Carlton Crusaders ready for upcoming basketball season

Herald file photo. Luke Huddlestone and the Carlton Crusaders Sr. Boys basketball team are motivated to qualify for Hoopla, which will be held in Prince Albert this year.

The holiday season may be just around the corner, but the Carlton Crusaders have their sights firmly set on the upcoming 5A basketball season.


The Carlton Sr. Boys basketball roster already has 10 games under their belt this season, posting a record of 7-3.

Carlton Sr. Boys Basketball head coach Tom Hazzard says the Crusaders have an experienced, game tested roster this season

“We’ve got quite a veteran squad this year. A team that is full of Grade 12s, with the veteran presence they got quite a bit of game experience. We’ve learned to play quite fast and playing really tough competition these first three weekends has helped us prepare for the fast type of game that we need to play.”

Carlton will their eye on a very specific prize this season, with Prince Albert hosting the provincial basketball tournament Hoopla. Both Carlton and St. Mary do not gain automatic entries as host and will have to qualify in the regional tournament.

Hazzard says serving as Hoopla hosts will add extra motivation for them at the regional tournament.

“It’s always a goal of every team I coach to make it to Hoopla. We want to try to get to Hoopla, that’s a goal of ours. As far as added pressure, there’s always pressure trying to play at home and wanting to play at home. We are going to prepare our best for the regional playoff to try and get there.”

This season, Carlton is running two teams at the Sr. Boys level.

Hazzard says this is because the Crusaders have a large number of Grade 12s on their roster.

“I just find that in Prince Albert as a whole, basketball has expanded and that’s thanks to the club programs being developed in our community. To continue building a program in a large school like ourselves or St. Mary, I think that if you can create a second team that is very competitive and that can travel around the province and play in lots of games that are full of Grade 11s, that will only help you moving forward.”

Hazzard adds that the development of some grade 11 players would be stalled without having a proper place to play without a second team.

“Our idea was to make a second team that will travel to six tournaments and get better and next year, some of those players will jump to the senior team and play at a higher level. Otherwise, the opportunity for them to play would’ve been minimal.”

The Crusaders have also been invited to the BRIT basketball tournament in Saskatoon from Jan. 12-14, 2023.


The name of the game for the Carlton Sr. Girls basketball team will be “run and gun.”

Assistant coach Jenn Ferguson says the Crusaders will have a lot of depth coming off the bench this season, and they plan to use the depth to wear teams out.

“It’s become pretty clear in our first few weekends here that we have a very good team and a deep bench. We’ve got 12 players that can contribute on and off the court. We are going to have to play really quick. We are hoping to use that to our advantage to play a fast game and a game where we have lots of subs in and out to keep fresh legs and outrun other teams.”

With Hoopla being held in Prince Albert, Ferguson says the Crusaders are hopeful about their chances to qualify with an additional entry being granted from the rural/small cities 5A regional tournament.

“There’s pressure every year to qualify and that’s why we play. This year, we feel like we have a legitimate shot at advancing and doing well there. The thing about PA hosting Hoopla, is that there are three seeds from the small cities/rural 5A tournament. We are hoping to be in the top three in that.”

The Crusaders are playing well in practices early in the season and Ferguson says the entire coaching staff is excited to see where the season will take them.

“We’re really proud of the program and the girls that we have work exceptionally hard. This year, one of our focuses will be on that grit and perseverance and being able to play tough. We can definitely see it happening in practice and we are excited about where that will take us at the end of the season.”