It’s year two for the Choctaw Nation in Durant, Oklahoma, to welcome American Indian family, friends, and basketball fans for the “4 For the Love of the Game” Madness in March All-Indian High School Basketball Tournament. This is the ninth year of the tournament, which brings more than 600 American Indian student-athletes into town. NBA legend Darryl Dawkins and former NFL linebacker Kenyatta Wright will be on hand to play in the inaugural coaches/celebrity basketball game.
“Teams travel from as far as Pine Ridge, South Dakota, to Salt River Pima, Arizona, to Choctaw, Mississippi, to Sioux City, Iowa and all the way from Okeechobee, Florida to stake claim to being the best Native American High School team in the nation,” said Victor Bear, 4LOTG (4 Love of the Game) vice-chairman in a press release. “With the talent level and competition increasing yearly, teams are traveling to Oklahoma to test the strength of their programs within their respected states, vying for the right to be crowned as the tribe with the best basketball talent.”
“On behalf of Chief Greg Pyle, Assistant Chief Gary Baton and the Great Choctaw Nation, we welcome the teams and look forward to hosting the 4 Love of the Game high school basketball tournament here in Durant, land of the Choctaw Nation,” said Sue Folsom, Executive Director of Cultural Events for Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “I would like to commend the excellent work that the organizers, Dave Pascale and Victor Bear, who have put together a great program to showcase these outstanding native athletes from around the states. This is great tournament you don’t want to miss, come out and support our native athletes.”
This event is also about the importance of education. The tournament will officially kick off with a College Prep Day. The College Prep Day is geared toward informing student/athletes about financial aid and the rigors of college life. Over 300 students attended last year’s event.
“Our main goal has always been for our kids is to know the importance of a college education,” said Bear. “Receiving a degree and going back to your respected community and making a difference in the life of someone else is the success story we want to hear.”
Following the College Prep Day, all teams will begin pool play on Thursday morning and will end on Friday afternoon. Teams will play three pool games, vying for the top seeds in the single elimination tournament that begins on Saturday morning. All teams will be seeded into the tournament.
“It’s not too often you get this many great athletes from so many different states and tribes coming together to compete in one place and we’re glad we are able to host this event in Choctaw country,” Brad Clay, Youth Events Coordinator, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “It allows us to share our Choctaw culture and facilities with other tribes and also brings revenue to the City of Durant. We hope the tournament continues to get bigger and better each year.”
If there’s one moment of the week that is most beloved, it’s the All-Star Jam. The All-Star Jam, much like the NBA’s skills competition during the All Star Game weekend, will feature a coaches/celebrity game, three point contest, slam dunk contest and fan appreciation events. Also, the “Dash 4 Cash” challenge will be held during the night for fans in attendance.
On Saturday morning the single-elimination tournament begins, where the margin of error is reduced to zero. On Sunday morning, it’s time for the Final Four and Championship games.
“It is always a great tournament with talented Native American athletes from all over the United States,” said Kevin Gwin, Director, Youth Activities, Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma. “If you have not had the opportunity to attend this tournament in the past I suggest you come and watch to see the talent these teams bring to the court.”
For more information and a complete schedule of events, go to www.4loveofthegame.org.