Lafontaine elects to stay in backyard and play for coach Guarasci and the UBC Okanagan Heat
By Cary Mellon
KELOWNA, BC — Born into basketball family in Kelowna, Matt Lafontaine cemented his place in the rich Kelowna basketball history after helping the KSS Owls win the their first ever AAAA BC High School Senior Boys Championships this past March.
Lafontaine, a 6’2″ inch guard was a two year starter on the Owls has a knack for winning, with KSS his team lost only four games to Canadian competition, going 41-4 over that time, and won the first BC championship by an interior team since 1980.
The numbers become staggering when you combine his success from Grades eight through 12. His team reached the provincial championships every year, never finished lower then fifth, and won the title twice – in grade 12 and grade nine (with Dr. Knox). In those five years his team lost an average of three time a year, compiling a record of 115-15.
In the Okanagan Valley the losses were almost nil as Matt’s squad went 50-1 in league competition and finished as Valley champions every year in grades 9-12.
A local highlight for Matt was in his grade 11 year when he was a member of the first KSS team to win their own annual Western Canada Basketball tournament, held with the best competition every year in early February since 1974. Matt and his team repeated the feat in his senior season, a tournament all-star in grade 11, both years he was the second leading scorer on the Owls in the final.
Along with all of the wins Matt has compiled a trophy case of awards during his high school years, culminating this March at the provincial championships where Matt was one of just five awarded the Telus Scholarship.
“Basketball is life,” claims the local guard with the winning pedigree. “I am excited to make the jump into university ball and know that I will have to work hard, but I am confident that coach Guarasci [UBC Okanagan men’s basketball coach Pete Guarasci] and the team can get me up to speed.”
Matt competed and won a gold medal at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games
“Matt has proven to be a winner at every level he’s played at since Grade eight,” says men’s basketball head coach Pete Guarasci who’ll be starting his fifth season at the helm of the Heat this fall. “We’re hoping he continues that tradition with UBCO. We’re excited to add his skill set and basketball IQ to our backcourt and we look forward to helping him develop.”
“I think my biggest strengths are shooting and passing, I also like to think that I’m unselfish as a player and am extremely competitive,” says Lafontaine who is a lights out shooter. He set a KSS record with 15 made threes in a league game this season, finishing the game with a personal best 47 points.
Even with the stellar resume the future member of the Heat, who has enrolled in the management program at UBC Okanagan, remains realistic in his expectations for university.
“As a player I hope to just get better,” the soon to be freshmen says. “I’m not expecting a lot minutes wise for my first year but I plan to make the best of it. I’m very excited to play for coach Guarasci.”
“I love the idea of playing in my home town,” continues the Owl, “and I am looking forward to playing with fantastic players like Mitch Goodwin [himself a former Owl.]”
To immerse in academics and his sport Matt plans to live on campus in his first year and experience the university lifestyle, but staying in Kelowna means he also will be able to play in front a familiar faces.
“Having my family and friends be able to continue to support me is a huge benefit of staying in Kelowna. We used to live right beside UBCO so we would come up and watch the Heat games all the time. I am excited to be part of the Heat program!”
The Lafontaine’s, well known in Kelowna basketball circles – his older sister Kaitlynn has played two years at Vancouver Island University – and both his father and grandfather were very involved in officiating, coaching and playing the game, made basketball a routine part of the dinner conversation.
The strong family commitment was needed with all of the travel Matt racked up, he was on the BC Provincial team the past four summers (U17, U16, U15, and U14) and a part of the BC regional teams every year from grade 8-11 as well as Junior Heat last year (U17).
“I think I have benefitted from exposure to great coaches, specifically Rich Goulet and Shawn McGuiness as part of Team BC,” cites Matt on his provincial experience. “I played with a lot of great players, and made friends that I’m still close with today. My favorite part about it has to be the travelling and playing against players from different places. The style they play is a lot different than how we play.”
Along with his travels and his impressive collection of hotel room cards – Matt claims to have well over 200 of the swipe room keys – Matt competed and won a gold medal at the 2014 North American Indigenous Games, where he was the team’s youngest player, yet he still started for the squad.
Matt will join teammate Nav Sidhu on the Heat team next year as first year players and both will follow in the line of Buzz Truss and Mitch Goodwin, as highly sought after recruits who elected to stay home and play with coach Guarasci and the Heat.
This past year Goodwin was named the Outstanding Male athlete of the year and Truss was a finalist for Male Student athlete of the year and was the Provost Award of Excellence recipient from a two semester sport.
Canada West basketball has done away with the Explorer and Pioneer Division and will now embrace a schedule that will include more regional and school rivals while also playing the more Eastern schools in Canada West, look for the UBC Okanagan Heat basketball schedule from Canada West to be released in mid-June.