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Youth basketball teams compete in Lucas Oil Stadium

Local youth teams play at Lucas Oil Stadium

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — As the NBA All-Star Game weekend wrapped up Sunday in the Circle City, youth sports continued to get a spotlight in Lucas Oil Stadium.

The Jr. NBA hosted its first-ever Jr. NBA Leagues All-Star Tournament to wrap up the youth basketball program’s presence during the NBA weekend.

Leagues is one of the NBA’s newest initiatives, launching nationally in 2022. Its goal is to provide affordable recreational basketball play in markets with NBA teams.

Two girls’ and two boys’ divisions started pool play at the Indiana Convention Center on Saturday. Then on Sunday morning, the best teams advanced to playoff games, playing on replicas of the Pacers’ home court.

Girls 12U team West Virginia Thunder won its semifinal matchup in the morning. One player, identified only as Tatum E., said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

“This stadium is humongous,” the girl said. “We just have one of the greatest opportunities to play here and win a game. To win any game is amazing but here in this humongous stadium it’s amazing, it feels great.”

Despite its name, the team is local and has players based from Hamilton County and the north side of Indianapolis. The Thunder are not part of the Jr. NBA Leagues program, but Coach Chad Miller says they support its mission. “This is the first time we heard about (the Jr. NBA Leagues),” Miller said. “For us to be a part of this great event, we love it.”

For a teammate identified only as Elle M., the weekend was filled with exciting activities like NBA Crossover. Her favorite was hanging out with her friends while playing a sport she loves. “The experience is amazing,” she said. “You’re … doing NBA stuff and you’re playing on an NBA court, so it’s fun.”

In total, eight youth teams competed for titles on Sunday.

Jr. NBA Leagues launched in Indiana in October 2023 with support from the Indiana Pacers and the Indiana Fever.