Jr. All Native basketball tourney needs Alberni support

The upcoming Junior All Native basketball tourney will draw more than 1,000 people, but the Alberni Valley isn't supporting the event.

Bruce Lucas

Bruce Lucas

The upcoming Junior All Native Basketball tournament, to be hosted in the Alberni Valley for a week from March 18-23, will draw more than 1,000 players, coaches and fans to the region. Yet the tournament is not generating as much local support as hoped, organizer Bruce Lucas said.

“We’ve approached a lot of businesses that will benefit from the tournament. Right now we have 44 teams committed to coming,” he said. “With those teams a lot of them will average 25 people with coaches, players and their fans. As far as I know, all the hotels are booked. All the restaurants are going to go crazy. There’s going to be well over 1,000 people coming.”

Defending champions the Homiss Wolves are the official hosts. There are five local teams playing in the tourney, including the Wolves, Nuu-chah-nulth Young Guns and Hesquiaht Braves on the boys’ side and Iisaak Ravens and Nuu-chah-nulth Lady Warriors on the girls’ side.

Syilx, the defending girls’ champions from the Okanagan First Nation, have won the last two girls’ titles at the Jr. All Native tourney.

The organizing committee will spend upwards of $45,000 to host the tournament and all of that money must be generated privately, Lucas said. “We’re non-profit. We have to solicit our own funds; we start from zero.”

The organizing committee pays to rent three venues for the week, and has to pay each official for the 92 or more games that will be played. Officials will have to be brought in to assist those from the Alberni Valley.

Local suppliers are being used for as many facets of the tourney as possible, he added.

The event kicks off Sunday, March 18 with opening ceremonies at the Alberni Athletic Hall at 5 p.m. A banquet for about 1,500 people will be held prior to the opening at Maht Mahs Gym on the Tseshaht First Nation reserve.

Volunteers are still needed to help at the event, which is open to everyone, not just aboriginal basketball fans.

Games will take place at the Athletic Hall, Alberni District Secondary School and Maht Mahs Gym throughout the week. Admission is $10 per day from Monday to Thursday (good for all gyms) and $15 for the day on Friday (including the semifinals and finals at the Athletic Hall). A tournament pass is available for $40.

Anyone wishing to sponsor the tournament or volunteer anytime during the week can phone Lucas at 250-918-8588, e-mail him at brucelucas@shaw.ca or fax a volunteer form to him at 778-421-1744. Forms and more information are available online at jrallnativetournament.com.

editor@albernivalleynews.com