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‘I can’t wait to compete’: Junior All-Native Tournament about to start on Snuneymuxw territory

Opening ceremonies are March 19, basketball games start March 20
Jayden Thomas and the Snuneymuxw Native Sons are hoping to take advantage of home court at the Junior All-Native Tournament from March 19-24. (Photo submitted)


I’m a 17-year-old multi-sport athlete in my final year at Nanaimo District Secondary School. I’m stoked to share that my community, Snuneymuxw First Nation, is hosting the Junior All Native Tournament. It’s a big deal – we’re welcoming more than 1,200 youth athletes from 94 teams, representing more than 100 First Nation communities across B.C. It’s the biggest youth tournament in the province.

I’ve been playing basketball since I was five years old, starting with my neighbours at a friend’s basketball hoop. Twelve years later, I’m playing as shooting guard with the same crew and love the sport. We know each other really well. We have real chemistry. This is our secret to success on the court. We really know what each other are capable of doing. This year is special for me because it’s my last year playing at JANT, we’re the host nation and I get to experience it with my teammates from the neighbourhood. Home court advantage can’t hurt either.

The tournament travels around the province every year throughout three regions – north, south and central B.C. This year, being in the south, Chief Mike Wyse knew it was the perfect opportunity to host. He drafted a proposal with Nanaimo Mayor Krog and put an official bid forward, presenting it at the JANT 2022 coaches’ meeting in Syilx territory in Kelowna. It was an epic moment when the vote came back unanimous, bringing JANT 2023 to Snuneymuxw.

One of the best parts about JANT is meeting friends from other First Nation communities. You first meet when you’re young, then you come back each year and you’re better, you’re taller, stronger, and it becomes a different game. It gets more intense. That’s what keeps it exciting.

Sports have been a massive part of my life. I love playing. The intensity is my favourite part especially when it’s a close game. The challenge. The learning. Trying to get better. That’s what makes me want to keep playing. As I think about college, I plan to carry the skills I’ve learned in basketball into a post-secondary lacrosse career. I love how every sport has their own unique lessons and helps me understand and connect with my Snuneymuxw teachings.

JANT starts March 19 and runs to March 24. Everyone is invited. Thanks to our coaches, Chief Mike Wyse and my dad Isaac Thomas, and everyone who is supporting us. I can’t wait to compete.

Junior All-Native Tournament set to fill up basketball gyms


The Junior All-Native Basketball Tournament tips off this week on Snuneymuxw territory.

Competition begins Monday, March 20, with the title game Friday, March 24. Isaac Thomas, assistant coach of the Snuneymuxw Native Sons U17 boys, said the team has chemistry, as many players have grown up competing in multiple sports together. The Native Sons feature a mix of soccer, hockey and lacrosse players, swimmers and track athletes, and that athleticism is something the team is looking to utilize.

“Being a multi-sport athlete is such a huge benefit, especially when it’s other sports that complement basketball … the similarities when it comes to five-on-five competition, advancing the ball through a defensive zone transition into offensive zone communication,” said Thomas. “Of course, the ultimate achievement would be how many times you could put the ball or the puck in the net that comes through the chemistry they have together and of course, the understanding and the awareness.”

In addition, the team’s athleticism is well suited for the up-tempo system Thomas and head coach Mike Wyse want to implement. It is something they are focusing on in practice.

“When we work together as a unit, [we use] a traditional breakout outlet style and then always looking for the fast break,” said Thomas. “Coach Mike and I feel that those are the easiest points to get … these boys do play basketball at high school, so when they come down and play with us, the terminology’s the same. The understanding is the same when we start to talk about defensive formations or offensive formations, setting up plays, inbound plays or defensive plays.”

As the tournament starts, Thomas said he and Wyse will be preaching humility and telling their players to stay grounded.

The 2023 Junior All Native Tournament officially kicks off with a ceremony Sunday, March 19 at Frank Crane Arena, beginning at 6 p.m. Games will take place at John Barsby, Nanaimo District, Wellington, Dover Bay and Cedar secondary schools and Snuneymuxw gym.

The Snuneymuxw U17 boys play their first game Monday, March 20, at 6:30 p.m. at the NDSS gym.

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