If you haven’t heard, the NBA has come to Yellowknife.

Just in a smaller form.

Junior NBA is a new program that was launched by Basketball NWT on Sunday at Weledeh Gymnasium. From the turnout, it seems like it’s going to be a hit, with 24 players between the ages of five through seven signing up to play.

That’s pretty close to capacity said Cole Marshall, Basketball NWT’s technical director and one of the coaches for the program.

He said Junior NBA has been on the cards for two years and this was the year it finally got going.

“Basketball Alberta had approached us about doing something like this,” he said. “We talked about it at our annual general meeting last year but we got it up and running this year.”
Junior NBA takes over as the first step for youth to begin playing the sport. Before that, Steve Nash Youth Basketball was what was available.

“Kids weren’t touching a ball until they were eight years old and by that time, they’ve already been playing hockey for at least two years,” said Marshall. “Hockey is still a strong sport and it’s cool that kids want to play that but we want to give them a chance to see and play another sport, one that I’ve always loved, and hopefully have them grow in basketball.”

Junior NBA is essentially a miniature version of basketball with nets lowered to 6.5 ft. high as opposed to the regulation height of 10 ft. The basketballs themselves are also smaller, making them easier to handle and work with on the court.

“We just want the kids to be having fun and not thinking about doing drills,” said Marshall. “It’s a lot of basic stuff and a lot of game-play learning with the ball in their hands a lot.”

The players also have T-shirts with the logo of a NBA team on the front, something Marshall said is probably the coolest part of the whole thing.

“They look down and see the Cleveland Cavaliers or the Boston Celtics on the front of their shirt,” he said. “For me, that would be the best.”

The big difference with the program in Yellowknife is that it’s only 10-weeks long, as opposed to the 12-week version down south. To make up for that, each of the Sunday sessions lasts for 60 minutes, 15 minutes longer than down south. It’s also a co-ed program and seven girls are signed up to play.

That was important to Marshall and he gave credit to the GO Ball program for helping fill what was an obvious void in youth basketball.

“GO Ball started their youngest division for five to seven-year-olds and that was really great for them to get that level going and they’ve had a lot of success with it,” he said. “But then, we had questions about whether there was anything for the boys at that age so this gives the boys a chance to start young. We needed to do something like this, because by the time they’re old enough for Steve Nash, they’ve grown into their bodies a bit.”

James McCarthy

After being a nomad around North America following my semi-debauched post-secondary days, I put down my roots in Yellowknife in 2006. I’ve been keeping this sports seat warm with NNSL for the better...

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