Local basketball star Annika Parr has been selected to play as an alternate for Team BC’s 14U (14 and under) at the North American Indigenous Games in Halifax from July 12 – 19, 2020.
Annika, along with her identical twin sister Ayanna, have been playing basketball since the age of five. The Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council (ISPARC) made an exception to let the girls try out earlier after their father wrote a letter. She was the youngest selected at the age of 11 for the 2006/2007 category.
Approximately 400 young Indigenous basketball players across B.C. registered for the first round of male and female tryouts with the hopes of making the 2020 NAIG Team BC squad.
Following an intense three-day BC Indigenous Provincial Basketball Camp at the Richmond Olympic Oval in November, Team BC 14U female basketball coach Montanna Howe is excited about the squad chosen to represent B.C. in Halifax — some of who already have connections having played with or against one another previously.
She started playing in the local Squirt League when she was five years old, and Annika’s first tournament at the age of eight was in Tulalip, Washington. For the past four years her parents (Wilma and Ryan Parr) have been taking the twins, a team they call “Thunder,” to play in Portland, Seattle, Tulalip, and SFU in Vancouver. Annika has a basketball bouncing in the house daily and has been since she was four. She practices for six hours a week and plays one game a week, in addition to traveling to tournaments seven times a year. She cites her brother-in-law, Jonas Anderson, as her inspiration in the sport.
The Team BC NAIG program provides 545 Indigenous athletes, coaches and mission staff from across B.C. with an incredible opportunity to experience a major international multi-sport competition and to share and celebrate their cultural heritages with other youth from across the continent. NAIG, which is held every three years by a different host city, is for athletes aged approximately 13 to 19 years old and promotes and encourages the cultural, spiritual and traditional values of the peoples it is representing.
Basketball has been one of Team BC’s most successful programs at the Games. In 2017, the 16U male team won gold while the 16U female team won silver, as did the 14U male and female teams. This helped lift Team BC to the Overall Team Title at NAIG (winning 65 gold, 57 silver and 54 bronze medals), marking back-to-back Games that they have earned the award.
The 14U female Team BC will take 10 players to Halifax, with two alternates listed, and Howe is excited about the team for good reason.
“We have great speed and I think we will be a solid ball-handling team. Lots of the girls are quite aggressive, so that will be helpful when we play those really competitive teams from the U.S.,” said Howe. “All the players had great tryouts, worked really hard and were super respectful.”
Another Bella Coola player, Lagi Vaa, has made it to Phase 2 of three rounds for the 19U Female Development Squad. That squad will meet in the spring for Phase 3 when final cuts will be made.