The senior boys’ basketball team at Twin Lakes Secondary School (TLSS) was the greatest team that never was, according to players, coaches, and students at the school.
Due to the pandemic, the Thunderbirds never took the court for a game or even held official tryouts, but the seven players who were set to return to the team from their Grade 11 year made the most of their time together in the classroom and in the gym.
“They would have been a good team in Simcoe County, but what made them so awesome was more about their character, being academically gifted, and so well-rounded. We have never seen a group of guys like this in 15 years of coaching,” said TLSS basketball coach Andrew Corry.
“It’s rare to have seven really good, down-to-earth, quality humans that are kind and other-centred. They are all 80 percent, 90 percent, or even 100 percent students,' said the long-time coach and teacher.
Corry says this year’s Thunderbirds squad might have been the most academically gifted team the county has ever seen.
“Other than perhaps some private schools, I’d think we would have the highest 12-U average out of any school teams in the county,” he said.
“I don’t know how many basketball teams would have seven grade 12s with a 90 plus average collectively.”
The basketball team consisted of Zach Courtney, who finished with an 80 percent average in his 12-U courses, John Snake who has represented Ontario for Indigenous Basketball, Simon Loft who is a peer tutor, Kellan Macdonald who earned an academic scholarship to Queen's University, Matt Marzano who holds a musical world record for circular breathing for over five minutes playing the tuba, Wyatt Thompson who has committed to playing Division 3 college baseball and basketball for Thomas College in Waterville, Maine, and Zac Waite who finished with a 100 percent average in seven of his 12-U courses.
“These guys have done some incredible things, it’s truly mind-boggling,” Corry said.
Despite not being able to play in any games this past season, the Thunderbirds made sure they stayed ready for when restrictions on indoor sports were lifted.
“We actually started training in the fall, outside, with masks on. We weren’t even playing basketball but instead flipping tires, climbing ladders, and doing things like that,” Corry explained.
“We were allowed to start training indoors before being shut down in December. So even though we didn’t have an official team they still committed to doing whatever possible to get better.”
Corry says the senior squad was more than just a basketball team.
“These guys were like family; they were all really close. So, even though they couldn’t play, I think they wanted to keep the team aspect going,” he said.
Although the players have left a lasting legacy behind at TLSS, their biggest accomplishments have yet to come, Corry says.
“These guys are going to go on to do incredible things. I would not be surprised if we are hearing about an invention Zac Waite has done, or a cure for some disease by Matt Marzano, or Kellan Macdonald being the head of a social media company. These guys are going to go on to become ... very accomplished in life.”
The leader of the impressive squad is Simon Loft, who many around the team consider to be the captain. Loft says he will always cherish the time he had playing with his graduated teammates.
“I’ve played with this group of guys for the last few years, and they are really a great group of guys. A few of them are really close friends of mine, and it’s always been a pleasure playing with them,” he said.
Loft says he is disappointed that the 2020/21 season never took shape for game action, but he is still proud of what his team accomplished off the court.
“It was a group of guys who were hungry to get better. Some of us lived by the game and would train together outside of school to get prepared to play in games, it was a great time,” he said.
As time passes by, Loft says the 2020/21 Thunderbirds squad may be the biggest ‘what if?’ of his life.
“The fact that we didn’t get to play will be one of those things that will always be on our minds,” he said.
“It’s one of those things where we just missed the Georgian Bay Championships, and we made the finals the year before that. We had plans to go to OFSAA. So, to hear we aren’t going to have a season was like a shot in the chest, but we have to move forward now as athletes and people.”
Loft will be returning to TLSS for Grade 12B along with three other players from the team. Loft hopes to translate the off-court success of his past teams onto the younger generation.
“I want to inspire some of the guys coming up that I didn’t get to play with. I want to be a leader and try to develop the players that are coming up,” he said.
“I also want to help with the junior boys' and girls' basketball teams, I want to give back and make sure these guys are on the right track. If I can help someone out by passing on what I’ve learned from my teammates and coaches, then that would mean a lot to me," Loft explained.