Basketball comes to town, and D.C. hoops it up

The boys from Toronto and Detroit duke it out in court. Photos by Bing Branigin

The boys from Toronto and Detroit duke it out in court. Photos by Bing Branigin

By Maricar CP Hampton

Thousands of Filipino basketball fanatics from around the country – as well as Canada – swooped don on the Nation’s Capital for the 9th Inter-city Basketball Tournament held over the Labor Day weekend.

Organized by the Filipino Basketball Association of North America (FBA-NA) and hosted by the Filipino American Basketball Association of Metro-DC (FABA), the event had cage junkies cheering for their cities’ teams and turning D.C. into one huge basketball village.

“I’m impressed with the number of people that have come from other cities, especially from Canada,” said Maryland Delegate Kriselda Valderrama.

At least 112 teams from cities such as Austin, TX, Houston, TX, San Antonio, TX, Chicago, IL, Glendale Heights, IL, New Jersey, New York City, Washington, D.C. (to include Virginia and Maryland) in the U.S. and Toronto, Durham, Mississauga, Vaughan, Windsor and Winnipeg in Canada participated in the two-day tournament. Many of the players came with their families.

“Our goal is to build a closer community and encourage the development of the youth in our area,” said FABA President Ken Gonzales Mendoza.

The event is being touted as the biggest Filipino basketball tournament in North America.

In their message, Valderrama and Mendoza stressed the importance of unity and camaraderie even in the face of competition.

“I’m very competitive so I understand that everyone wants to win, but it’s not that there will be losers per se but people who just couldn’t win. I’m not one that calls people losers because everyone puts their hard work and energy into it,” said Valderrama.

Thousands of basketball-crazy Filipinos fill the The Marriott Ballroom  which was converted into a basketball court.

Thousands of basketball-crazy Filipinos fill the The Marriott Ballroom which was converted into a basketball court.

Mendoza said that while winning is a nice feeling,it is not everything. “It is what we learned that would make us all winners.”

New Jersey-based singer Kirby Asunto entertains during the opening ceremony.

New Jersey-based singer Kirby Asunto entertains during the opening ceremony.

The Marriott Wardmann Park Hotel and The New 24 Fitness basketball facilities in Marlboro Pike, District Heights in Maryland served as the two venues where several games where played. The games were divided according to age. There’s a Tykes division for 11 years old and younger; a Juvenile division for ages 20 years and younger, and also a category for shorter players.

“This is biggest basketball tournament I have ever seen,” said young professional RJ Diokno. “It’s incredible how they converted a hotel ballroom into basketball courts.”

Despite the competitive atmosphere and some occasional injuries, the crowd was energetic, cheering their home teams as in “Go D.C!” or “Go New York!” Balloons around the stadiums added to the party mood.

“I had the chance to meet new friends,” said DJ Blancas of the Pewee Washington team.

Windsor Juvenile division player Gabriel Concepcion said he joined the event for camaraderie. “This is my third year. I come here to play, nothing too serious. Just to have fun and I am happy to see all these Filipinos coming out to this one event.”

Canadian dad Albert Concepcion said he introduced basketball to his kids at an early age because he too learned it when he was a young boy.

Valderrama noted that Filipinos coming together for the love of the sport “is a really good beginning for other things whether for social or political issues.”

For a complete list of the winners, please visit the FABA website.
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