SPOKANE, Wash. - The Spokane Tribe hosted its 13th annual Indian basketball
tournament in early April, described by tournament director Jerry Ford as
one of the largest in the nation. Twenty-two men's teams and 14 women's
teams competed for about $15,000 in prize money.
During its first eight years, the Spring Fever All-Native Basketball
Tournament was held on the Spokane Reservation at Wellpinit, but lack of
overnight accommodations kept the tournament small. Ford moved the games to
Gonzaga University's Warehouse Athletic Facility in Spokane, which has
several basketball courts. Numerous motels provided housing space.
"As soon as we moved to Spokane and added money, it blew up and has grown
ever since," Ford said. "A lot of teams put this weekend aside on their
calendar to come every year.
"It was really tough this year ... there were really no clear-cut favorites
... a lot of teams really stacked up with players and this has been the
most competitive year," said Ford.
Teams come from considerable distances to compete for the prize money and
to renew friendships. This year, some teams came from North Dakota and
others from South Dakota and Minnesota. Montana was well-represented, as
were Idaho and Washington. Arizona provided a couple of teams and another
came from the Santa Clara area of California.
First place winner in the men's division was Itausha, the entry from
California. Second place went to the host team, the Red Bone Runners, with
players from several states.
Women's division winner was Charlie's Angels, with members ranging from
Alaska to New Mexico. Second place went to Cold Blue, a team made up
primarily of Montana athletes. College players - or former college players
- were found on every team, and their talent level was obvious throughout
the tourney. Two members of the Cold Blue team will attend law school this
Gary Parker, a member of the Itausha team, was selected as the tournament's
Most Valuable Player. The award is a memorial to Joe Paul McCrea, a young
Spokane tribal member who was killed a few years ago. McCrea's mother,
brother and sister make the selection and award a special jacket each year
to the MVP winner.
The men's winner received $7,000 and second place received $2,000. In the
women's division, first place collected $3,500 and second got $1,500, with
lesser amounts for third and fourth. Northern Quest Casino, a Kalispel
casino on the edge of Spokane, is the tournament's largest sponsor,
although donations come from numerous sources.