Michael Bains no longer lives in Surrey, but well remembers playing basketball for his school team.
In the mid-2000s he was an all-star at Tamanawis Secondary, where Bains also saw the lure of gang life and drugs start to derail some Wildcats teammates and other fellow students.
It’s the central story of Hooped, Bains’ debut novel, which he calls a coming-of-age tale of basketball, love and journey of self-discovery.
The set-in-Surrey book keys on Jimmy, the team captain, recruited by a local drug dealer and seduced by money and fast-lane life. As relationships and studies start to slide, Jimmy must dribble and weave his way back in an effort to find true happiness.
“It’s inspired by people I knew and grew up with,” Bains explained. “All the things I write about are things I saw firsthand, but it’s not about my life. I was never involved in gangs and drugs but I had friends who were, and that’s the story of the main character, his struggle.”
Now 30, living in Yaletown and working in banking and land development, Bains wrote Hooped a couple of years ago and had the novel published last November.
He graduated from Tamanawis in 2008 and lived in Surrey until his early 20s.
“Basketball was the sport I loved since I was a kid, and had two older brothers who were always taller than me and pushed me, and I always loved to write as well,” Bains said.
“The book just made sense to take a story I knew well, the teenage basketball star who is trying to lead his team to the provincial championships but is dealing with friends involved in gangs and thugs and the whole allure of joining that lifestyle,” he added. “So this star is playing basketball but also has a desire to make money and then he does become involved in dealing drugs and getting into the gang lifestyle. He loves basketball more than anything but it’s about his internal struggle between those two things. That’s a story I knew growing up, in terms of friends being involved.”
Bains said people have asked if Hooped is about Arun Cheema, shot dead in Delta back in January 2015.
“He was a year younger than me, and played on the same team in my Grade 12 year,” Bains recalled. “He was a top player and got involved in some pretty heavy stuff outside of basketball. (The book) is not about him, but I definitely knew him growing up and couldn’t help think about people like that when writing the book.”
Hooped mentions Surrey high schools, parks and other locations, and Bains sounds proud to hail from the city.
After high school, he studied at Simon Fraser University but did not play basketball at the Burnaby Mountain campus.
“I played in men’s leagues instead,” Bains noted. “I ruptured my Achilles tendon playing basketball about four years ago and had played in a bunch of leagues, and I still do play at the community centre but that’s all been shut down due to COVID. I still play occasionally, but definitely not as much as when I was younger, when I played a lot. When I start playing, I get that itch back.”
Bains hopes to get Hooped into Surrey school libraries, and has since written another novel and also a book of poetry.
“The response (to Hooped) has been incredible, and it’s nice because I think in Surrey, that story hasn’t been told yet, and basketball has really taken off in Surrey especially,” he said. “I graduated in 2008 and even since then, basketball has absolutely exploded there with different camps and clubs and leagues. And at the same time, we see all the problems with the gangs and shootings, the drugs.”
Hooped is available on michaelbains.ca, and related content can be found on instagram.com/hoopedtalks. The book is also available on Surrey Libraries website (surreylibraries.ca), and reviews are posted to amazon.ca.