The Gitmidiik Masters from New Aiyansh are optimistic and eager to hit the courts in the All Native Basketball tournament next week, along with more than a dozen other teams from the northwest.
The New Aiyansh team finished sixth in the Masters division last year but may have a shot at the top this year, with new players including Gene Wolff, Richard Wolff, Justin Adams and Jackie Brown suiting up.
Gene and Richard both play in competitive adult basketball leagues in Vancouver, competing with former-pros and college-level athletes. Adams is from Prince Rupert and Brown from Prince George, both strong basketball players.
“We got a lot younger legs coming out with us this year,” said Garrett Davis Jr., one of the players on the team.
“We can go all the way down to the 12th man and still be able to compete at a good pace,” he said.
The foundation of the team is from the New Aiyansh YMCA, young men’s Christian association group which forms the backbone for most of the basketball and soccer in the community, said Davis, naming George Robinson Sr., Chester Munroe, Noah Guno and Kirby Guno as a few.
Also on the team is Mike Woods, who played last year, Phillip Clayton who played with a number of the guys in the Terrace Basketball League (Gitmidiik), and Garrett Dyer.
“We’ve got guys that can score…and guys like George and Dean that are defensive minded,” said Davis.
Chester Monroe said the same, adding that he thinks the team’s chances are good this year.
“Last year we lacked depth, which hurt us,” he said.
“We’re looking to make a statement this year.”
Other teams from New Aiyansh, Kincolith, Gitwinkshilkw, Kitkatla, Kitimat, and Hazelton are also competing in the annual championship Feb. 11-17, as well as teams from the Lower Mainland, Skidegate, Bella Bella and more.