By Larry Moko
It wasn’t a big deal to Nathan Morris of the Cathedral Gaels that he was a member of the winning team at the annual Hamilton Spectator Classic all-star boys’ high school basketball game Wednesday.
That was just a bonus.
What mattered more to him was being back in uniform, competitively involved in the game he loves. The Grade 12 guard has been sidelined since suffering a broken left patella (kneecap) during the last regular-season game of the Hamilton-Wentworth Catholic Athletic Association schedule on February 8.
“I’m very happy to be back,” Morris said after City’s 97-82 victory over Mountain in the all-Hamilton-Catholic contest at the Cardinal Newman gym.
“It definitely felt good. I remember the doctors were telling me it was going to be a slow process. I got in the gym by myself and worked as hard as I could.
“I’ve been on the court (since the injury), but literally with within a metre of the basket just all-form shooting. I was trying to get my confidence level back up. This was my first time at playing competitively.”
Morris finished with six points – a pair of three-point baskets in the second half after going 0-for-5 from the field in the opening half. But he shook off the rust in the third quarter helping City go on a run and break the game open.
“No matter the outcome, and even if I went 0-for-25, I would still be happy to know that I’m out there with my friends again, playing,” he said.
City’s attack was led by a trio of Cardinal Newman Cardinals. Goran Veselinovic, Maliek Gordon and Tyrell Hebert poured in 20, 17 and 16 points, respectively. Hebert, a 6-foot-7 centre who hopes to be selected in the June Major League Baseball draft, was chosen the Most Valuable Player of the 29th annual Spectator all-star event.
Other top scorers for City were Cathedral’s Michael Ssemanda (10), Zanyah Jones (10) and Bardhi Popaj (eight).
For the Mountain selects, Terrance Lennox of the St. Jean de Brebeuf Braves netted 16 points. Blake Anderson of the Bishop Tonnos Titans tossed in 14 points, while Sami Jahan of the St. Thomas More Knights had 13 and Steven Lemay of Brebeuf added 11.
“The guys had fun,” said City coach Victor Raso, who guided Newman to a fourth-place finish at the AAA level of OFSAA this season. “If you make the city all-star game it’s pretty cool.
“It’s always been a good game.”
This was Morris’s final year of high school eligibility and, looking back, he said his injury was a big blow to Cathedral’s championship hopes.
“We were a very strong team this year,” Morris said of the Gaels. “I was relied on a lot. During time outs, they (other players) would look at me and ask what I feel is best. Even the coach said to me ‘I’m going to have to teach these guys to win by defence because one of our best offensive components is not there any more.’
“The team went to the championship, though. You can’t ask any more than that. They answered the call.”
On the subject of the all-star game, Raso said: “It’s a good way for guys to end their high school careers. Especially a guy like him (Morris) who wouldn’t have had the chance if this game wasn’t around.”
Other players in the all-star lineup were Dejuan Southe (Newman), Jordan Robinson (St. Mary), Chris Kislinsky (Tonnos), Diar Alkady (St. Thomas More), Efe Omorogbe (St. Thomas More), Will Dorelien (Bishop Ryan), Terrell Burke (Bishop Ryan), Shawn Daly (Bishop Tonnos) and Kyle Doornick (St. Thomas More).