Ron Putzi has a pretty good idea what would have happened about three decades ago under the current Richmond senior boys basketball format.
“RC Palmer had the No. 1 Grade 10 team in the province and we (Burnett) were No. 3. We had some great battles with them from Grades 8 to 10. A couple of overtime games and usually a one or two point difference in the end,” he recalled.
Instead of continuing their rivalry to the senior ranks like today’s all-city league structure, the two came together to form one of the most dominant teams in the history of B.C. High School Boys Basketball. The Richmond Colts won back-to-back provincial titles in in 1987 and 1988 under legendary coach Bill Disbrow.
The ultra-athletic 6-foot-6 Putzi was one of the team’s stars, typically leading the Colts out of the locker room for the pre-game warm-up with a thunderous slam dunk as Boston’s “Long Time” blared out of the gym speakers in front of a capacity crowd. Those spectacular high school performances led to a full-ride scholarship to New Mexico State University and eventually a professional career in Europe. Along the way there were international appearances for Canada.
It all added up to Putzi being the first Richmond player to be inducted into the Basketball B.C. Hall of Fame last month. He was thrilled his 10-and-13-year-old daughters were old enough to understand what their father had accomplished and share his special night with him at the River Rock Casino and Resort.
Putzi is grateful he played the game during a magical era for the sport in Richmond and flattered he was the first hall-of-fame inductee from a long list of great Lulu Island players.
“(Former Colt star) Alan Tait was really the trailblazer when he ended up going to Oregon State and playing alongside the likes of AC Green,” said Putzi. “And we idolized the 1984 and 1985 teams. Guys like (provincial MVP) Steve Taylor. That’s where we wanted to be too.”
It was Tait’s younger brother and Putzi’s classmate Brian who introduced him to hoops in Grade 8. They would be teammates all the way to New Mexico State. His coaches developed his passion for the game. First, Walter Janzen and John Newman during his early years at Burnett, followed by Scott Ried and Sean Lawson. It paved the way for two memorable years under Disbrow who ran his program similar to the top schools south of the border.
“When I look back at Bill bringing in (Maryland’s) Dematha High and we sold out those games at UBC with the whole Canada versus US thing. Those are moments I am never going to forget,” added Putzi.
His involvement in the game today includes helping organize KitsFest, a multi-sport event held each August that features an outdoor basketball tournament.
He still keeps an eye on the high school level in his hometown too, attending this year’s senior boys final and watching his former teammate Trevor Kojima’s son Jordin lead the McMath Wildcats to victory.