Basketball camp hits Whale Cove

Weeklong camp shows the passion, talent for the sport in the hamlet says coach

Youths join in at the basketball camp held last week in Whale Cove. The coach for the camp, Nick Diem, said players’ skill level in Whale Cove was high and he wants the camp to become an annual event. (Photo courtesy of Nick Diem)

By David Lochead

After teaching basketball to youths in Whale Cove, coach Nick Diem has come away impressed with what the kids there can do in the sport.

“All the communities have shown they’re little basketball hotbeds,” said Diem, a B.C.-based coach who once led the Northwest Territories’ under-17 team.

Diem was in Whale Cove last week to host a youth basketball camp that taught skills of the sport and included games played with a referee, he added.

Coach Nick Diem led a youth basketball camp in Whale Cove last week and says more are planned for Kinngait and Taloyoak. (Photo courtesy of Nick Diem)

The camp is an initiative of the Nunavut Basketball Association. The organization wants to provide basketball to communities that have shown an interest in the sport, Diem said.

During the school day, he would teach the kids in gym class and all the kids were allowed to join on the weekend.

The groups were split into two, with a group for players aged 12 and under, and a 13-and-over group.

Roughly 70 kids showed up to play basketball, Diem said, adding it was “pretty jam-packed”.

What he learned by hosting the camp was that the kids were already quite skilled at most of the fundamentals, such as awareness to make a pass or shoot and the skill to make a layup. Their ability to dribble the basketball was also strong, Diem said.

“It just goes to show how much basketball has grown [in Whale Cove],” he said, adding he was told it started becoming more popular over the past three years.

The impact of the Toronto Raptors winning a National Basketball Association championship in 2019, as well as the establishment of the Nunavut Basketball Association, are likely factors in that growth, he added.

Outside of the Raptors making the sport cool, basketball is also accessible and encourages teamwork, Diem said.

Even though he has seen a lot of basketball, he found the skill level of Whale Cove kids to be impressive.

Diem has hosted basketball camps throughout the Northwest Territories and coached the game at multiple levels, including being head coach for the Northwest Territories’ under-17 men’s team.

Currently, he coaches with the Indigenous Sport, Physical Activity and Recreation Council in British Columbia.

The goal, Diem said, is to hold these camps annually.

“I think an important aspect is to have the funding, coaching and everything else in place to go back to these communities, as opposed to it being a one-off deal,” he said.

Diem also said that while it was just one week, the camp was able to make an impact on the kids and get them excited to participate.

“They’re going to remember this camp for a long time, as I will,” he said.

The next camp Diem is running comes to Kinngait from March 21 to 27. Taloyoak is also getting a camp but it is being rescheduled, Diem said.

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