They’re building a court under Canada Place’s iconic five sails, for the first major sporting event at the Vancouver Convention Centre since Canada beat Brazil in a February 1990 Davis Cup tennis American zone quarterfinal.
The reason is the inaugural TCL Vancouver Showcase, a Nov. 18-24 NCAA Division 1 basketball men’s and women’s tournament.
“It checks every box,” said University of Washington Huskies head coach Mike Hopkins. “Challenging tournament, incredible city, close to home.”
The Huskies and Santa Clara Broncos, Hall of Famer Steve Nash’s alma mater, will be the first to tip-off in the temporary, 3,100-seat arena on Nov. 18 at 5 p.m., followed by Texas A&M Aggies and Minnesota Golden Gophers at 7:30 p.m.
Hopkins is preparing for his second season with the Dawgs, after a 21-13 overall record last year. He turned around a program that struggled at 9-22 in 2016-17. The Huskies were ranked 24th in the USA Today preseason coaches poll.
“We just keep reinforcing it’s just a number, the only thing that matters is what happens inside the lines,” Hopkins said. “You’ve got to be able to prove yourself with really good play. Being able to go up there and play in Vancouver in a quality tournament gives you the opportunity to show people if you’re a top 25 team or not.”
Hopkins came to Seattle after 22 years as an assistant at Syracuse to Hall of Fame coach Jim Boeheim. As a player, Hopkins starred for the Orange where one of his teammates was Lawrence Moten, a future Vancouver Grizzlies draft pick.
“Anybody that you talk about in the NBA, they loved going to Vancouver and Seattle. They said they were great sports cities, great NBA environments. When you have that, you’d love to see teams in those cities,” Hopkins said. “Maybe in the next four to five years, maybe we see NBA basketball come back to both Vancouver and Seattle.”
With the Key Arena renovation getting city hall’s green light, Seattle is first in line. For now, Vancouver has the chance to be the home of the top, early season college hoops meet. The teams entered hope Vancouver is their first stop on the road to the men’s Final Four in Minneapolis and women’s Final Four in Tampa.
“I don’t think there’s any other place in the country you’re going to see this kind of talent,” said Muffet McGraw, head coach of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish, the defending women’s national champion. “We like to challenge ourselves and play outside the conference, and see what the best teams look like because you don’t want to wait until you get to the NCAA tournament. This is a mini-NCAA tournament here, it’s going to be great basketball.”
McGraw is entering her 32nd season as a coach with a career .777 winning percentage. Her team’s national championship last Easter Sunday came 17 years to the day after her first. Guard Arike Ogunbowale clinched the title with a basket at the buzzer.
The Vancouver Showcase will be a homecoming for Gonzaga Bulldogs’ sophomore guard Louise Forsyth of Langley. Forsyth was a member of the Brookswood secondary team that won three straight AAA B.C. titles.
Her coach, Lisa Fortier, is eager to see Forsyth perform in front of friends and family.
“It’s fun for a coach to watch a player get excited, they play a little extra, they want it a little bit more, playing in their hometown,” said Fortier, whose Spokane, Wash.-based squad went 27-6 last season.
Forsyth played in 13 games last season, including three of the last five regular season games. Fortier is particularly impressed with Forsyth’s work ethic.
“A lot of people will get in the gym and do their position work at one pace, and once you get into the game situation, you’re naturally set up and then you can’t make crisp passes, crisp reads, you can’t make shots because you’re going that much faster,” Fortier said. “That’s not something she struggles with at all, because she practices at full-speed all the time which we love about her. She’s as well conditioned an athlete as we’ve ever had.”
Vancouver Showcase doubleheader tickets are $32 to $213.
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