One of the most premier junior basketball tournaments in the province kicked off this week, with the City of Kelowna lucky enough to play host.
The Junior All-Native Tournament (JANT) held its opening ceremonies at the UBC Okanagan gymnasium on the evening of March 20, with action beginning the following day. UBCO was chosen as one of four venues to host the competition across the city, joining Kelowna Secondary, Rutland Secondary, and Okanagan Mission Secondary.
Kelowna Mayor Colin Basran said in a welcome letter that the city is “honoured” that the Okanagan Nation has been given a chance to hold such a major event.
And for good cause - there is an estimated 870 athletes taking part in this week’s tournament, from a total of 65 teams, aged 9-17, a welcome number of participants in a tournament that has been cancelled due to the pandemic for two years.
“This annual tournament is about much more than basketball, it is a thread that has connected our communities for many years,” said JANT Tournament Director Tara Montgomery. “We’re so excited to be able to host JANT on our beautiful Syilx territory — to finally come together as Nations, not just to compete, but to hold up our children, culture, and communities. It also provides an opportunity to foster and promote wellness, sportsmanship, leadership, and nation pride amongst First Nations youth, and in light of the 215, celebrating our children is so important.”
First Nations Health Authority CEO Richard Jock added that the authority is “extremely aware of the profound impacts that COVID-19 has had on First Nation people’s health, and so understand just how important this year’s Junior All Native Tournament is for the youth and communities.”
Complete with both a shooting contest and a three-point contest, the tournament culminates in championship matchups on March 25 at KSS, with awards to follow.
Kelowna last played host to the tournament in 2017.