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Summer-long hoops tourney ready to roll

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Troy Osiname is hoping to cure summer boredom one teenage basketball player at a time.

The president of Community Vibes — a non-profit organization that aims to mentor young people of all backgrounds throughout the city — asks kids why they find themselves getting into trouble.

"I ask why they take part in petty crimes, and they usually say it’s because they’re bored," said Osiname, a North End resident. "It doesn’t matter if you live in the North End or the south side of town, these types of problems go right across the board."

In an effort to cure this boredom, Community Vibes is putting on a summer-long basketball tournament that it hopes will draw dozens of teens.

The first annual "Rep Ur Hood" tournament will be open to 16 boys teams and 16 girls teams of players aged 15 to 18. All games will be played at the University of Winnipeg’s Duckworth Centre.

"We want kids from all over the city," Osiname said. "We want to bring them to the hub of where people feel like the problems are. Why not shine a light on the positive, and bring everyone to the inner city?"

Unlike a typical summer tournament that lasts only a weekend, this one will stretch from early July through late August. Teams will get practice times from July 8 to 17, with a big kickoff event slated for July 20 that will feature an anti-bullying message, a free lunch from East India Company, musical performances, three-point and slam dunk contests, and a celebrity basketball game.

Each team is guaranteed three games between July 22 and 26, and a spot in "Sweet Saturday" on Aug. 3, when the elimination rounds begin.

If that sounds similar to the Sweet 16 often talked about during the NCAA’s March Madness tournament, it’s no coincidence.

"We’re Canadians living an American dream," Osiname said. "All the programming we see is American. It saddens me, but it’s the pop culture we live in. When I’m watching the NCAA tournament, I’m thinking, ‘Why don’t we have something like that over here?’"

As teams advance, more practice time will be provided between games, leading up to the finals on Aug. 24. Osiname is hoping a big crowd is on hand to see the champions crowned and the MVPs awarded scholarship packages that include money towards tuition and tutoring.

News of the tournament is spreading throughout the school system, so Osiname is expecting many of the teams to consist of high school teammates. But he’s also hoping to see some club teams as well as some entries from various community groups.

"The atmosphere is ripe for this style of tournament," he said. "I want to extend it (beyond just schools) because I want to cure some of the problems going on on the street."

The deadline for registration, at a cost of $150 per team, is June 22. For more information, visit www.communityvibes.ca

avi.saper@canstarnews.com

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