Bernie Suriani’s passion and enthusiasm for basketball has dribbled down to his children, who hope to pass it on to other young athletes looking to further their skills in the sport.
Starting in the fall, Bernie and his daughters Maria, Kayla and Emily will be leading two Flamborough Fire basketball teams, mentoring and coaching some of the association’s youngest and oldest players.
Adding the Hamilton family to its coaching staff this upcoming season was a slam-dunk decision, said Flamborough Fire president Jobina D’Aloisio, as the quartet is one qualified bunch.
Bernie, who has basketball at the elite level and is set to coach at Redeemer College this year, is no stranger to the Flamborough Fire organization, having led teams to success since joining the community-based league in 2007.
Maria has played rep since she was in elementary school. At Bishop Ryan Catholic Secondary School in Hamilton, she held the role of team captain for five years and competed in the Hamilton Spectator All-Star Classic four times. The eldest Suriani girl has also played on Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) teams, comprised of some of America’s top-ranked players.
“It was awesome to play with the girls at that calibre,” said Maria, who was later recruited to play for the Humber Hawks in Toronto and made captain, a title she held for three years.
After competing in the Ontario Colleges Athletic Association’s (OCAA) All-Star Games – twice – she wrapped up her post-secondary athletic career with a bronze medal in the association’s championship match.
Kayla’s basketball achievements and experience resemble that of her older sister. In Grade 2, she joined her first rep team and played each year until graduating from high school. Kayla and her teams captured numerous medals at the Ontario Basketball Association (OBA) championships and she was once named Most Valuable Player at the provincial tournament. She played on the AAU team alongside Maria, an opportunity that helped raise her profile.
Kayla received a number of offers from universities south of the border, but opted to accept one from Humber College, where she was named the Hawks’ Rookie of the Year. The leading three-point scorer’s quick rise on her college team was stalled after suffering an ACL injury in her second year. But Kayla was determined to return to the court for her final year of college and just as keen on ending her career on a high note.
Again playing alongside her sister, Kayla was among those who secured the Hawks’ third-place victory in the OCAA championships.
Emily has also enjoyed success in the sport. She is the only Suriani girl to have sported the Flamborough Fire jersey, and over the years has won two AAA gold medals, one AAA bronze and another bronze medal at the national level.
Playing on the St. Jean de Brébeuf Catholic Secondary School basketball squad, Emily was always on the starting five. She seized the chance to play on an AAU team in the U.S. before returning to Canada, where she is currently studying psychology at Wilfrid Laurier University.
The trio’s extensive experience playing the sport at such a high level provides them with the perfect tools to coach and mentor youth.
“All three of you can share your expertise with the girls,” said D’Aloisio, adding that in addition to coaching, the Suriani sisters will serve as great role models for younger athletes.
Equipped with their skills and experience, Kayla and Maria will join their dad in coaching the Fire’s atom squad starting in September.
The group of girls, born in 2003 and 2004, will be entering the Flamborough Fire basketball program with little to no experience playing the sport.
“It’s good at this age because everyone is starting off at the exact same level,” said Kayla.
Added D’Aloisio: “You are probably going to have a team of girls who almost all of them have never played basketball, which would be a challenge right there. But that’s a good thing for them coming in, because they don’t have to be scared or intimidated.”
As coaches, Kayla, Maria and Bernie can think of creative ways to teach the foundations of basketball to their young charges.
The upcoming season will serve as Emily’s second term as apprentice coach. Last year, she assisted the Fire’s junior girls’ squad as often as she could, between academic commitments. Starting in November, she’ll resume her position with the team, which will be comprised of 16- and 17-year-olds with a competitive edge.
Calling on passionate and qualified coaches to lead its 10-team league is top priority for the Flamborough Fire organization, said D’Aloisio. And seldom do you see an entire family – save matriarch Dora (she’s the “super fan”) – take on coaching duties as did the Surianis.
The Flamborough Fire basketball league is looking to drum up interest from young players. It’s hopeful that, with these talented coaches, they’ll be able to draw in some athletes to help fill the 12- to 15-member atom squad.
Kayla and her family members are excited to pass on their knowledge and enthusiasm for the sport.
“Parents can feel confident that if they are going to take their child to a tryout for Flamborough Fire, they are going to be coached by someone who is going to build their skills and improve their game,” said D’Aloisio.
And the coaches are looking forward to having just as much fun as the players on the court. Because, “It’s supposed to be fun,” said the organization’s president.