Basketball program a slam dunk for Inuvik youth

Each child is given an NBA practice jersey, a basketball and a bag, which is all sponsored by the Jr. NBA program.

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A nation-wide basketball program for Canadian youth that made its way to Inuvik for the first time earlier this year continues to attract a high volume of young ballers to the court every weekend.

Canada’s exclusive “Jr. NBA” basketball program is designed to introduce youth between the ages of five to 12 to the game of basketball, helping them develop fundamental skills and sportsmanship through a number of basketball clinics.

Dennis Dulay, the head of Inuvik’s Jr. NBA program, said the workshops also promote health and well-being, and encourage youth to be active members of the community.

“We hope that they want to learn sportsmanship, camaraderie, and of course we want them to enjoy the games, develop skills and be healthy,” said Dulay. “Sports is one of those things that we do for kids to be healthy. It’s a health thing for me, especially for the kids.”

Every Saturday, around 50 kids from around the community participate in hour-long sessions at the East Three Schools’ gyms, where they engage in drills and pick up knowledge on the game.

“Ball handling, skills and movement coordination, competitive games, overall kids’ basketball knowledge,” said Dulay.

Dennis Dulay, the head of Inuvik’s Jr. NBA program, demonstrates to Inuvik youth how to do a layup during a Jr. NBA basketball clinic hosted at East Three Elementary School’s gym on April 13. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo
Dennis Dulay, the head of Inuvik’s Jr. NBA program, demonstrates to Inuvik youth how to do a layup during a Jr. NBA basketball clinic hosted at East Three Elementary School’s gym on April 13. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo

The kids are divided into two groups, where one side of the gym is occupied by youth aged five to seven and the other half consists of youth in the eight to 12 age group. There are also a total of eight volunteer coaches from the community who help run the program.

“On the eight to 12, we have 22 kids, and 30 in the younger group,” Dulay added.

Each child is given an NBA practice jersey, a basketball and a bag, which is all sponsored by the Jr. NBA program. At the end of the program, they are given a certificate for successfully completing all 12 of the program’s sessions.

For Dulay, he said passing down his basketball knowledge is something he has always wanted to do.

“I want kids to really enjoy basketball and learn. Maybe one of these days we will have someone playing professional basketball from the North,” he said. “That’s one of the big dreams for somebody, being a successful professional basketball player who is truly from the North and learned from the North.”

Jay Bretana slam dunks a basketball during a Jr. NBA basketball clinic hosted at East Three Elementary School’s gym on April 13. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo
Jay Bretana slam dunks a basketball during a Jr. NBA basketball clinic hosted at East Three Elementary School’s gym on April 13. Aaron Hemens/NNSL Photo

Seeing and hearing the youth enjoy basketball, he continued, is his favourite part about the program.

“As long as they have fun,” he said.

He added that he encourages anyone who is interested in getting involved in competitive sports to come out and participate in the program, because “basketball is for everyone,” he said.

“It doesn’t matter how skilled you are. You come out and learn, and then you’ll enjoy,” he said.

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Aaron Hemens served as the editor of the Inuvik Drum from January to August 2019. He's responsible for reporting on everything Inuvik, from covering community gatherings and sporting events, to writing the weekly columns. He's a dedicated photographer who loves getting to know the town through the community members that he meets. He's originally from Ottawa, Ont., where he graduated from Carleton University's journalism program in 2018. He can be contacted at 867-777-4545 or at inuvikdrum@nnsl.com. You can check out his photos on his Instagram account: @aaron.hemens.

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