Roughly 1,200 young people on 91 teams from over 60 First Nations in British Columbia are in Nanaimo this week to shoot some hoops.
The annual Junior All Native Tournament (JANT) is taking place Monday, March 20 to Friday, March 24 at gymnasiums in John Barsby Secondary, Nanaimo District Secondary School (NDSS), Wellington Secondary, Cedar Secondary, Snuneymuxw Youth Center’s Gym (Snuneymuxw Recreation and Wellness Centre), and Dover Bay Secondary.
“JANT’s roots date back to 1947, with the first official All Native Basketball Tournament taking place in 1960. While there is no available record to identify the first ever Junior All Native Tournament (that features the Under 17 leagues), we are proud of its Native Basketball Tournament roots,” reads a JANT press release.
The Snuneymuxw under-13 girls team is one of the host teams this year.
“Yeah, they’re pretty nervous. Their first big tournament. They played exhibition games but this is a little bit different,” said Daphne Robinson who coaches the girl’s team.
Robinson played basketball growing up and her five kids do as well including her 10-year-old daughter who plays on her team.
“I’m really excited but at the same time I’m pretty scared because some of them are a lot taller than us,” said Taimani Robinson, a point guard for the Snuneymuxw Islanders.
“I think it teaches them discipline, it teaches them how strong they really are, physically, mentally and spiritually,” added her mom Daphne.
Families began arriving from all over B.C. during the weekend.
“It’s going to bring a lot of money in. All the hotels are sold out. When the people are here it’s eating out and stuff like that,” said Tournament Director Kate Good.
Dennis Humchtt is from Bella Bella and he was watching his son play at John Barsby school on Monday. He also played in the tournament in Nanaimo back in 1984.
“It’s all about the experience,” he said. “Meeting new people, meeting new friends, meeting old friends. Seeing people that I knew in 1984.”
There’s even a market place for fans where people can by local goods.
“It’s early but the reaction has been really great. I think it’s really amazing to see so many nations come together on our Snuneymuxw territory. We’re really excited to be a part of it and showcase our local artwork,” said Sophia Seward-Good, a local Snuneymuxw vendor.
The basketball games run every day through Friday when the finals will be held and champions crowned for another year.