In his original idea, Ricardo wanted to make a basketball team and he needed bodies to fill roster spots so we could play. We had about 8 close friends (Alan, Dave and a few others) that had decided to play as well, but we still needed a few more bodies to fill out a full team. We picked up Nathan & Dan at an open gym run at Gordon Bell in the fall of 1999 and Craig came through Dave G. Some of the guys we picked up were intended to be filler until some of the guys Ricardo was coaching graduated. We never imagined that these guys that we were intending on using to meet a goal would go on to become our most loyal and closest confidants.
Our first official team was founded in September of 2000 by Rico, Nate, Jimmy, Thunder Dan, Craig “The Godfather” Pawlychyn and TJ - what I would go on to call “The Core”. I originally started the team as a way to stay in touch with the kids I had coached in High School and as a vessel for some of those kids to help them stay away from the vices of life - to show them that there was a basketball life after High School that didn't have to involve a College or University. I had coached some of these kids since Grade 9 and felt like it would be great to play with them as equals and friends, being there to help them out through the rough times you face after graduation.
The original vision was lofty in its intent, but it ultimately failed as I’ve never been able to control what people do. On top of that, I never felt like it was my place to guide anyone as I didn't even know where I was headed in life. Eventually, the team evolved into a group of people who love the game of basketball and want to play it properly.
Our team was (and is) based on very basic principles: Respect for ourselves and each other, Responsibility and Accountability to the team, Loyalty, Dedication and most of all, a commitment to hard work and, in particular, the defensive end of the floor. Everyone wants to have fun. And we have MORE fun when we win. And if we don’t? Well, there’s always another game coming up where we can try again.
Our team motto is: Defense wins games, Defense wins Championships!
Ricardo tapped everyone he knew, young and old alike searching for players who were willing to commit time and money into the team. Our first season (2000-2001) we had 13 people on the roster, but averaged only 8 out per game. We started out in Division 7 and lost out first game by 1 point on a last second free throw. But we went undefeated for the remainder of the regular season and playoffs and avenged the first game loss by beating the Court Marshalls in the finals by 19 points. Championship #1 saw our final record be 17-1.
Our team's first year was difficult. We spent a lot of time calling people about games and stressing out about how many people would show up on game day. When the full roster was there, we were busy trying to juggle the egos and making sure that everyone got playing time. On top of that, we had to hound so many people about League Fees. That first year we ended up paying about $600 out of pocket and had about 6 people that never paid. But it was fun and we wanted to do it again and find a more efficient way of running things.
After winning Div. 7, our team got cocky and a nearly unanimous decision was passed to rename our team from Shaka Dula to “The Reign”. The idea was that we were the reigning Div. 7 Champs and that we were gonna “reign” shots from deep. Ricardo was completely against the idea, but the decision was made that this was a much better team name than Shaka Dula.
We started in Division 6 for our second year (2001-2002) and our core returned intact, though the role players changed a bit. But we still went undefeated in the first half of the regular season and were moved up to Division 5 for the second half. We continued to go undefeated until the semi-final round of the playoffs where a lack of personnel and chemistry hurt us and we got eliminated. Our Final Record: 14-1
Our second year was definitely a challenge. On top of the shift in players, we continued to have personnel and payment issues. We ended up paying about $400 out of pocket that second year. As far as the name change? We didn't win the championship and looked cocky for having thought of that.
Our third year (2002-2003) was a blur. We changed our team name back to Shaka Dula from the failed experiment called “The Reign”. The revolving door of players kept turning and we found ourselves once again bringing in new people and bidding farewell to others. Although we went undefeated in the regular season, we STILL lost in the semi finals of Division 5 once again. Final Record: 15-1. One of our founding members, Craig, moved to Calgary to begin his adult life at the end of this year. We were sad to see him go and we missed him very much - he will always be a special person to us and will always be a part of our team, even if he is two provinces away.
Out of all the years, this one was one of the toughest for us as a group. On top of the lack of payments and the challenges of playing in a new division, a few of the players we acquired were ... not as skilled and had large egos. One or two of them were dubbed “The Black Holes of Basketball” because they never passed. We were definitely a team in disarray and Ricardo could have easily folded the basketball team idea, choosing instead to let someone else run the show and choosing to be a player instead of an organizer. But the core talked it over as a group and we decided to proceed with a greater involvement from a few of the core players to help take some of the stress away from Ricardo.
For year 4 (2003-2004), we picked up way more players than necessary. Our team was 14 deep and, for the first time EVER, we had a full complement of players at every game. People jockeyed for position and it became clear WHO would be a part of our future and who would not; who was more committed to making this work and who was just there to play ball and chuck up shots. This is the year we picked up Chris, Jeremy and Kenny. Our “Core” of 5 players turned into 8 deep and we won the Division 5 championship in dramatic fashion as it came to a missed buzzer beater thanks to great defense. That game was a highlight reel for Jeremy, who hit our final 12 points in overtime for the win. Final Record: 17-0 and our average margin of victory was 24 points.
A special highlight of that year includes putting up 108 points on a team and making them leave the League. Not the nicest of things to remember but it's hard to find another team that can boast that.
We moved to Division 4 for our 5th year (2004-2005). We reduced our team number to 10 players and had no more issues with playing time or selfishness. With a consistent roster and a committed crew, we were able to develop a chemistry that has yet to be matched by any team in the entire league. We went 16-1 and lost in the Semi-Final game by 5 points, but hope was high because we could see where we were headed. For the first time since putting the team together, we began to see the possibility of a long term future for this particular basketball team and this group of players.
This year also saw one of the worst betrayals of trust that has ever witnessed in Bill Stoddart. Back in '04-'05 Ricardo had created a website on Geocities with a special section dedicated to Shaka Dula. Once Bill showed his true colours, a special section of the site was dedicated to him. And rather than make him a focal point of our team, we are making a conscious decision to move on from that. But not without first helping other people out there who may have come into contact with him by showing them what Ricardo's family went through.
Despite the early playoff exit, we moved our team to Division 3 for our 6th year (2005-2006) because we felt like we could really compete now with our team. With a year of chemistry and our roles being defined very clearly it was easier to go out and just play the game. However, our first year in Div 3 was faced with tougher competition. Up until this point in time, we had always had a fairly easy go of things, but moving to a higher division meant that the competition was harder than ever before. We went 13-3 with a +/- of 182, though we once again lost in the Semi-Final game. At the end of this year, we found out that Nate Dawg was leaving the team and moving to Alberta for personal reasons. We bid him a fond farewell and stayed in touch as often as we could.
After 5 years of giving people free rides on the team, we instituted a “Don't Pay, Don't Play” policy that has done our team well. The League fees were fully paid this year and everyone was up to date. More than that, the responsible people stopped having to chip in to keep the team afloat and the economic load was equally shared among all active team members.
Our 7th (2006-2007) year saw us stay afloat and we posted a record of 10-4. We lost in the quarter finals to the eventual League Champs. Nathan leaving the team left a big hole in the middle and we found we were too small to compete with the bigger teams in the division, despite the fact that we picked up Big Phil and Challis.
Our 8th (2007-2008) year saw us struggle once again through a tough season. Our overall record of 7-7 was not what were were accustomed to seeing and we began to feel the weight on our shoulders. We faced the same issues as the year before - we were getting pounded on the boards due to our lack of size. We lost in the first round of playoffs this year and we were all upset, though unsurprised. We donít go out expecting to lose, but something told us that this was not our year. Compounded to all of that, one of our founding members, TJ, decided to leave the team for personal reasons. It was unfortunate to see him leave, but our team pulled together and we became even stronger in the process. Overall, Iíd say that this was a transition year for us and helped us prepare for our next few years as a team.
Our 9th year (2008-2009) saw us focus and rededicate ourselves. We played the first half to a 6-2 record and were re-energized by the return of Nathan, one of the Founding Core Members. With Nathan back as well as the additions of Skywalker McGill and Rizzle Draward, our team finished strong at 5-1. We won our first 2 playoff games but bowed out to the eventual League Champs by 13 in the ... yes, Semi Final Game. We finished at 13-4 for the year, but we had a blast getting to know each other and welcoming new and old players alike onto the team .....
Our season was slightly prolonged by our trip to Brandon for a weekend tournament in May. Less formal and competitive than our Men’s League, and unable to field a full roster, we decided to open it up and we picked up friends, parents and acquaintances that would not normally get a chance to play with us. We played 4 games in 2 days and had a blast.
Our tenth year was easily one of the most enjoyable ones in team history. Though we lost Kenny for personal reasons, our team felt solidified and we decided to make the jump to play in the Elite Division 1/2. We started the year off great, winning two of our first three games. But the bottom fell out of the boat and we stumbled towards the finish line with our first losing record ever at 5-9. We exited the playoffs in the Quarter Finals but felt like we had experienced the best basketball we had ever played. Highlights include playing against a 7 footer and a couple of guys who played pro ball in Europe.
The team decided to go back to Brandon in May once again and we had an even better time, playing better than the previous year and having more fun at our hotel's pool and hot tub for some post-game hot/cold treatments. In June, we entered a tournament in MBCI where we had some of our best and worst showings as a team. We never fielded our full team at either one of these tourneys, but had a blast with the people that did play.
This season marks our Official Decade of Terror. We're going into Div.2 and with last year's team mostly intact. James decided to take a year off for personal reasons and we are sad to see him go as he had the right mix of skill, personality and fit in great with our group. Hopefully he'll back sooner than later. Though we are now starting to recognize our age as a possible limitation, we are none the less excited to play in an Elite Division and to create further memories as a team together.
As we look back through the years, we are reminded of many memorable moments and the current and former teammates that shared in those memories. As the years have gone by, our team has become closer and stronger. We have been able to filter out the best players and people and make that a part of our team’s culture. We've faced many challenges: from finding people who wanted to play, to finding the RIGHT people who wanted to play. From losing valuable members of our team to welcoming them back, it has truly been a rollercoaster filled with stories we can tell for many years.
And what we have is special. No one screams at each other, no one fights or bickers over shots or possessions, and no one slacks off. At our gyms, we welcome greenhorns and veterans alike and we play as hard in practice as we do in games. We hang out on the court and off it as well. We don't go to bars and our gatherings are family style with video games, significant others and kids all welcome. And we’ve GROWN together. We started this thing as children and young men and have seen ourselves get into meaningful relationships, get married and now start producing little Shaka Duleans!
We are a brotherhood who has experienced victory and defeat together; joy and pain. I know I can trust every single one of the guys on my squad to do right and to think about the well being of the team when making decisions on and off the court. I trust them to not take advantage of each other and to be kind towards the extended Shaka Dula family as well. And it was not always like that. It is something we have grown and achieved together.
When I look back to all the tough times we’ve had as a group, I think of 4 things:
- All the trials we’ve been through have served to make us stronger as individuals and teammates.
- Winning a championship is a privilege to those who find the right mix of work and skill
- I love my team and I admire all my guys for sticking with it through all the tough times
- There’s not a lot of teams that can say that they’ve been together for 10+ years. But we can.
We've had many people play with us over the last decade. What we have now would not be possible without them and what they brought to the team. This is a list of all those players who contributed to our team but are no longer around ...
- James McGill **He'll be back**
- Harlo Larkin
- Scott Wheeler
- TJ Johnson
- Alan Mingaracal
- Frankie Vaccaro
- Alvin Mansilungan
- Dave Gilfillan
- Dave Robertson
- Ryan Dimaapi
- Craig Pawlychyn
- Chris Mas
- Matt Flamand
- Tim Friesen
- Darrell Couzens
- Raf Dimaapi
- Roger Pradel