Elite meets grassroots basketball in St. George

(Robert Fisher photo) Children from kindergarten to Grade 2 participated in the year-ending Fundy Minor Basketball Jr. NBA Jamboree on the weekend at Fundy Middle and High School with the Basketball New Brunswick U-17 team in town for a training session. Charlie Craig, from St. George and plays on the U-17 team, watches the action from the background.

ST. GEORGE – Children just starting out with basketball got to meet and be on the court with some of the elite youth players in the province recently.

Fundy Minor Basketball (FMB) wrapped up its season with its Jr. NBA Jamboree for kindergarten to Grade 2 players on May 28 at Fundy Middle and High School on the same weekend Basketball New Brunswick (BNB) had its U-17 provincial team in town for training. The provincial team was on the court with the young players helping them learn the game and showing the younger athletes some more advanced skills.

The FMB Jr. NBA program has 72 players, according to association president Tracy Craig, encompassing Eastern Charlotte, Deer Island and Saint Andrews.

“This is the grand finale,” said Craig. “They’re here playing 3-on-3.

“We thought it would be a great opportunity to have grassroots and elite players in our province come together.”

She said BNB takes its provincial teams around the province to meet and play in different communities and, in particular, return to the communities the players are from. Most of the players in the elite program started in minor associations like FMB, including Craig’s son, Charlie.

“They were all over the fact that they were coming here today to play with some little kids,” said Craig.

Peter Hickey is head coach of the U-17 provincial team and said getting around to local communities is a goal of the program when they can accomplish it.

Their training weekend “worked really well in coinciding with this event so anytime there are opportunities to do that we’re definitely all on board,” said Hickey.

While specifically working with younger children isn’t a stated objective of the program, they do try to make it work when they can.

“Later on in the summer we’re going to be working in Woodstock with one of their minor programs,” said Hickey.

He said many of his players started out in programs like the Jr. NBA program with FMB.

“All our guys start playing when they’re five or six years old and come up through, then BNB gets involved when they’re 13, 14.

“Basketball New Brunswick is all about the grassroots programs and certainly we couldn’t do what we do without those grassroots programs in all the communities across New Brunswick.”

Charlie Craig said he started playing around the same time as the kids at the jamboree.

“I just always had a ball in my hands since I was young and I’ve been playing for as long as I can remember.”

He said being able to travel around the province for basketball is cool and see where his teammates are from and what those communities are like. It’s also good, he said, to let the other players see where he’s from. Saturday night, they were on the lake and had a bonfire.

“Being with the little kids is fun,” he said. “It’s good to be looked up on.”