PHOENIX --If the 2005 Native American Basketball Invitational, or NABI tournament was any indication of things to come, NABI 2006 will fill up fast.
"Ninety-seven teams applied within the first two weeks of registration for last summer's tournament. We are expecting the same, if not more, to apply for 2006," said GinaMarie Scarpa-Mabry, co-founder and organizer of NABI.
Registration began on Jan. 1 for the July tournament.
NABI is also seeking NCAA certification for its 2006 tournament. NCAA established this program to help create college scholarship opportunities for high school athletes. The certification will open more doors for NABI players to be showcased to NCAA Division I & II colleges. NCAA certification will also change how NABI competition is organized, including more guaranteed games for competing teams.
"Change is good when it is creating a higher level of opportunity for the athletes," Scarpa-Mabry said.
Since its inception in 2003, NABI has grown into the U.S.'s largest Native American basketball tournament, offering the best "rez ball" competitors access to college coaches, scholarships and national attention. The competition has also garnered the support of the Phoenix Suns, sports manufacturing giant Nike, and Native American tribes and enterprises.
NABI 2006 will feature 64 teams of male and female Native American high school student-athletes from throughout the U.S. and Canada, who will compete for top honors while showcasing their talents. Tournament games kick-off on July 10-14, 2005 at gyms on reservations in the Phoenix area.
The semi-finals and championship games will be held at U.S Airways Center, home of the Phoenix Suns & Phoenix Mercury, on July 15. Proceeds from the event will benefit the NABI Foundation, whose mission is to fund the educational needs of Native American college students.
Sponsors have included Nike, Phoenix Suns, Phoenix Mercury, America West Arena, Fort McDowell Yavapai Nation, Ak-Chin Indian Community, Salt River Pima- Maricopa Indian Community, Gila River Indian Community, Seminole Tribe of Florida, Fort Mojave Tribe, Pascua Yaqui Tribe, White Mountain Apache Tribe, The Native Voice, 21Native.com, and the Navajo Times.
For information about NABI, the NABI Foundation, registration, sponsorship and volunteer opportunities contact 602-265-2770 or visit the official website of NABI at www.NABIHOOPS.com.