The 58th All Native Basketball Tournament is underway in Prince Rupert this week, as hundreds of players from more than 50 different teams battle it out in four divisions, each with their sights set on the championship.
All eyes will be on the Skidegate Saints in the senior men’s division, a team that will attempt to win its sixth straight title. Last year, MVP Tyler York led the team to a fifth consecutive win, toppling Kitkatla. York has dominated many tournaments in Haida Gwaii since that win and figures to play a big role this year as well.
With another All-Star lineup that once again features four-time MVP Desi Collinson, the big question is if any team can bring them down.
Kitkatla boasts Charles Leeson, an offensive and defensive presence for the Warriors. At the 2016 tournament, he was an all-star and named best defensive player. His play could help carry Kitkatla to another championship game.
In the women’s division, Bella Bella comes in as reigning champs for the past two years. Last year’s women’s MVP Shayla Schooner is a big part of that. She has been training with the team at Northwest Indian College in Bellingham, Washington this year, so expect her to have fine-tuned her game even more.
The Hazelton Mystics were the runners-up last season, led by Brittany Simpson, a great two-way player. Last year, she won an All-Star and best defensive player. She could be an x-factor for the Mystics. With another stellar performance, she could help Hazelton win a title.
On the Intermediate side, Port Simpson is the team to beat after winning the tournament last year for the first time in decades. The win was led by former Charles Hays Rainmaker Jakob Henry, who won intermediate MVP.
The Strike Force also boasts current Rainmaker Skyler Wesley.
In the Masters division, Hydaburg is the obvious choice to repeat. The team has won two championships in a row and carries several members of a dynasty that won 15 senior men’s and master’s championships in the past two decades.
Sid and Devin Edenshaw are prime examples of guys who still have what it takes to be game-changers. The pair have 12 MVP awards between them, not to mention Joe Young and Matt Carle Sr. and Jr., who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame on Friday.
All in all, Hydaburg is considered the heavy favourite but Massett and Bella Bella, who were runner-ups last year also pose threats to the title.
It’s easy to say who looks best on paper, but at the end of the day, every player has to bring their best to the court every game and anything can happen at the All Native Basketball Tournament. Championship games take place all day Saturday.