Mistawasis hosts first Canadian Basketball Championships
- Katie Doke Sawatzky | May 08, 2017
Mistawasis First Nation made basketball history last month. The First Nation hosted the first ever Canadian Native Basketball Championships from March 31 to April 2.
“There’s the fastball, the hockey, you know there’s the big soccer tournaments, but there’s never been a big tournament for basketball,” said Mistawasis Band Councillor Robin Daniels, who organized the event. “It’s been a long time since we’ve played that high level when it comes to Native tournaments. There were some strong teams that came out.”
Twenty-three teams came from across the Prairies to play in the tournament. There were A-side and B-side divisions for the men’s teams and women’s teams competed as well.
Several players brought years of experience to the tournament. Saskatoon’s Mike Linklater, who is currently ranked tenth in the world for the International Basketball Federation’s 3x3 World Tour, was the men’s MVP. He lives in Saskatoon and played for Sagestrong.
Linklater said the most memorable thing for him about the championship was the youth involvement.
“There’s a lot of youth in Mistawasis who grew up watching a lot of the tournaments out there and now they’re playing in the tournament,” said Linklater. “It was really good to see that transition from the youth spectators to now young men playing.”
Daniels wanted to create a B-side for the men’s tournament to encourage younger teams to participate.
“The idea was just to give those young guys a chance to succeed,” he said.
Malayah Bruno played for the Calgary-area Creefoot, who placed third at the tournament. She is from Siksika Nation in Alberta and played for the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns this past year. She said her team had a lot of fun.
“It’s a really good competition, [there are] university-calibre players on the other teams,” said Bruno, who was the tournament All-Star. She said the tournament is a great idea and brings people together.
“Basketball is a huge sport in Indian Country,” said Bruno. “It creates a lot of exposure and connections. I’m picking up a couple players that we played against to play in a tournament in Vancouver this summer.”
Bruno spoke with young girls at Chief Mistawasis School while she was in town for the tournament.
“It just felt really good to know that I’m a role model to these young girls. I just wanted to encourage them to go as far as they can,” Bruno said.
Saskatoon’s Sagestrong beat the Winnipeg Warriorz 67-57 in the A-side final and the Mistawasis Warriors beat the Junkbwoys 65-57 in the B-side. For the women’s final, Winnipeg’s Anishnaabe Pride beat the Brick City Warriors 68-47.