U17 Vancity Reign girls basketball team plays a game against
the Vancouver-Strathcona basketball club at Britannia Secondary
Schooll on March 15, 2018.
Teenage basketball players on two Indigenous club teams in Vancouver
are preparing to compete in a massive tournament that's being held
in the city for the first time.
The Junior All Native Tournament is a competition between young
Indigenous basketball players from all over B.C. Many teams represent
a certain First Nation or village, but others, like the teams practising
in Vancouver, comprise of players from many different nations.
"I look forward to it all year round," said Gavin Bruce, a player
on the U17 Vancity Sons boys team. "To represent my nation while
playing basketball with all these other nations coming from around
the province is really special to me."
In the gymnasium at Britannia Secondary School on Thursday,
Bruce's team finished their practice and settled in to watch the
girls team, the U17 Vancity Reign, play a game against the Vancouver-Strathcona
Antoine, number 27 in blue, says the annual Junior All Native
Tournament is something she looks forward to every year.
Bruce, who has roots in the 'Namgis First Nation, is a well-rounded
athlete who's been offered lacrosse scholarships to universities
in the U.S. But first, he wants to help his team defend their championship
title during the last year he's eligible to play.
"It's just kind of an escape from reality," he said. "All the
troubles you have growing up, when you're on the court they're non-existent."
The JANT has been happening for over 40 years, but organizers
think this year's event will be the biggest ever. There are 83 teams
and over 1,300 players registered.
McKnight, Vancity Sons coach, estimates 5,000 to 6,000 people will
come to the city for it.
We are excited to announce that 83 teams have officially
registered across four divisions:
24 teams U17 Boys
23 teams U17 Girls
20 teams U13 Boys
16 teams U13 Girls
Let the games begin! T-minus 30 days! #jant2018
A family affair
Organizers are billing the JANT as the largest basketball tournament
Vancouver has ever seen.
"With every single kid comes the parents, the aunties the uncles,
the grandparents, their cousins," said Mitra Tshan, Vancity Reign
coach. "So it really is a family affair."
One of those family members watching on Thursday was Margaret
Brown. She's a Heiltsuk great-grandmother who came with her granddaughters
to watch her great-granddaughter, also Margaret, play.
"I try not to miss any [games]. I don't know how many I've been
watching. Lots," she chuckled.
Brown loves seeing the girls' skill and teamwork develop, and
she also loves seeing members of her nation come together at the
"It kind of makes you think about potlatch," she said. "It's
people gathering togetherworking together, playing together."
Vancity Sons prepares to defend first-place title
The boys team, meanwhile, is preparing to defend its title from
last year. McKnight, a Kitasoo First Nation member, said this year
is bittersweet because a number of the players will be aging outso
it's their last chance.
"They just gotta work hard, move the ball and play hard D and
we'll be fine," McKnight said. "[But] you can't ever underestimate
village pride. At any given game it's
like putting 15 extra
points on the board."
Sons coach Chris McKnight sits with Gavin Bruce (second from
right), Kobe McKnight (third from right) and the team's youngest
player Kallen Tait (fourth from right).
Kobe McKnight, Chris' son and the Sons' shooting guard, is another
player coming to his last JANT.
"It's a pretty cool feeling, because back when we were younger
we used to talk about these bigger players, these guys that would
come back and win every year," he said. "It feels good to be that
team this year."
In the fall, Kobe will start playing basketball for Douglas
McKnight, shooting guard for the Vancity Sons, practices days
before the start of the Junior All Native basketball tournament
on March 15, 2018.
Basketball and unity
Tshan said the great thing about this tournament is that the
kids get to represent their families, their cultures and their nations
through something they excel at: the game of basketball.
This year, the tournament also has a theme centering on unity.
"It's uniting all nations, all youth no matter what communities
they're in through the love of the game," said Tshan.
"I think we're a lot bigger of a community than people think,"
said Bruce. "[The tournament] makes you really realize how big of
a community and how tight-knit we actually are."
The tournament will start with cultural performances at the
opening ceremonies and the games kick off on Monday morning at Capilano