For Cordova middle-schooler Arthur Adams, basketball has always been a social activity, a way to make new friends and to strengthen his relationship with his brothers. Although Adams is one of Cordova Junior/Senior High School’s top-performing players, he’s never been obsessed with winning. A stint in the Jr. NBA, however, has convinced Adams that basketball should be competitive as well as social.
“The reigning champions of our 2A state — those guys are hardheaded,” Adams said. “Their mindset is just to win, to compete and beat everybody who gets in their way. That’s who we want to be next year.”
In December 2018, Adams learned that one of his school coaches had recommended him to the Jr. NBA. Adams was to be one of 10 players sent to compete in the Jr. NBA regional games in Oregon as a member of the Alaskan Native TruGame team. While all members of the team were Native, some came from suburban Anchorage and others came from remote villages of 400.
“I think it’s just to show all the other teams that Natives can hoop too,” joked Adams.
Adams’s main worry was that the newly assembled team wouldn’t have enough time to develop their teamwork before playing against other high-achieving youths from across the region.
“I didn’t think it was going to go too smoothly with my team, because we’d all just met each other,” Adams said. “We only had a short amount of time to get to know each other before we played against the best junior-high players from across the Northwest. We needed to get our chemistry up and learn more about each other on the court and off the court.”
The games were held June 21-23 at the Beaverton Hoop YMCA, in Beaverton, Ore, a facility with six basketball courts. While preparing for the competition, Adams got to tour Nike’s 300-acre Beaverton headquarters and getting to know his teammates better. It was the longest he’d been away from home.
“We had a lot of fun on the court and we had a lot of fun off the court, just hanging out,” he said. “We’re all really good friends now, and we all talk to each other every day.”
After qualifying in the championship bracket, the Alaskan Native TruGame team went on to defeat the Portland Supreme, Deny Basketball and Cascade Hawks teams before losing to the PDX Elite.
The non-Native team Alaska TruGame also qualified for the championship bracket.
Adams led his team, scoring 21.7 points and making 5.3 rebounds per game. The experience has prompted Adams to approach basketball more competitively. There doesn’t need to be a trade-off between the social and competitive aspects of basketball, he said. “Jr. NBA was a really good experience because it let me play against the best of the best players,” he said. “It’s really helped me get ready for my next few years in high school. I feel I now need to step up and get more competitive than when I was in junior high.”