Monday, January 12, 2009

Anticipation builds for ANBT number 50

As they prepare to celebrate the fiftieth anniversary of the All Native Basketball Tournament, organizers are finding that interest in this years tournament is at a higher level than usual.

Thus far 72 teams have signed letters of intent to attend the tournament which will feature the first tip off on February 7th.

This years tournament and celebration will also take place in the newly refurbished Russell Gamble Gymnasium, which will feature expanded seating and theatre like seating, the All Native will be the first event to take place with the new seating in place.

The Friday Daily News featured details of the planning thus far for the tournament.

Big jump in interest from teams for ANBT's huge 50th
By Patrick Witwicki

The Daily News
Friday, January 09, 2009
Pages one and six

The All-Native Basketball Tournament Committee isn't kidding when it says this year's event will be the biggest ever.

Sure, it's the 50th annual, a monumental event for a tournament that first began in 1960, and has evolved into one of the biggest basketball tournaments to be hosted by a B.C. city.
But with exactly four weeks to go until the tournament opens its doors, a mind-boggling 72 teams have signed letters of intent to attend the February festivities.

"There's been interest straight across the board," said Peter Haugan, ANBT vice president.
"The interest is very big, even with the hard economic times, people are still planning to come and spend their money in Prince Rupert."

Shortly after last year's tournament had wrapped up, the ANBT suggested that considering interest in the 50th was capturing the attention of nations all across B.C. and Alaska, the plan was to allow for everyone to come, in essence nixing the All-Native Qualifying Tournament that has taken place every November during the past 15 years.

Instead, the ANBT decided to emulate a system that has worked over in English soccer for years - keep with an A-division of at least 12 teams, but also have a B-division.

Then, every year, the bottom two or three teams in A would swap with the top two or three squads in B, making it easier for villages to fundraise for a single tournament, as oppose to having to find ways to travel to Rupert twice.

But the lure has also been the opportunity for all nations to join in the celebration, as Fri., Feb. 6, has been set aside as the "cultural celebration" day, where all nations will get a chance to dance and perform, leading up to the eventual opening ceremonies that will take place at 8 p.m. on that first evening.

"That way, we'll have all the nations dancing until 8 p.m., and then the Tsimshian Nation will host the opening ceremonies," said Haugan.

In the past, the Opening Ceremonies has taken place either Monday or Tuesday after tournament games have already begun, but this year, no games will take place until Saturday morning (Feb. 7).

And yes, every single game will take place at the Jim Ciccone Civic Centre, either in the arena or the Russell Gamble Gymnasium.

"Right now, it looks like it can’t fit," said Haugan.

"With each (additional) team, you add two games (to the draw), because it's double knockout."

Interest is up in all four divisions, and not just Senior Men's, said Haugan. That means a Div-A and Div-B draw could take place for all four divisions.

Once every team has paid their entry fee and is confirmed for February, the ANBT Committee will then sit down and figure out where every team fits into the draw.

"We know which teams are the powerhouses, and we know which teams come to qualifying every year," said Haugan.

"But there are some that are on the bubble, so we still have to look at what we have in each division."

Depending on strength, an A-division could have as many as 16 teams, or by contrast, as little as 12.

From B.C.'s standpoint, two new Vancouver Island teams are looking at competing in Senior Men's - Victoria and Cape Mudge (Campbell River).

A team from Hesquiat, near Ahousaht on Western Vancouver Island, is also considering its options as entering as a separate team.

In the Women's division, the excitement is surrounding the fact that Ketchikan (including players from Metlatkala, Alaska) is returning to the ANBT after a six-year hiatus.

They were the last non-Rupert team to win the ANBT back in 2002.

And Kamloops, who ventured to the ANBT for three seasons from 2004-06, are also returning to the dance.

In Intermediates, Cowichan has decided to enter a team, excited about basketball after getting the opportunity "to host the 2008 Indigenous Games last summ9r.

And Master’s is filling out the draw as we'll, said Haugan.

And just in time for the 50th, the Civic Centre has completed putting in the new bleacher seating inside the Russell Gamble Gymnasium.

Now, every single ANBT is guaranteed a comfortable seat.

"It's beautiful seating," said Haugan.

"We might gain 100 seats, and the more, the better."

Bleachers have also been added to the endlines, which caught the ANBT committee by surprise, as they believed there would still be chairs and fl06r seating at those ends of the court.

But still, it's a welcomed new addition to the ANBT.

"We're more progressive with our season tickets this year, because everywhere is a good seat," said Haugan.

The deadline for teams is Jan. 14, and the ANBT Committee then hopes to have a schedule done by that weekend (Jan. 16).

Last year's winners included Bella Bella taking both the Senior Men's and Masters divisions; Metlakatla Crest repeating as Women's champions, and Metlakatla, Alaska taking the Intermediates crown.

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