For high school athletes in the northwest, sports scholarships paving the way to university or college require more than talent.
It requires years of practices and lengthy road trips, along with the ability to stand out against competition from larger centres – many of whom have had years playing higher levels of competition.
The planning behind it is no simple feat either; early decisions can affect later opportunities and at a young age players can be faced with major choices.
Kenneth Monture is in Grade 11 at Caledonia Secondary School. He played on Cal’s senior boys’ basketball team this season, and was recently selected for the Drive BC’s elite provincial basketball ball team, placing him in the ranks of the best for his age group.
“I love it, it’s my passion,” said Monture, who has been playing basketball since the third grade.
“My first plan is definitely to go to school with basketball,” he said, although he adds he is not ruling anything out in regards to playing professionally. “I definitely want to see how far basketball can take me.”
His father, Terry Monture, is a strength and conditioning coach who has been working with Kenneth on a five-year training plan since the eighth grade.
“We have had these conversations since he was in Grade 8. Even though there are good coaches here you don’t get the competition – nor do you get the games.” Terry said, adding that at one point they both considered moving to the Lower Mainland to further Kenneth’s basketball opportunities.
What kept the Montures in Terrace is the Cal Kermodes’ automatic berth to provincials. This is because the team is the only AAA basketball team in the zone (something slated to change as Prince Rupert senior boys’ basketball team readies to join the AAA ranks next season).
Canadian universities have already shown interest in Monture.
That’s a pretty impressive feat considering the 17-year-old still has one more year of high school to go, and actual recruitment talks cannot begin between players and university coaches until the 12th grade.
They are looking at education, attitude and work ethic as well as how a player gets along with other teammates, Terry said.
Rob Johnson is the director for athletes and recreation at University of British Columbia’s Okanagan campus.
“If you are a very talented student athlete lots of schools want your services, and so lots of schools will offer you different packages to try and get you to come to their school,” he said.
Canadian post secondary schools are capped by what they can offer prospective players by Canadian Inter-University Sports, the governing body for Canadian university sports. It says schools can only offer students full tuition and mandatory fee coverage.
And that amount can only be offered to 70 per cent of a team, so the awards are often broken up and shared around in accordance to a coach’s wishes.
“They are competing to get the players who will compete for them,” Johnson said, explaining how this makes coaches the logical decision makers for allotting student athlete awards.
“There are a number of schools like UBC Vancouver and some of the larger western Canadian schools who feel that’s insufficient, and that we lose Canadian student athletes to American schools because we can’t offer more than that,” Johnson said. “That’s the thing about sports, it’s competitive all the bloody way through.”
It’s true that American schools can offer Canadian athletes a better deal with their full-ride offers of university money that include benefits such as housing costs.
However, Johnson says academics matter as well, and in Canada academic awards do not count against athletic awards, so it is possible to benefit from both.
Kenneth said his first choice for a post secondary school would be in the United States, but this is more to do with the higher level of competition than money.
Josh Murray is a Terrace local who has successfully manoeuvred the path Kenneth is now considering.
The 26-year-old Terrace minor hockey graduate spent eight years away from home earning himself a civil engineering degree, compliments of the University of Alabama in Huntsville, while playing hockey.
Murray has since returned to the northwest and is putting his education to use in the community. He is also back on the ice, playing senior men’s hockey for the Terrace River Kings.
Born and raised in Terrace, Murray graduated from the minor hockey circuit before moving south to play two years of Junior B with the Sicamous Eagles.
It was at that point that he decided that using hockey for a scholarship was definitely something that interested him.
“I thought it was a possibility, but figured it was a long shot,” Murray said.
After two years of Junior B, Murray played two years of Junior A with the Williams Lake Timberwolves.
“It became more realistic to me when I got to Junior A,” he said.
At the end of his second year in Williams Lake. Murray was offered a full athletic scholarship. He also applied for and received academic scholarships based on his SAT results and grades.
He ended up playing for the University of Alabama Chargers while completing his schooling there. “I would strongly recommend it, it was a great experience for me,” Murray said.
“He (Kenneth) knows Josh’s story very well because I trained Josh,” Terry said – who is currently training Terrace’s Luke Gordon, now signed with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen.
As a longtime Terrace lacrosse coach, Terry has urged local athletes to excel in their sport in the hopes that it’ll pay for higher education.
But Kenneth said he isn’t making any big decisions just yet. He is weighing out the options of class sizes, location, coaching staff and what kind of ball a team is playing. “[I will] figure that one out next year, I just want to focus on basketball,” Kenneth said.
Below, Josh Murray plays for the River Kings during a regular season game in Terrace.