By Nolan Kowal, Sport Performance Specialist
I’ve been around basketball for my entire life, and I don’t ever remember this much buzz around the sport.
Where to begin? How about our Danny Green camp coming up on July 2nd and 3rd? Fresh off an NBA championship, Green will be here in our building for a basketball skills clinic. It’s already sold out with 200 kids between age 8 and 16.
It’s the first time we’ve ever had a current NBA player do a camp like this in Manitoba, and we know it’ll be an experience that the kids will never forget.
Then of course we have the exhibition game coming up between Canada and Nigeria in August at Bell MTS Place. This will probably be the highest calibre of basketball Winnipeg has ever hosted. Our senior men’s national team hasn’t been in the city since the 1999 Pan Am Games.
A lot of the hype around the game these days is obviously attributed to the Toronto Raptors winning the NBA Championship. Similar to the “Vince Carter Effect” in the 1990s that led to more young kids taking up the sport, we could very well see a similar wave of new players getting involved in the next few years.
And not just in Toronto, but around the country. I was in the Winnipeg airport recently and it seemed every conversation I overheard was about basketball and the Raptors. These types of discussions are common in basketball hubs like Chicago and Los Angeles, but Winnipeg? I was pleasantly surprised.
I often ride my bike along the trails in my neighbourhood and I pass about a half-dozen outdoor courts and I’m starting to see more kids out playing. That’s the beauty of our sport—all you need is a $5 ball and you can play, even if it’s shooting hoops by yourself.
Our basketball community has always been very diverse. Our biggest demographic of players right now is new Canadians, especially from Asian and African countries.
As the popularity increases, we need to make sure we’re providing enough resources for everyone involved in our sport regardless of their background.
And we now have more players to choose from for our provincial teams, which we hope will translate into more success at the national level and beyond.
Our job now is to capture all of this excitement in people and transform them into being active participants in our sport, whether it be as a player, coach, official, administrator, or volunteer.