Playful Panther brings creativity to hardwood

THRILL OF THE GAME: Victoria Park Panther, Klei Laze, is known by his coach Howard Buckstein for having a great sense of humour and feeding off the energy from vocal fans.

It’s the last game of a daylong basketball tournament.

Victoria Park Panthers gather around their coach Howard Buckstein during a timeout.

Little does he know a bag of sour candy has been split open and his charges are stuffing their faces like chipmunks preparing for winter.

Point guard Klei Laze heads back onto the court with cheeks bulging and drains a three-pointer.

The moment has stuck inside Buckstein’s memory like a wet gummy bear on the bottom of a theatre seat.

“He’s actually got a great sense of humour,” Buckstein says. “He’s not just good at the game, he also enjoys it and that’s really nice to see.”

Laughing about the “classic Klei moment”, Buckstein admits having a source of levity as well as composure on the team has been refreshing.

“There were a lot of close games that he kind of kept us in,” Buckstein said. “He’s got great stamina. There were some games where he played the whole game.”

Recalling the sour candy moment, Laze laughs.

“Everybody was pretty much dead that game and we had a bag of candy,” he said. “It kind of pumped us up.”

Sugar high aside, the grade 12 is candid about the Panthers season, noting a 3-6 finish for VP with no playoffs was disheartening.

“This season personally for me was a good season, but for the team it wasn’t,” he said. “There was a lot of miscommunication.”

For the captain he noticed there wasn’t a sense of team spirit.

“We’d always have these chants to get people going or we’d say a prayer or two in the locker room,” Laze said. “Not everybody was on the same page.

“That’s why I guess it didn’t work out.”

Though it was a let-down for Laze, Buckstein said he never saw his captain’s emotions materialize on court.

“I think he just really enjoys the game,” Buckstein said. “There are other times when some of the other players get frustrated.

“I rarely saw that from Klei, even when he was having a bad game he always seemed to enjoy himself,” he added. “He keeps his wits about him.”

Laze’s sportsmanship is one of artistry, with the hardwood as his canvas.

“It’s so creative, you get a chance to do so much,” he said. “There are times when you can have a lot of freedom on the court.

“You’re never going to stop at one point,” he added. “There’s always room to get better.”

Which makes his next step after graduation all the more logical: university for communications.

“You can do journalism,” he said, his voice enthusiastic about sports writing. “I can always have some type of path into sports.”

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