Wed Jul 18th, 2018
Jeremy Wade Shockley
The Southern Ute Drum
Southern Ute tribal members, Avionne and Ebonee Gomez caught their flight early Monday morning, circling the globe for the first time, their destination: Australia. The two girls will spend ten days in the Land Down Under as part of a cultural exchange and basketball tournament, dubbed the 2018 Down Under Sports Hoops Classic. The game play will take place at Australia’s new Gold Coast Sports and Leisure Centre.
“This is a once in a lifetime experience for everyone who participates. Each athlete learns a different style of play due to international rules (FIBA), which allows athletes to compete in a more up-temp game,” said Justin Klein, National Basketball Coach with Down Under Sports.
The two-day tournament will have an Olympic style format with competition for gold, silver, and bronze medals. Basketball is just one of the many sports that will be hosted at this year’s international competition. The Gold Coast is Australia’s sixth largest city, situated on the easternmost coastline of Queensland.
“I think this is a great honor to represent Colorado and our community,” said Ignacio High School graduate Avionne Gomez. “We are going to the other side of the world, and meeting new people — this is a once in a lifetime opportunity.” Gomez also encourages her peers to take the same, or similar, opportunities for themselves. Avionne Gomez recently signed her National Letter of Intent to play basketball for Johnson & Wales University in Denver, Colo.
The younger of the two sisters, Ebonee Gomez is a sophomore at IHS and plays basketball for her school, as well as participating in the 2017 North American Indigenous Games (NAIG) in Toronto, Canada last summer. “I want my team to win, to bring back a medal and represent my community — this is a great experience,” she said. The sisters will play on the same team, representing the United States, their team is called the Bengals.
Down Under Sports believes that sport is the international language common to all countries around the world, that it can remove cultural and international barriers. “…to use the common language of sports to bridge the continents,” said George O’Scanlon, President of Down Under Sports.
The teams will compete for their medals with a two-day tournament bracket, but the main aspect of the program is cultural exchange, where athletes will get to know each other off the court, for the remainder of the trip athletes will visit iconic locations throughout Australia.
The mission is to promote growth, development, and self-esteem of the individual athlete through sport; to forge friendships that bridge cultural divides and stand the test of time.