Published July 1, 2016
MARICOPA, ARIZONA— Native American Basketball Invitational (NABI) marks its 14th annual tournament in Arizona. This year the tournament is being held in the town of Maricopa from June 26 – July 1, 2016.
112 teams of both boys and girls from across Indian Country are competing to play in the championship game that will be held at the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona on July 2.
But it’s more than just making hoops and going hard in the paint, it’s about going to college and creating a path to success.
During the tournament over 1400 athletes are required to attend mandatory seminars at Harrah’s Ak-Chin Casino showroom. Speakers like the NCAA and Northwestern Indian College guide the young athletes into success, explaining the importance of continuing on with their education after high school.
The speakers set them on the right path with advice on how to finance and apply for grants and scholarships.
If the athletes don’t attend these seminars that focus on fundamentals and skills of being successful, then they can’t compete in the tournament.
The organizer behind this project is none other than GinaMarie Scarpa, who is the CEO of NABI.
“I seen what the reservation has done to the hope of our kids, but then I see the beautiful culture that the elders are holding on, and the languages… So how can they get our kids to understand that education is the key to change it all? Keep the culture, keep the reservation proper, come back and run your own tribal enterprises,” says Scarpa.
Growing up with nothing in the inner-city of Boston Scarpa knows struggle all too well.
“I go back to the projects every time I go home. That’s my home. It will always be my home. I understand being placed in a box and being told what I can and can’t do because of where I come from or the color of my skin. I understand that and that’s the common denominator that makes me push for NABI and the kids,” reflects Scarpa.
Scarpa wants to make sure that these kids are getting the support and resources they need to strive further in academics.
Along in helping Scarpa push the kids is former NABI player Sadie In The Woods, who is Cheyenne River Lakota from Pine Ridge, South Dakota. In The Woods currently lives in south Florida, but came back to assist in the tournament because of what NABI means to her. She wants to “give back.”
“I really try to do a lot to create paths out of poverty for low income communities and I believe that one of those paths is networking and building relationships, getting an education and then getting employment and getting a jobs,” Said In The Woods, “but to survive in college, to survive in today, to get that education you can’t just be a ball player.”
In The Woods played in NABI in 2006 and made it to the championship but lost to the opposing team due to one basket. Although her team lost she was recognized and complimented by Phoenix Mercury player Diana Taurasi.
As an appreciation of In The Woods’ performance Taurasi gave her an autographed photo of herself.
After that moment In The Woods went on to pursue her commitment of attending and graduating from Duke University in North Carolina.
In The Woods is an icon for NABI and she represents empowerment and enlightenment for the organization and for people in Indian Country.
“I’ve had relationships start from my work with NABI that are going to help me survive,” commented In The Woods, “I’m going to change the world one rez at a time.”
Weldon Grover is a summer intern at Native News Online and Tribal Business Journal. He is a senior at ASU’s Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication.