Despite an enrolment of only 62 students, Eastern Commerce Collegiate Institute continues to have one of the best basketball programs in Toronto. With the school facing closure, we followed the team through the playoffs as the Saints tried to defend their city championship, and the school's legacy.
In a brightly lit sixth-floor gymnasium, coach Kevin Jeffers watches his Eastern Commerce Saints battle their arch rival, the Oakwood Barons. He’s anticipating a heated match—Oakwood is one of the top teams in the city, and the Saints are arguably the most storied high-school program in Toronto’s history. Over the years, more than 50 NCAA Division I and CIS players have emerged from the program, including former Toronto Raptor and NBA all-star Jamaal Magloire. Basketball is a source of pride for the school, and the team’s pedigree is impressive. They’re the defending city champion, although they lost to Oakwood in the provincial playoffs last year.
But as Eastern Commerce squares off against Oakwood in this year’s regional championship, the Saints’ minds are not as focused as their legacy might suggest. Because today isn’t just another game, it’s also a day of reckoning that Jeffers and the team knew would come. Hours before game time, students and faculty of the 89-year-old Eastern Commerce learned that their school will close in June.
Despite sparse enrolment—Eastern Commerce only has 62 students, and for the past two years has not had a grade-nine class—the Saints are one of the best high-school basketball teams in Toronto, ranking fifth in the city. There are two weeks left in the season, and in the historic life of Eastern Commerce basketball. In that time, they intend to show Toronto what being an Eastern Commerce Saint means.