With a strong winning season behind them, Terrace WAKS are shooting for finals in the All Native Basketball Tournament in Prince Rupert next week, Feb. 7-13.
“If we play the type of basketball we are capable of playing, then we could play Saturday night [in finals],” said coach Terry Monture.
Terrace WAKS beat Kitkatla and the Prince Rupert Chiefs in a Terrace tournament earlier this season, both of which are among the top six teams contending for the men’s All Native title.
A club team, the WAKS won the Terrace Men’s Basketball League this season, with a season record of 28 wins, four losses.
They also won three of four tournaments they played in, earning first in Gitsegukla, New Aiyansh, and Terrace and second place in a tournament in Canyon City.
The team is mostly Nisga’a men from the Nass Valley, but also Haidi Gwaii, Lax’kw’alaams, Beothuk players and an Iroquois player and coach. Monture said they have very strong guards, strong three-point shooters, and possibly the tallest team.
“We have two big guys, no other team has two players the size of Basil Morgan and Kenneth Monture. We’ve got some size, we’ve got some speed, and we’ve got a lot of depth – we’ve got 10 players,” said Monture.
“It’s not going to be easy. We’re going to have to play the best basketball we’ve played all year every game,” he said, adding that the team would be happy to rank among the top four, but are aiming to be finalists.
The high-calibre, double knockout tournament draws 14 senior men’s and 54 Aboriginal teams overall from all across B.C. and as far south as Ahousaht on Vancouver Island.
But the week-long event is “not just a basketball tournament,” said Monture.
“It’s a real cultural experience. All the Aboriginal people from the northwest are there. The opening ceremonies are just incredible with all the dancers. It’s an opportunity for everybody from the northwest to get together, so it’s not just playing basketball, its seeing people that you haven’t seen for a while, getting a chance to go out for dinner, just to sit in the stands and talk to them.”
Monture adds that the gym is packed with cheering people for the finals Saturday night and it is loud.
“At the finals last year, it’s just amazing… I don’t know how many people are in that building, 1,500 or 2,000, but the place was packed. It was just crazy… one of the noisiest buildings I’ve ever been in,” he said.
The Terrace WAKS won 8th place in the tournament last year, and the team has continued to develop this season.
Peter Haugan, president of the Prince Rupert group that organizes the All Native Basketball Tournament, said recently that the division titles seem to be up for grabs, with no powerhouse teams expected to dominate.
“The Seniors’ Division is wide open, there are about five or six really good teams in there. They should push one another to be the champion. It should be a really level playing field, different than what we’ve seen in the past,” he said.
For more, find “All Native Basketball Tournament” on Facebook.