MVP T. J. Hurley says no thanks, I've got this, to a Notre Dame player on Saturday, Jan.11. BERNIE PUCHALSKI PHOTO

Fifteen-year-old phenom T. J. Hurley named MVP

E. L. Crossley’s T. J. Hurley has already exceeded his father Mike’s accomplishments at the Welland Tribune Basketball Tournament.

The Grade 10 guard was named tournament MVP of the 65th Annual Welland Tribune Basketball Tournament on Saturday, after his 30-point performance led the Cyclone to a 69-55 victory over the defending champion Notre Dame Fighting Irish.

Crossley last won the tournament in 1979—41 years ago.

Mike never won the MVP and his team results included a championship semifinal appearance, two consolation titles and a berth in the consolation finals.

Father and son shared a hug after the game.

“I wouldn’t be nowhere close to where I am now without him,” T. J. said. “Since I was a baby, he was coaching at the college and I would watch, shoot on the side and try and do the drills that they were doing. He has been the biggest part of my basketball life.”

Hurley didn’t even crack a smile after being named tournament MVP.

“I wasn’t too worried about the MVP award,” he said. “I just wanted to come out and compete and win the tournament which we did.”

He was quick to credit others for the award.

“It is a big accomplishment and I am proud of myself, but I got a lot of support from my teammates. It wasn’t just me.”

No one should have been surprised at Hurley’s lack of emotion because he has that exact same demeanour on the basketball court.

“I just come and play. I don’t worry about who we are playing against,” he said. “I was mostly excited tonight but there were a little bit of nerves because it was the Tribune tournament and it has been the biggest tournament in the area for a while.”

He has always been a fan of the tournament.

“My dad has always brought me ever since I was super young.”

Hurley agreed being a player was much more exciting than being a spectator.

“It felt great,” he said. “The energy was amazing and I never really realized how many people were watching all those years. It was amazing to look up in the stands and see all those people.”

Crossley head coach Brian Bleich couldn’t say enough about the performance of the 15-year-old.

“He played great,” he said. “He took over the game and he did what he knew he could do. He hit his shots.”

Bleich has seen Hurley become a matchup nightmare.

“He can either go to the basket or hit the step-back three.”

Bleich isn’t surprised by how much success the six-footer has had in his first year of senior basketball.

“He plays at a high level outside of high school. He plays with the select team in Pelham and some other select travel teams. He gets to play against kids at the same skill level as the Grade 12 kids. He is used to the heavy contact and he knows how to protect himself.”

Hurley averaged 19 points a game in the tournament, and concluded the tournament with 31- and 30-point nights.

He knows he can score but wants to refine other parts of his game.

“Game-wise, I think my defense could improve a lot and I need to continue to be in the gym and get after it every day.”

Joining Hurley on the first all-star team were teammates Aiden Belding and Jason Carter, and Notre Dame’s Shammar Campbell and David Jones.

Belding averaged 5.7 points a game in the tournament and scored 10 in the championship game. Carter averaged 8.3 points a game in the tournament and scored 10 in the final against Notre Dame. Campbell led the tournament in scoring with 82 points. He averaged 20.5 points a game and had back-to-back 29-point games. Jones, the 2019 MVP, averaged 14 points per game in the tournament.

Named to the tournament’s second all-star team were Eden’s Trent Thorpe, Governor Simcoe’s Mitch McPherson, Notre Dame’s Andrew Zezela, EL. Crossley’s Riley Bleich and Saint Paul’s John Graovaz.

Thorpe averaged 20.7 points a game in the tournament in helping the Flyers make the championship semifinals. McPherson averaged 14.5 points a game as the Redcoats captured the consolation title. Zezela averaged 12 points a game for the Fighting Irish, including 14 in the final versus E. L. Crossley. Bleich, who was also the recipient of the Jeff Adams Outstanding Defensive Player of the Tournament award, averaged 3.9 points in the tournament and did a great defensive job on Campbell in the championship game. Graovaz averaged 17 points in the tournament, including a team-high 21 in the Patriots’ semifinal loss to Notre Dame.

Chosen as the recipient of the Bob Tomiuck Sixth Man Award was E. L. Crossley’s Josh Lahn.

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