NABI partnership adds Native American team to Hoophall

<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons above -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2014/05/nabi-partnership-adds-native-american-team-hoophall-2/' addthis:title='NABI partnership adds Native American team to Hoophall'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>  ‘Rez ball’ is about to take the stage at Hoophall West. It has been just over a decade since GinaMarie Scarpa brought her vision of improving life for Native […]<!-- AddThis Sharing Buttons below -->
                <div>
                    <a class="addthis_button" href="//addthis.com/bookmark.php?v=300" addthis:url='http://phxfan.com/2014/05/nabi-partnership-adds-native-american-team-hoophall-2/' addthis:title='NABI partnership adds Native American team to Hoophall'>
                        <img src="//cache.addthis.com/cachefly/static/btn/v2/lg-share-en.gif" width="125" height="16" alt="Bookmark and Share" style="border:0"/>
                    </a>
                </div>

 

‘Rez ball’ is about to take the stage at Hoophall West.

It has been just over a decade since GinaMarie Scarpa brought her vision of improving life for Native American youth into focus by deciding to use sports to begin working toward that goal.  She came up with the idea of a basketball tournament just for Native Americans and joined with Phoenix Suns Vice President Mark West in co-founding NABI.

The acronym stands for Native American Basketball Invitational, but in 2010 the pair expanded the idea by establishing a foundation that would help them grow the tournament and also begin creating additional programs to serve the Native American youth in Arizona.

And now Scarpa, the NABI Foundation CEO, has found a way to “cross the line” into the mainstream basketball community.  The foundation has just entered into a partnership with the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame that will enable it to enter a Native American team into the Hoophall West Classic boys’ basketball tournament in Phoenix, an expansion of the original Hall of Fame tournament that is played in Massachusetts. The Hall of Fame started a high-school basketball tournament 13 years ago at Western New England University and it has grown to become one of the elite tournaments in the country – and local organizers hope the same happens here.

The inaugural Hoophall West was held in December at Grand Canyon College and drew some of the top high-school teams and players in the country, mixed with a handful of local teams, and included a couple of schools ranked in the top 10 nationally.

It’s particularly rewarding to see NABI growing and becoming so successful since we, too, owe much of our success to Scarpa.  When we began 11 years ago as a magazine-style publication covering Arizona prep sports and distributed to the high schools throughout the Valley, it was GinaMarie that helped us secure the support of our charter sponsor, the Phoenix Suns.

She was just finishing up her work as executive director of the A.C. Green Foundation and got the NABI idea off the ground about the same time we were putting out our first issue of SportZine Magazine, which four years later transitioned to this web site and added college sports.  Her encouragement and the introduction she provided to the Phoenix Suns organization helped get the ball rolling for us.

The first NABI event debuted in July of 2003 with 24 high-school teams.  By the next year, the field had almost doubled and this year’s tournament, which will be held July 1-5 in Phoenix, will include 128 teams, split evenly between boys’ and girls’ squads.

Along the way, Scarpa and her staff have been busy coming up with new ways to encourage Native American youth to reach their full potential. That has included the development of a physical education program that serves youth in the six- to 13-year-old bracket; scholarship programs; a health fair; and other programs that encourage higher education, health and wellness, and community building.

Oh yeah, NABI also offers a baseball and softball program for Native American high-school athletes.  It began in 2008 in partnership with the Arizona Diamondbacks.  The program, which will run this year from June 18-21, has become the largest Native American baseball and softball tournament in the country and has served over 1,000 participants since it began.

But for all this success, the driving force is still basketball.  And the addition of a hoops team at Hoophall West is a big step toward additional recognition – not only for the NABI Foundation, but for the Native athletes who get an opportunity to play in front of the college recruiters that will be in attendance.  It’s also a chance for the local media to give them a little coverage (…are you listening, media folk?)

The team from Chinle High School was selected to represent Navajo Nation and the Native American community at Hoophall West.  The Wildcats posted a 26-7 record last season and were the No. 1 team in their division.

Hoophall West organizers are probably expecting the Chinle squad to hold its own with its constant-motion, team-oriented style of play.  But they also know it will boost attendance in a big way.  Native American fans will drive anywhere in the state to support their teams, and will bring family, friends, and just about anyone with an interest in basketball.

And on the reservation, that’s just about everybody.

Which explains why Scarpa had the right idea in deciding to reach Native youth through the game of basketball.

(Photo: NABI)