But thanks to people like Bob Axworthy, the Winnipeg Minor Basketball Association and the University of Winnipeg, more kids are playing basketball than ever. In the past month, the U of W and its athletic department have committed to an inner city development program that will operate year-round and provide support to community programs such as the Magnus Eliason Recreation Centre.
On Wednesday, the MERC 13- and 14-year-old girls, all decked out in their Wesmen uniforms, lost an 18-16 barn burner to Greendell Falcons in the Free Press Community Classic Basketball Tournament at the Duckworth Centre. It was their second loss in the tournament, but as far as these kids were concerned, they're winners.
Take 4-foot-8 Tatu Ndiho, for instance. She didn't figure in the scoring, but spent most of her time bouncing up and down along the sidelines when her teammates got a hand on the ball.
"I like shooting and practising the best," said 5-foot-1 Fardosa Aden. "Yeah, we had fun. For sure."
Greendell was led by Sona Morrissette and Kenzie Raddysh with six points apiece. Laura Wiens had four and Tasha Hildebrand added two. Marcy Fannhullen, Siwma Mirandi and Niki Lai each had four for MERC while Nyakiir Deng and Misa Dayasa each had two.
In the 12-year-old boys game on the next court, Garden City defeated the Roblin Park Raiders 33-28. Dylan Lemay led the winners with 12 points while Drew Dobinsky added six. Justin Guillas and Rajin Dhaliwal each had four, Jerrod Alcantara had three, Matthew Melo had two and Reece MacCallum had one. Roblin Park replied with seven points from Michael Langdon, six from Jesse Peristy, four from Logan Baldaro, three from Connor Wiens and two each from Aaron Holleman, Paul Bromley, Roan Van Eerd and Curtis Belhumeur.
"These kids want to be here, they want to play," said Axworthy. "All they needed was the chance. They may not have the finesse and the skills, but they have the heart and desire. They never give up."
The goal of the U of W program is to break down the barriers, ranging from financial, a lack of equipment, or transportation, for inner city kids to allow them to participate in sports.
"Gray Academy of Jewish Education is holding a shoe drive Friday to Wednesday for MERC," said Ashley Kaufmann, a Grade 10 student at Gray who played for Axworthy at Whyte Ridge, and now along with a few teammates, helps him coach at MERC. If you want to help, Axworthy says all then need to do is e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or call him at 233-6304. In other games:
12 BOYS DIVISION
Tyndall Park 63 Norberry Knights 25
Tyndall Park: Ketan Bansal, 28; Daniel Tauzon, 15; Jordan Murdock, 12; Jasdeep Muhar, 4; Jeremy Skubovious and David Bazan, 2 each. Norberry: Nathan Letkeman, 8; Derrick Kannt, 4; Eric O'Dowd, 3; Kyle Beghin, Said Dzafic, Emir Halilajic, Keith Schille and Ahmed Taliani, 2 each.
13-14 GIRLS DIVISION
Selkirk Sonics 38 Earl Grey Cobras 33
Selkirk: Chelsea Ganske, 12; Malora Minarik, 11; Amanda Goodbrandson, 9; Kesslyn Lycan, 4; Naykia Massey, 2. Earl Grey: Tori Grunn, 8; Sara Kasian, 7; Courtney May, 6; Brandi Jones and Morgan Rathwell, 4 each; Allisa MacEarchen and Sheneece Eward, 2 each.
13 BOYS DIVISION
Oxford Heights No. 2, 59 Dakota 20
Oxford Heights: Ryan Lewis, 14; Aaron Breeze, 12; Nikolys Krasnowski, 6; Corey Claydon, Adam Dejonckheere, Matt Genung, Aaron Lange and Nathan Zayac, 4 each; Darin Demchuk 3; Quinn Schipper and Humberto Armenta-Aguayo, 2 each. Dakota: Money Nguyen, Jonah Greenberg, Kris Wilson and Ibrahim Zaia, 4 each; Eric Frizado, 2.
11-12 GIRLS DIVISION
N. Kildonan Cobras 46 Selkirk Sonics 12
North Kildonan: Jasmine Bhullar, 14; Emily Janzen, 12; Tarina Ready and Julia Schroeder, 6; Janessa Stafeckis, Brittany Bell and Holly Giesbrecht, 2 each. Selkirk: Taylor Goodbrandson, 3; Jessica Holod, Danielle Hallson, Richelle Recksiedler and Dakota Massey, 2 each; Ally Simken, 1.
13 BOYS DIVISION
Norberry Knights 37 Oxford Heights No. 1, 33
Norberry: Benjamin Gaudies and Coe Peersman, 8 each; Michael Davis, 6; Joshua Unrau and Jeff Williams, 4 each; Michael Bergen and Andrew Chapman, 2 each; Adam Kuharjki, 1; Oxford Heights: Reggie Merluza, 8; Alexander Stulzer, 6; Mitchell Macyshon, 3; Murray Bachart, Maliq Collins, Jared Ferguson, Austin McBean, Brandon Mulvenny, Justin Sinclaiar and Tanner Godfredsen, 2 each.
11-12 GIRLS DIVISION
Whyte Ridge 26 Dakota 24
Whyte Ridge: Ruby Bains, 12; Shelby Olson, 8; Kennedy Kuntz, 4; Erin Bailey, 2.
Dakota: Tomi Adeleye-Olusae and Ariane Freynet-Gagne, 6 each; Sydney Booker, 3; Carolyne Marchildon, Danielle Arnaud, Denae Marinelle and Natasha Desgagnes, 2 each; Jennifer Baron, 1.