Finding out who’s the best club team in Canada is what the “bballnationals” tournament is all about.
From August 4th- 7th, Girls basketball teams from across the country will get a chance to play for the title of “The Best Team in Canada” at the first ever Canada-wide National level tournament.
It’s the first tournament of its kind, and organizer Anthony Beyrouti wants to make sure it makes a great first impression. “It’s going to be the culminating event of the summer,” Beyrouti said of the upcoming event, “we’re going out of our way to make it really over the top and memorable so that teams will be excited to come back next year.”
Club basketball in Canada is on the rise, but up until this year, annual club championships were kept at a local level. Annually, one team, from each age division, is awarded the title of being ‘The Best Team in the Province’.
Despite the popularity of these events, there has never been a tournament that encouraged club teams from across the country to compete against each other on a national level, or the opportunity for teams to upgrade their provincial championship to a national title.
Many other sports, including volleyball, soccer, and lacrosse, all host national championships that can feature close to 1,000 teams. These tournaments showcase the country’s talent and give players the opportunity to face off against teams who they wouldn’t otherwise play during their regular season.
“Canada Basketball does do a great job with the nationals that they currently run,” Beyrouti said of the tournament that is run for the under 15 and 17 age groups only, “we just want to create an opportunity for more kids to participate in a national championship.”
For the select basketball players lucky enough to make a provincial or national team, they are given the unique chance to play with, and against, the best players from across the country—an opportunity that didn’t exist for Canadians who play exclusively on club teams, and often travel to the U.S.
What he hopes bballnationals will do is “help grow basketball internally” and encourage teams to step up their game on home soil. “What we’d like to see is more people staying here [within Canada], playing in local tournaments and competing at higher levels.”
Local coaches are echoing Beyrouti’s ideas. Craig Beaucamp is the Head Coach at the University of Victoria, and led the U16 boy’s National Team to a silver medal at the FIBA Americas Championship earlier this summer. Being involved in the sport in Canada, Beaucamp is in support of what the tournament represents.
“I think you’ll still always have teams that will want to go down south to get exposure to the NCAA, but I think celebrating what we have here in a National club tournament goes a long way,” Beaucamp said enthusiastically, “I think it symbolizes how deep the talent is here and how things are progressing across the country.”
For the inaugural year, the tournament will play host to only girls, inviting teams in the Under 13, 15, and 17 age groups. The four-day basketball extravaganza is full of great events, including a media day, yoga classes lead by Lululemon, and the tournament itself, which will wrap up with the championship game taking place on Monday August 7th.
For the first two years, the tournament is slated to be held in B.C. at the Langley Event Centre (‘LEC’), an impressive facility that is home to local high school basketball and volleyball championships. Once the tournament has gained traction, Beyrouti plans to open the tournament up, and host it in other provinces.
In addition to the great partnership with the LEC, many local businesses are offering their support to make bballnationals a reality Beyrouti says, “we’ve been very lucky to have so companies step up, they’ve all taken to youth sports and really want to provide opportunities for kids to get out and play.” The Corporate sponsors he’s referencing include Onni Group, Passion Sports, Allwest insurance, and Ralph Maglieri Real Estate.
Overall, this type of national tournament is possible because of how far the sport has come in Canada, “I think the system is getting to be very deep across the country,” Beaucamp said of what he sees, “I think any opportunity we have to showcase Canadian talent is great because we’ve shown Canadian talent is some of the best in the world.”
The organizers are already looking ahead to next year. “We’ve had a glowing reception to the tournament,” Beyrouti said, “an exuberant amount of teams have committed to coming next year which is very cool to see.”
With the intention of growing the tournament annually, 2018 will feature more teams from all provinces, as well as a boy’s division.