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There hasn’t been a local men’s league in the city since 2013, but Steve Cave and his old high school basketball buddies still get together for a game or two every Sunday night.
Many of them have been teammates for almost 30 years, but apparently playing with Cave can still be a tough sell from time to time.
“Yeah, they always joke around, saying nobody wants to be on my team,” admitted the five-foot-nine 44-year-old, who is known for being a skilled but intense and vocal player on the floor.
Funny enough, it’s the teamwork aspect of the sport, and building those longstanding friendships through big games and road trips, the wins and losses along the way, that Cave values most about it.
“Most of the guys you grow up with and end up being best friends with because the sport kept you close to them,” said Cave.
What started as a way to pass the time in the driveway when he was seven years old grew into a huge part of his life, particularly once the games got competitive in Grade 6 at Holy Rosary School in Pasadena, where coach Tom Fennell provided him with the early outline for success.
Cave moved to Corner Brook when he was in Grade 8 and wound up playing point guard for the Regina High Knights during the heyday of the city championships, which brought with it a real rivalry with the Herdman Collegiate Huskies.
It wasn’t a victory over the Huskies that Cave remembers most fondly about those Knights, but rather a triumph against Mount Pearl during the 1992 provincial championship.
He can still speak of details like how it was the first year of the merger between Regina and Cabrini High as if it was yesterday, how the team had to overcome many players never sharing the floor together as teammates. They dropped their first game of the tournament to Mount Pearl by 35 points, he says, but regrouped and rebounded to shock that same team in the championship game by close to 30 points.
“That was the biggest accomplishment, at least for me,” he said.
He went on to play varsity ball with Cape Breton University for a couple of years, before earning a business degree and returning to Corner Brook and beginning a coaching career during his free time that continues to this day.
One of the most important values he feels he can pass on is how important loving the game truly is. When he was in Grade 8, he knew he’d never focus on another sport other than basketball ever again, and he feels that discipline and dedication is necessary to truly excel at anything.
“You have to have a burning in your belly — that passion and drive,” he said. “A lot of good things can come out of it.”
Even if you still have to talk your old friends into playing on your team.
Cave can only laugh and shrug.
“It’s difficult to turn that switch off,” he said, noting that his mind usually works much faster on the court than his body reacts these days.
“The competitor will always be inside you — you’re never going to lose that.”