A pair of Capilano University alumni are playing professional basketball in Vancouver while working in the city’s basketball communities
JUSTIN SCOTT // MANAGING EDITOR
Professional basketball is back in Vancouver and it’s the latest sign of the city’s growing basketball community. Now home to the Vancouver Knights, a member of the North American Premier Basketball (NAPB) league, Vancouverites can finally once again cheer for a hometown hoops team. While their home court, the Olympic Oval in Richmond, may seem like a world away from Capilano University, the team in fact has multiple ties to the school. Starter Demitri Harris and reserve Yoni Marmorstein are both alumni of the Capilano Blues basketball program. And although playing for a team donning ‘Vancouver’ on the front of the jersey may seem like an adequate way of representing the city’s basketball community, playing for the Knights only scratches the surface of what the two contribute.
This time last year, Harris was playing for the Island Storm, Prince Edward Island’s National Basketball League (NBL) team. While this seemed like the perfect opportunity for the downtown east side native to finally showcase his game on the pro-level, Harris unfortunately struggled to find playing time. Nonetheless, he did find himself thriving in the organization off the court. Harris slowly got involved with the Island Storm’s public relations team and began to realize his personality was perfect for the field.
After going on the team’s injured reserve to allow room for another player on the roster, the 6’6 guard eventually returned home to Vancouver. While he had put his professional basketball dream on hold, the game remained a major player in his life – only now he was the one coaching rather than being coached. “That’s everything to me,” he said. “I was given so much as a kid growing up in the downtown east side you’d think it would be a hindrance to me, but no. They have great programs and they’re building and building.” Harris regularly works with the Vancouver-Strathcona Basketball organization and helps with Britannia High School’s basketball program, where he won a provincial championship in 2008. He’ll help wherever else he’s needed though, constantly finding new ways to give back. “I’ve gone all the way out to the west side, even up north and done camps and stuff like that,” he said.
Marmorstein is equally active. “I wanted to keep my hands in basketball in any way I could,” he said. He works at the North Vancouver Basketball Academy, a program that goes to high schools in North Van and teaches students who have registered as an alternative to PE class on a daily basis. Additionally, he coaches a Grade 7 basketball team, works with club basketball programs in the off season and offers private training sessions as well.
Marmorstein doesn’t stop there. “The other side of what I’ve been doing is just using my videography and editing skills to make kids highlight videos,” he said. Marmorstein discovered his passion for videography a few years ago. He was in South Africa with Hoops for Hope, a program that provides basketball and life skills coaching to kids in South Africa and Zimbabwe. “I lost my photography camera on my trip so I had to buy a new camera.” He explained. “Instead of buying just a regular photography camera – this was before iPhones – I bought a little camcorder. Then, because I had the camcorder, the guy asked me to make a video for Hoops for Hope and flew me to Zimbabwe from South Africa and I went with their national team to kind of video their trip through Hoops for Hope.
Fast forward to today and Marmorstein has just changed the name of his videography business from Hoop Reel to Sport Reel, now making highlight videos for kids in any sport. His videos allow student athletes to showcase themselves to schools who may not have scouted them, boosting their chances of recruitment. “My videos are a little different than the average highlight videos because they’re close up,” he said. “I want to show the kids personality and character on the floor, and I think in the basketball videos I made last year, you could kind of tell what kind of kid you were getting just from watching his highlights.”
Marmorstein has taken basketball from a passion and turned it into a career, both on and off the court – something that Harris is also doing himself. “I know these knees aren’t going to last forever,” he said while grinning and knocking on a wooden table for luck, “I’ve been delving into the PR, community relations and marketing areas, trying to get the word out to people that there is high level basketball in Vancouver.” By doing so, he is setting himself up for the future.
Upon joining the Knights, Harris was quick to show that he’s more than a player to the organization. “I’m definitely a figure in the organization as far as it being my city,” he said. “I’m definitely learning that exposure is the name of the game these days.”
Although the two former Blues are putting the work in for their local communities, they’re also doing so for their city. The Knights have only played six games so far in the NAPB and hold a three and three record, good enough for fifth place. However, the team is still young and coming together. The Knights are just the latest example of how deep the love for basketball goes in Vancouver, and Harris and Marmorstein are wearing the name on their jersey with pride. “I think there’s going to be a big rising of basketball in Vancouver, if there hasn’t already been,” Harris said.
But at the end of the day, basketball is far more than a simple game with 10 players, a ball and two hoops. “I think any program that’s offering good coaching is teaching the kids work ethic, discipline, team work, how to take instructions from a coach, how to be a good sport, all that stuff,” said Marmorstein. “And that’s all going to translate into your everyday life.” What the team represents is a community coming together for something they know they deserve, be it a professional basketball team in a city once robbed of theirs, or a different community need. The Knights are just the latest example of how strong basketball culture in Vancouver is and how much it continues to grow.