A Native American squad will now be included in a prestigious tournament organized by the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Officials from the Massachusetts-based hall of fame have organized an invitational high school tournament on the east coast for a number of years. Organizers added a second event, for west coast clubs, last year.
And now, the second edition of the Hoophall West Classic, which will begin during the Thanksgiving weekend, will include a Native American team. Like last year's inaugural tourney, the event will be staged in Phoenix.
Members of the NABI (Native American Basketball Invitational) foundation were asked to choose which squad would be among the eight entrants of the Arizona Division at this year's Hoophall West Classic.
The squad from Chinle High School of the Navajo Nation was the one selected.
"There were tons of teams we considered but through our research, we've agreed they are the best team to represent Native Country," GinaMarie Scarpa, the co-founder and CEO of the NABI Foundation, told ICTMN. "They were ranked as the Number 1 team in their division this past year and they almost made it to the state championships."
Scarpa believes the Chinle squad will also fare well at the Hoophall West Classic.
"They have a number of good junior players that are moving up to the team," she said. "And I think they will be ready. They'll know there will be a lot of pressure on them to represent Native Country." While preliminary-round matches will be staged at a high school, all tournament participants will also play a game at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix in January 2015.
Scarpa is thrilled tournament organizers asked to have a Native squad take part in its event. "We're really excited to fully cross the line and to have an all-Native team in a tournament like this," she said.
Scarpa also believes including a Native team in the tournament will also boost the awareness of the NABI Foundation. It is a national foundation devoted to supporting Native American youth by implementing programs that encourage higher education, sports, health and wellness and community building.
The NABI Foundation also runs its own hugely successful basketball tournament. The 12th annual edition of this event is scheduled for July 1-5 in Phoenix.
This massive event will feature 128 teams (64 girls' squads and 64 boys' clubs). Since 2008 the NABI Foundation has also organized both baseball and softball tournaments.