player’s attitude has to be positive as well. “Skill alone is not going to make this team.”
Once that process is complete — Foo figures the final roster will be announced Monday — the squad will then likely be among the favourites in a provincial setup drastically changed from last year, when any of the top eight or nine schools in the province had a legitimate shot at winning any tournament.
“There are fewer strong teams this year,” Foo said, pointing out 4A champion Holy Heart, for example, has essentially lost all its starters from a year ago. “Only one team I think of that’s really good out east right now will be Gonzaga.”
Foo said the Titans Level II squad won its provincial tournament last year, beating many of the players who will now make up the various senior team rosters on the east coast this year.
In all likelihood, the senior Titans will welcome back the nine experienced players eligible to return, making them immediate favourites in a field of rebuilding squads.
They’ll play in the Wendy’s Classic again in November, before February’s Hall of Fame Cup — providing, of course, they make the final list of the Elite Eight, as selected by the Newfoundland and Labrador Basketball Association — and then the 4A provincials the following month. Foo is also looking at the possibility of competing in a couple of national tournaments in Sussex, N.B. and Halifax, N.S.
“Hopefully we’ll be able to make both of them,” he said.
In the meantime, the team — once selected — will try to keep busy on the west coast, where competition isn’t readily available to them. The senior teams from other area schools like Stephenville High, Pasadena Academy or Elwood High aren’t quite at the level the senior Titans will be at this year.
We’ve got a Level I team and a Level II team as good as anybody, they should be playing them,” said Foo. “I think the other coaches know that.
“We won’t turn anybody down,” he added. “We’ll play them, but it’s not to our advantage.”