With a spot on Team BC – he’s ranked No. 2 in the province - heading to nationals in karate later this summer, you’d think that would be enough for one young Prince George athlete to focus on but nope, Jinichi Cronje is on the Zone 8 BC Summer Games U14 (5 on 5) basketball team, too.
Jin is also the fastest 100m and 200m sprinter in SD 57, is a Prince George Track & Field club member who received an Outstanding Athlete of the Year award last season and just came back as part of the ringette team deemed the undefeated Provincial Club stream champions and he cross-country skis and took 12th place at the provincials this winter.
Out of all those sports, basketball is his favourite, but he said he’s better at karate.
Jin started playing basketball in 2020 and joined the competitive travel team with Northern Bounce Academy in 2022. They came home as U13 champions at the 2022 Calgary Genesis tournament just last month.
“In Grade 5 I wasn’t very good at basketball and in Grade 6 I joined the Bounce Academy and now literally a year later I have improved so much I made the team," Jin said. “I like driving to the basket and doing layups. I love watching basketball - it’s the best and I love playing air basketball around the house,” Jin said.
“Because you can never miss when you’re playing air basketball,” Jin’s Mom, Nat, chimed in with a smile.
Most days Jin plays small forward or power forward position on the real BC Summer Games team that consists of 10 players and two alternates. The BC Summer Games takes place in Prince George from July 21 to 24.
“I was really happy to make the team,” Jin said. “I was kind of scared I wouldn’t make it because I am the only Grade 7 on the team. The rest of the team are all Grade 8s.”
Jin was injured a few months ago. He hurt his iliotibial band (often called IT band), which causes pain on the outside of the knee. After a few weeks he said he made a full recovery and was going strong by April.
Representing Prince George at the BC Summer Games is really important to Jin, he added.
And all the sports he plays makes him better at everything including basketball.
“It’s good for him to cross train,” Mom Nat said. “In the wintertime he would ski and then those skills are transferrable when he goes to track and same goes for karate and track because of the fast-twitch muscles that he would work on.”
Many coaches are supportive of Jin being multi-sport, she added.
“I think having all those transferable skills from all those different sports is a huge advantage for him,” Mom Nat said.
But when it comes time to move up into high school, the focus has to be narrowed down, Mom said.
“Oh, no,” he said with a shake of his head. “For summer I’m only doing three which is a lot on my schedule but it’s really hard to try to narrow it down. Honestly I think in high school I would have to just stick to school basketball and maybe quit doing basketball outside of school even though I do love Bounce (Academy) the best and I do love karate, too and I’m pretty good at karate and sprinting is just the best because I get to hang out with my friends and do a bunch of events, which are really fun. But if I had to choose one to not do it’s either track or basketball and then I would probably stick to karate. But I would not want to quit any of them.”
Mom Nat is smiling as Jin tries to work it all out. There’s some tough decisions ahead for this athletic young man.
“I think there are just not enough hours in a day because the older you get the more of a commitment you are expected to give especially when it’s a team sport,” Mom Nat explained. “I think it’s going to come to a head in the next 12 months as he has to slim down his sports.”
As practices continue for the BC Summer Games U14 (5 on 5) team Mom Nat said the team is really coming together. A lot of the boys know each other from school and the Bounce Academy and with Coach Novak’s guidance she sees how they are quickly becoming a force on the court.
“For me it’s nice to watch – they’re growing with each other,” Mom Nat said. “And Coach Nick Novak is a big part of that.”
Jin wants to thank all his coaches including Warren and Chantelle Grafton and Jordan Foy at the Nechako Karate Club who got him to the provincial and the national level of competition.
For basketball Jin thanks the BC Summer Games coach Nick Novak, and Jordan Yu and Sam Zhang at Northern Bounce Academy for helping him get better.
For track Jin would like to thank coaches Lauren Matheson and Jordan Bax who give Jin a lot of advice and provide tips that made him a better sprinter.
Also very much appreciated is the sponsorship provided by The Brink Group who sponsored the karate athletes going to BC Team selection and those who made the team.
“And I also want to thank my parents – my mom – for everything, too,” Jin said.