If the success of a basketball program can be measured in the number of players it sends on to the next level, then Pitt Meadows Secondary School is doing everything right.
Matt Blackaby is the latest in a long line of Pitt Meadows graduates to make the jump to the Canada Interuniversity Sports’s (CIS) Canada West basketball conference after accepting a scholarship offer from Langley’s Trinity Western University.
Blackaby will be following in the rather large footsteps of recent Pitt grads Spencer Evans (University of the Fraser Valley), Mike Lewandowski (UBC), Malcolm Williams (UBC), and longtime teammate Trevor Severinski (University of Saskatchewan), all of whom have graduated to the CIS in the past three years.
In addition to his scholarship that will pay for three-quarters of his tuition at the expensive private school, Blackaby also received entrance scholarships from the Fraser Valley Basketball Commission, the Telus Classic Basketball Tournament, and was the recipient of the Pitt Marauders annual scholarship as well.
Blackaby averaged 17.0 points per game this season, thanks in part to his 77 per cent free throw shot, and added four assists, six rebounds, and three steals per game on average. Blackaby’s efforts helped the Marauders finish the 2011/12 season with their all-time winningest record, going 44-4, and was named a first team all-star at the Fraser Valley championship, and a third team all-star at the provincial championship.
Off the court, Blackaby has had equal success in his studies, and was named Pitt Meadows secondary’s co-valedictorian for 2012.
Pitt Meadows athletic director and senior boys’ basketball coach Rich Goulet says Blackaby is not only an outstanding player, but an outstanding person as well.
“He’s a great team guy and a great leader,” says Goulet of his team’s co-captain. “We had some issues in the locker room early in the season, and he took care of it, he settled it right down.”
That’s not surprising, given Blackaby’s father is pastor Dr. Thomas Blackaby, of Blackaby Ministries International.
“He reflects a lot of those qualities,” says Goulet. “He’s going to the perfect school for him.”
Blackaby agrees that the private Christian school was the best choice.
“The faith-based education fits well with my personality,” he says. “It’s close to home as well.”
Blackaby says he plans to study communications or political science while at TWU, and while he would like to attend law school after he graduates, he hasn’t ruled out attending seminary school, and following his father and grandfather’s footsteps, both of whom are pastors.
“That’s a door that I’ll never close,” Blackaby says. “But I don’t want to limit my choices so soon.”
The TWU Spartans, for their part, also think Blackaby will be a perfect fit.
“Matt is a hugely underrated person and athlete,” said Spartans coach Scott Allen. “I’ve always admired his internal drive to be the best he can be both on and off the court. Matt has a great motor for playing in a full-court game and loves to compete. We are hopeful his drive and relentless play can assist his teammates in our style of play and I’ve always been impressed with his willingness to give up the limelight in order for the team to succeed.”
Blackaby says he realizes he’ll be going from top dog to low man on the totem pole as a freshman, but he says he’s prepared to take on whatever role he’s assigned to.
“I think I’ll have to be more a pure shooter if I want to see the floor,” he says. “There will definitely be some adjustment, but I know it’s coming.”
Making the adjustment a little harder will be the fact that he’ll no longer be playing alongside Severinski and Mistu Iwai, who helped make up the core of the Pitt Meadows team that won the Fraser Valley finals this year.
While Severinski is off to Saskatoon to play for the Huskies, Iwai will soon be returning to his native Japan.
“I’m sure it’ll hit us a couple weeks after they’ve gone,” Blackaby says. “We always challenged each other to be better player… it will be different not having them around.
Blackaby was first introduced to the sport of basketball in Norway of all places, where his family lived from the ages of six to 13 while his father was a pastor at a church there.
“Not a lot of people play basketball there, so my dad was my first coach,” says Blackaby.
By Grade 7, Blackaby was already six-foot-two, and earned a starting spot on a team for Grade 9 boys.
When his family returned to Canada in 2007, Blackaby followed his older sister to Thomas Haney secondary, where he led the school’s Grade 8 team to a provincial title.
However, when the majority of that team decided not to play basketball in Grade 9, Blackaby knew he had to go somewhere where he could play the sport he loved.
“I wasn’t sure there would even be senior team by the time I was in Grade 12,” he said. “I already knew Trevor [Severinski] and Evan [Wendt], so I decided to come to Pitt. Ultimately, I think that decision really paid off for me.”
Goulet’s signature coaching style took some getting used to at first, but Blackaby says he soon began to appreciate his vociferous style.
“I knew what he was going to say before he would say it,” Blackaby says. “He was in my head, and who better to have in your head than him.”