With opening tipoff on the horizon, Snuneymuxw First Nation held a warm-up rally this week to promote the 2023 Junior All-Native basketball tournament.
The sporting event, taking place on Snuneymuxw territory, begins March 19 and culminates with the championship game March 24 at the John Barsby Secondary School gym. Players competed in timing drills at a promotional event at Snuneymuxw Recreation and Wellness Centre on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Boys’ and girls’ under-13 and under-17 teams will compete and Snuneymuxw will field boys’ teams (the Native Sons) and a U13 girls’ team (the Islanders). Snuneymuxw last hosted in March 2015, with the Native Sons defeating Syilx 57-53 in the championship game.
Jayden Thomas, U17 Native Sons shooting guard, was 10 years old in 2015 and said he’s looking forward to the tournament.
“I was up at there at VIU watching … it was really exciting to see some of my older cousins playing in the game and watching them win it was over the top,” said Thomas. “I have a lot of love for those guys who were playing on that team, so for me to be playing in it this year, I’m pretty excited and I hope to have the same outcome as them.”
Taimani Robinson, Islanders point guard, is also awaiting the start of the tournament.
“I’m really excited … I’ve got more experience, I grew a lot and I got tougher,” said Robinson. “I feel like we’ll do really great.”
An opening ceremony takes place at 6 p.m. March 19 at Frank Crane Arena. Games will be played at John Barsby, the Snuneymuxw gym and Nanaimo District, Wellington, Dover Bay and Cedar secondary school gyms.
Kate Good, tournament director and Snuneymuxw band councillor, said a lot of planning has taken place and she hopes the energy from the 2015 championship game is recaptured.
“It was hyped right up,” said Good. “This is like the NBA for First Nations, so when you get to the finals, it’s loud, it’s alive. The fans are cheering, it goes crazy, so I’m looking forward to that again this time around.”
Admission will be free and seats will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
There will be a place for vendors to set up tables at John Barsby Secondary, said Good, and more volunteers are needed.
For more information, visit https://snuneymuxw.exposure.co/jant-2023.
The competition will feature 94 teams and 1,200 youths, making it the largest JANT tournament ever, with representation from more than 100 Indigenous communities, noted a press release.