Jags Brown, Queen Charlotte athletics
Members of the Queen Charlotte Saints the high school basketball team in Haida Gwaii

Small School Doing Big Things: Haida Gwaii’s High School Basketball Team

Jack McNeel

Haida Gwaii, formerly the Queen Charlotte Islands, is two large islands surrounded by more than 150 small islands off the coast of British Columbia just south of Alaska. It’s unique, being separated from the mainland by Hecate Strait, which is rated the fourth most dangerous body of water in the world. It has rain forests, ocean on all sides, the largest black bears anywhere, and rich with Haida culture and history. There’s only one traffic light and the high school is the smallest in British Columbia to field a basketball team, the Queen Charlotte Saints.        

The odds are against them. The cost of travel is so high that other schools don’t visit. All their games are ‘away’ games. Dave Wahl, teacher and assistant coach, organizes fundraising for travel. The most recent trip, several days and several games, cost $15,000.

Despite all this, they chose to play against the largest schools in the Province, the Quadruple-A schools. These schools have a minimum of 285 boys in grades 11 and 12. The Haida Gwaii high school has just 28 students, and 12 make up the basketball team.

But their record is a spectacular 14 wins and 2 losses.

Wahl said it isn’t unusual for a school to move up in classification, but this is likely the only one to jump from Single-A to Quadruple-A. He said that Kevin May, their principal, “likes to say we’re a small school that does big things.”

Jesse Barnes, a 6-6 forward is one of British Columbia’s, and the Saints, best high school players. Barnes, a junior, says his ultimate goal is to play Division 1. “I played with the provincial team last year and it gives you a lot of exposure in the states,” Barnes said. “I’m hoping I can get some eyes from college coaches and hopefully play D-1.”


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