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Junior Ballers Tournament in Samoa launched successfully

APIA (Samoa) - The Riverside Basketball, Laulii Lion Club, and Samoa Basketball Federation jointly organized Junior Ballers tournament featuring U8, U10, and U12 divisions.

The tournament was spearheaded by the Riverside Basketball Club with manager Pualele Craig sharing that their juniors program as the start of the movement.

"The Riverside Junior Ballers program was started with a handful of 5-9-year-olds. Mainly made up of younger siblings of our youth club players who kept asking for a similar program for their age group," said Craig.

"When Sam Taua’aletoa was approached to take over the program full-time, it blossomed and has grown to approximately 30 players," she added.

Craig shared that the tournament concept naturally evolved through the popularity of their program which gave them the opportunity to partner with other organizations for the tournament.

"The young players have to wake up early 3 times a week for their practices and some would be up at 4:00 am excited to go according to some parents. Their eagerness naturally gave us a reason to organize junior tournaments for the players to showcase their progress," Craig said.

"After our club tournament, we wanted to invite another junior club (Laulii Lion Club) to come to join the fun. Then Samoa Basketball assisted with securing the venue and equipment, which was greatly appreciated as it meant we didn’t have to worry about the hot sun or rainy condition," she added.

The tournament was held at Gym 2 in Tuanaimato, the sight of the 2019 Pacific Games Basketball and 3x3 tournament.

Craig who was part of the Tournament Coaches Course of FIBA Oceania reiterated the importance of developing the grassroots level of basketball to develop the sport and the people behind the scenes.

"An unexpected highlight from the tournament was having 30 youth players from the Riverside and Laulii clubs take on the roles of the referee, table officials, and coach to the young teams," Craig said. "It was beautiful to see the bond the kids developed with their coaches and to see the youth really rise to the occasion and fulfill their responsibilities well".

The Juniors Ballers Tournament was a success according to Craig because of the participant's and organizers' reception to the event. 

"It was undeniable the junior players had fun and enjoyed themselves thoroughly. You could see and feel their immense excitement as the junior players arrived at the venue. Seeing the young players march in the opening ceremony parade and sing Samoa’s national anthem was a beautiful sight with some parents and organizers visibly emotional. Many of the children were asking if there will be another tournament next week, Overall, there was consensus that events such as this should continue for our children and for the development of basketball.

"Before this event, Samoa Basketball expressed a desire to have a National Junior Basketball Jamboree event open to all the associations and their junior clubs. This event was a great precursor to future junior tournaments," she ended.