LOS ANGELES—For the last four years, he’s played for the most famous basketball team in the world — but Los Angeles Lakers centre Robert Sacre can still remember the crowds that would pack his high school gym in North Vancouver.
“It was sold out!” said Sacre, remembering one of the many games his Handsworth Secondary Royals had against their rivals from Argyle Secondary.
“The place was sold out. I remember the fire marshal had to come in and kick people out. It was a crazy period, and only one school could [advance to the provincial championships] from our district…that’s when I think basketball in B.C. was the best, just from a competitive standpoint.”
A seven-foot phenom in high school, Sacre graduated from Handsworth in 2007—one year winning a provincial championship—and played for the University of Gonzaga, but still has plenty of roots in the Lower Mainland.
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“I see my family in the summer. It’s a wonderful city, I try to take my son up there, show him where I’m from, go back to Handsworth and talk to my teachers,” Sacre said.
He went on to say one of his dreams after his career ends is to see an NBA team return to Vancouver.
“I think that could be for our city and the state of basketball in Vancouver. I think it will help our development, and have a different vibe to the city,” he said.
“We have such a great following with the Whitecaps and the Canucks and the Lions, so why not basketball again? The city’s big enough, and veteran guys who used to play in Vancouver wish it was still there.”
A seven-foot centre drafted by Lakers with the last pick (60th overall) in the 2012 NBA draft, Sacre defied the odds by getting regular playing time the last two seasons.
This year has been different though. As the Lakers fully embrace a youth movement, Sacre—now the second-longest tenured player on the team behind Kobe Bryant—has had his minutes reduced.
“I’ve just got to stay focused,” he said. “My name can be called at any moment, so make sure I’m ready. Anything can happen, so I’ve go to stay focused on what I do best, bring energy, and help the team any way I can.”
With his rookie contract expiring at the end of this season, Sacre has a simple goal for next year.
“Play basketball,” he said.
“Having the opportunity to play, play at a high level in this league, and that’s it.”
But while he still has big goals for the future, Sacre is now old enough to look back as well.
“I just enjoy every opportunity I can, and that’s all that matters. It goes by fast. It’s crazy how far back those Argyle and Handsworth battles are now.”
© 2016 Shaw Media