Alumni tourney celebrates 25 years

Annual Delta Pacer basketball event is a major fund raiser for the Anesto Charles Foundation

The Delta Pacers Alumni Basketball Tournament is as much about bettering the future of the sport at the Ladner high school as it is celebrating the past.

It was back in the 1980s when former longtime athletic director Jim Lawrence came up with idea of bringing back DSS grads for a weekend of basketball and fun. It is now believed to be the longest running alumni tournament in the province with the 25th silver anniversary edition slated for Jan. 31-Feb. 1. What started as an opportunity for players to relive their glory days has developed into so much more.

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The Anesto Charles Foundation was formed soon after the former Pacer standout suddenly passed away during a senior men's basketball game. It established a scholarship program that annually gives $4,000 to elementary age students to attend sports camps and another $2,000 to graduating DSS players. The foundation has been headed by Neil Murray, who coached Charles when the Pacers senior boys team was ranked No. 1 in the province back in 1979. Charles' sister Marlene is also heavily involved.

One of the foundation's major fund raisers is a gala dance that is part of the alumni weekend.

"What has come out of this is a lot more than playing basketball," explained DSS alumni and Delta Sports Hall of Fame inductee Dean Bauck. "We have this friendship and bonding (among the players) that has developed and it never would have happened if Jim didn't do this tournament.

"By adding a social aspect we thought we can make something good come out of it."

Bauck, who had a leading role in the Pacers earning a B.C. berth in 1972, is joined on the alumni tournament organizing committee by Navi Sekhon, who starred on the 1993 team, while recent grad Trey Melton represents another generation of players contributing to the event.

The group doesn't have to look far for support from within the school either. DSS principal Terry Ainge is not only a Pacer alumni himself, he happened to coach Sekhon's Grade 8 team when he was studying at UBC.

"The support for this tournament has never been better," explained Sekhon, now a Burnaby fireman. "You not only know the people who you grew up with, but you become friends with the (grads) behind and in front of you as well. It's great to see people from different eras pitching in to make this work."

The Charles Foundation is also doing its part to support the current basketball teams at DSS. A contribution will now be made to the program that could go towards everything from new uniforms to providing financial assistance to a student who might not be a able to play otherwise. When the senior boys team was suddenly in need of a coach in September, it was through Sekhon's connections in the B.C basketball community that brought Tim Whitehead onboard.

"We like to think we have an influence on the program because we have a lot of pride in it," said Bauck. "This isn't about winning and supporting a powerhouse program but rather helping out all six (boys and girls) teams at the school and making it a positive experience for the kids like we enjoyed.

"A guy like Navi is very connected to the basketball community. That is invaluable to have."

Sekhon will soon be adding to his duties when he takes over from Murray to oversee the Charles Foundation.

"Neil has done a fantastic job," he said. "He has been basketball in (South Delta) for a long time. I hope I can keep up the speed. I'm not too worried because I have a whole army of people behind me."

The Foundation is looking for additional support through a $500 alumni tournament corporate sponsorship or prize donations for the gala night. For more information email deltapacers@gmail.com

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