The driveway basketball workouts must be quite the spectacle in their Steveston neighbourhood.
Marina Radocaj is among the top players in the country for her age group. The 6-foot-2 Grade 9 McMath secondary student was an all-star at last month’s senior provincials in helping the Wildcats place fourth.
Her brother Victor is back home following a couple of productive seasons in the Ontario Scholastic Basketball Association — initially at Thornlea Secondary School, then the TRC Academy for his Grade 12 year.
With all gyms closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the pair have been training at home under the guidance of their father Zoran — an accomplished coach himself who was part of the Wildcats staff this past season.
“My dad is an amazing coach. He’s been out there almost every day just working with us. You are sweating pretty good by the end,” laughed Victor. “It’s really nice being back home and have that time with him. Without my dad and my mom there is no way any of this happens.”
What is “happening” for Victor is a collegiate career at the NCAA Division One level next fall after signing with Eastern Washington University. The Eagles are part of the Big Sky Conference and were on their way to the NCAA Tournament when the balance of the season was cancelled.
Victor made his formal commitment in early February, soon after making an official visit to the Cheney, WA. campus.
“Ever since they offered me (a scholarship) it was getting more and more appealing after I had looked at everything,” he said. “I already knew the coach was great and when I went there everyone was exceptional.
“When you go on an official visit you get to meet counsellors and school staff as well. They understood the role the basketball program plays in the player’s life. The fact it’s close to home is a bonus. Eastern Washington is I think the only university sponsored by Microsoft and I want to get into computer science and electrical engineering.”
It was back in Grade 9 when Victor made a name for himself in the Richmond League as a call-up player — leading McMath to an upset win over then No. 1 ranked Steveston-London. That summer he was the lone BC player on the Canadian team that won silver at the U16 FIBA Americas in Argentina.
He helped McMath win the Richmond title and reach the Lower Mainland final in his Grade 10 year before deciding it would be best to take his game to Ontario. He would be matched up against similar talent and size on a regular basis.
“They were taking guys from everywhere because it was a prep league. All across Canada, top of the top and you are playing against them,” he explained.
“Lot of these guys are as tall as me and stronger than me. If I stayed here, maybe it’s once or twice a season, or even at all (I would see that). You don’t get that consistency where in Ontario the whole league is compared to the top teams out here.”
Victor made the move to TRC for his Grade 12 year which is a private program partnered with a public school. It gave him better access to off-court training that has helped bulk up his weight to 205 pounds from 170 two years ago.
He still kept close tabs on his former team and even watched the Wildcats win the city title back in February via FaceTime. He returned home following the Ontario season to finish off high school at McMath and graduate with his family and friends.
The plan is to head to Eastern Washington in June to get a jump on his schooling and ease the course load for his freshman season.
“I had started online courses right before the pandemic happened,” he added. I’m keeping up with my school work now and finishing up those few courses I need.
“I’m doing as much shooting as I can in the front yard. My sister is becoming an amazing player and she is still young. Hopefully, I can help her out a bit.”