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Plan Underway for Indigenous Youth Basketball Players to Shine

BC Basketball working with smaller communities to get their athletes noticed at higher levels

Travis Smith, representing the Gitxsan nation in Hazelton, at the 2017 All Native Basketball Tournament. Photo submitted by Travis Smith.
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Reported by Nick Valka

Indigenous youth basketball players living in smaller B.C. communities are now getting a chance to be noticed and scouted to play at higher, provincial levels.

Basketball BC, a provincial entity that supports basketball programs and players, understands that athletes that aren’t from major metropolitan areas have less opportunities and have been working with Indigenous communities to create the Aboriginal Long Term Athlete Development Plan.

Travis Smith, a basketball player and member of the Gitxsan nation in Hazelton, B.C. said that opportunities were few and far between while he was growing up.

“You don’t get as many spring or summer programs in the north, so most of your development in the offseason is completely on you,” Smith said. “Most players who are serious about playing live in Prince Rupert where they’ve had a successful program for years. But for those that don’t live there it’s tough, expensive, because you’re going to be spending a lot of time on the road, trying to get to camps, trying out for teams.”

Jade Montgomery-Waardenburg’s family grew up in Keremeos as a member of the Syilx nation and moved to Kelowna once they noticed her passion for basketball.

“My mom and dad really wanted me to have a good education, so we actually moved so that I would have a good chance at succeeding in school and sport,” Montgomery-Waardenburg said. “A lot of kids I know from smaller towns and reservations are less fortunate. A lot of parents don’t know where to look or who to ask for basketball camp information.”

Peter Haugan, coordinator of the All Native Basketball Tournament, which takes place in Prince Rupert, said there are camps available in smaller areas across B.C., but they aren’t consistent.

“Players that have succeeded at higher level do return and hold camps, but they aren’t all annual camps,” Haugan said. “It’s good for the youth when these camps are held though, they see how one of their own has gone to the next level.”

The plan hit it’s one year mark last week and according to Stephanie Rudnisky, Youth Programs Manager for Basketball BC, the future of Indigenous basketball in the province is bright.

“The purpose of the plan is to identify basketball players in smaller, less-known B.C. communities and give them a chance to showcase their skills,” Rudnisky said. “We’ve implemented more development camps that are spread out across the province and have started a training program for coaches so they can coach at the provincial level.”

Information regarding training camps were distributed at the All Native Basketball Tournament, as well as through the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council.

There will also be a U14 All-Indigenous boy’s basketball team at the upcoming BC Summer Games for the first time.

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