The BC Summer Games are filled with storylines from underdogs to goliaths. However, one team had to undergo an especially difficult journey just to arrive at the games in sunny Cowichan Valley on Vancouver Island. The Zone 7 (North West) Basketball team isn’t only unique because of the isolated communities it represents; this is also the first Basketball team in BC Summer Games history to be completely made up of Indigenous athletes.
Coach Cooper Wilson and his squad are made up of athletes and coaches mostly from the Haida Gwaii and Prince Rupert area. Due to the small populations and lack of organized competition in the region, the North West team includes an unusual amount of 11 and 12 year athletes, competing in games made up of teams with predominantly 13 and 14 year old players.
It took the team two and a half days to arrive in Cowichan for the Summer Games, starting with a 6-hour ferry ride from Haida Gwaii to Prince Rupert, where the team spent the night. The next day, they drove two hours to Terrace where they hopped on a flight to Nanaimo and then caught a shuttle to the Cowichan Valley.
In this elite Basketball tournament dominated by blue chip players with years of coaching and access to first-class facilities, this North West squad is made up of a majority of 11 and 12 year olds with their tallest player being 5’11″. But what the North West team lacks in size and experience they make up for with their effort and intensity.
While they are undeniable underdogs in the tournament, this team has already accomplished more than a gold medal ever could. When asked about what it means to represent his community, Coach Wilson couldn’t help but crack a smile knowing that community and Indigenous pride are woven into the fabric of his team and his people.
This team may not bring home a medal, but what they will bring home is the experience of competing in an elite tournament that will surely inspire others in their community. The future of sports and Basketball in the North West region burns bright. In a few more years, this group of 11 and 12 year olds will unquestionably be a force to be reckoned with at future BC Summer Games and in competitions throughout the province.