Rhonda Lee McIsaac
The sound of dribbling basketballs echo over the new wooden floors as cheering fans lined the edge of the court filled the wooden bleachers at the Opening Ceremonies for the Pacific Unity U22 Summer Series. The U22 basketball players from the IATE Tonga, Maori, Gitxsan and the Haida nations stood in a long line Wednesday night at the George Brown Recreation Centre in HlGaagilda. The teams shared songs, encouraging words, and danced.
Former and current Indigenous basketball champions, MVPs, players, and coaches like Xyaalaga Daguuya Desi Collinson (Haida, ANBT Champion and MVP), Damen Bell-Holter (Haida, former NBA player), Rudy Bean (Tlingit, ANBT Champion and MVP), Ray Cameron (Maori National Team, former NBL pro player), Kawika Villa (Kingdom of Hawai’i, Greenville College), Niasi Malua (Tonga, Men’s National Team player), and Charles Leeson (Kitkatla, ANBT Champion and MVP) are giving back to their communities by coaching youth teams at this exciting series.
The organizers of the tournament have strong ties to one another. By investing in the youth now, the value of youth sports increases in each community. The effect will be seen in future tournaments and series as each player gives back to their community in their own way.
With a few hiccups in the schedule because Team Regina did not show up, and a few Tonga players not being able to cross the border, the organizers have rolled with the changes and basketball is being enjoyed by fans. Wiigaanad Sidney Crosby reminded the young players of the true value of sportsmanship in his welcoming address. It was a full house with fans taking up spots at both ends and the sidelines.
Exhibition games, cultural events and youth games will fill out the action on and off the court. The Skidegate Saints Junior Girls will be selling food from the kitchen to raise funds towards the Jr. All Native. So, bring your noisemakers, your hunger for basketball and for home cooked goodness.
If you can’t make it to the gym, all the games from the Pacific Unity U22 Summer Series will be broadcast by Haida Gwaii Radio Society at https://haidagwaiiradio.org/ and on Facebook Live @indigenousbasketball2017. See you at the gym!!
New Game Schedule
Wednesday, August 1
6:00 pm: Opening Ceremony
6:30 pm: Maori 79 vs. Gitxsan 57
8:00 pm: Adult Men’s Exhibition Game
Thursday, August 2
5:00 pm: Haida 88 vs. 66 Tonga/Hawai’i
6:30 pm: Girls Exhibition Games
8:00 pm: Maori 96 vs. 88 Tonga/Hawai’i
9:30 pm: Haida 69 vs. 60 Gitxsan
Friday, August 3
5:00 pm: Boys Exhibition Games
6:30 pm: Gitxsan vs. Tonga/Hawai’i
8:00 pm: Haida vs Maori
Saturday, August 4
10:30 am: Semi-Final – 2nd vs.3rd
12:00 pm: Semi-Final – 1st vs. 4th
3:30 pm: 3rd Place Game
5:00 pm: Final
6:30 pm: Closing Ceremony