Warriors off to Hawaii for World Youth Basketball Tournament

by: JEFF WILSON/THE PIONEER - Members of the Lady Warriors basketball take a break from practice to flash the hang loose sign to parents and friends. The team left Warm Springs on Monday for the World Youth Basketball Tournament in Hawaii. Team members are, left to right on the back row, Laila Smith, Annalise Whipple, Erika Olivera and Jocelyn McCarthy. Center row:  Kaliyah Iverson, Chloe Smith, Jalaney Suppah, Mary Olney and Vijay Bryant. Front row: Vanessa Culps, Lynden Harry, Niyallee Cochran and Jackie Zamora-Heath. Anytime a trip to Hawaii is in order, it comes as something of a reward.

But for a group of Jefferson County girls, spending a week in paradise will be so much more.

The Warriors, a 13-member girls basketball team made up of players from Warm Springs and Madras, are prepared to make the most of an invitation to the World Youth Basketball Tournament. The group left this week in two groups and will play at least four games at the highly visited tourney.

And while basketball is the main reason for the trip, it will be a cultural experience as well.

“We want to go over there and win, but it is about the experience,” Erika Olivera said. “If we don’t win, it’s OK. We’re going to Hawaii to play our best and see what we can do.”

The WYB, in its many variety of forms, is one of the bigger and most well-attended youth basketball tournaments in the world. Teams from across the world have attended and played, including teams from New Zealand, Australia, California and Texas.

With different age divisions for boys and girls teams, the level of competition is high.

“We get the opportunity to play against some more advanced players,” Jalaney Suppah said.

There was plenty of challenges in putting the trip together.

Just getting invited to the WYB is an achievement in itself. But then, making travel arrangements for 13 teenage girls and parents is not easy either.

And neither is paying for it.

Julie Suppah, the team’s manager, handled the bulk of the paperwork and worked with county businesses and individuals to help raise the necessary funds for the trip.

The girls did their part as well, from washing cars to taking part in the Fourth of July parade to get the word out.

And the community responded.

“We’ve gotten great, great support from the community,” coach Jake Suppah said. “There has been a good outpouring from the community for this group of girls.”

Between the fundraising and normal summer activities, finding time to practice was a job as well. Some of the girls have been playing softball, or were on family vacations or at other camps.

But Suppah feels he has them ready to compete.

“We’ve been working very hard, the girls know that we don’t want to just show up and enjoy the scenery,” Suppah said. “We want to go there and do well and represent well.”

Basketball is only part of the adventure. Part of the trip will be about cultures, learning about new ones and sharing their own.

Many of the girls have been working with coaches on perfecting native songs and dances that will be shared with others at the tournament. The girls will be speaking about their culture in the native dialect of the three confederated tribes that make up the area around Warm Springs.

“It’s going to be really cool, because the cultural aspect of it is the big draw to the tournament,” Jake Suppah said. “(The tournament) loved the idea of having Native American culture shared there.”

There was interest in making the trip last year, but things did not work out. So this year will hopefully be the first of many trips, Suppah said.

Mary Olney said she is looking forward to sharing the stories and cultures of the Warm Springs, Wasco and Paiute tribes with the other teams.

“We are going to share our culture and receive others and just take it all in,” Olney said.

While most of the girls seem more excited about going to Hawaii, they will have time to do plenty of sightseeing, Suppah said the experience should be good for everyone.

“I hope the girls see this as an once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, because we don’t know if we’ll get to do this next year,” he said. “We are enjoying all of it as it comes.”

“We’ll get plenty of basketball in,” Suppah said. “To me, the cultural part of it and the actual getting to go do it experience, to me, is what they are going to remember.”

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