Roadtrippin’ 2023: Utqiagvik’s Little Dribblers basketball program produces championship players

Roadtrippin' 2023: Little Dribblers Basketball League
Published: May. 19, 2023 at 5:36 PM AKDT|Updated: May. 19, 2023 at 5:37 PM AKDT
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UTQIAGVIK, Alaska (KTUU) - The Barrow Whalers have won a combined eight state basketball championships between the boys and girls programs since 2007 — and many of those big championship dreams begin with the Little Dribblers program at the Piuraaġvik Recreation Center in Utqiagvik.

“I love basketball. I grew up with basketball, Barrow is a basketball town,” Kuutuuq Olemaun said, a former Little Dribbler turned coach. “Just getting involved with our kids and making a difference, just that time with them is amazing.”

The Little Dribblers league just celebrated it’s thirty-first season with a tournament at the beginning of May, and typically welcomes neighboring communities for hoops and fun.

“The community that is here this year is Wainwright, Alaska. They’re like 90-some miles down the coast — that’s where I am originally from — and they’re here participating in the tournament,” league director Pete Ahvakana said.

The league welcomes youth basketball players up to 8th grade and is where some of the town’s most successful players learned to love the game, including Division I players Kamaka Hepa and Alyssa Pili.

“It is that feeling of starting here and believing in yourself to do what you set out do with yourself and your family.” Olemaun said. “It is always a really good program to be able to believe in yourself and others and having that team and support for a lifetime.”

In the Little Dribblers League, smiles are more important than the scoreboard — and with this basketball-crazed community behind them, the league could bounce along for at least another 31 years.

“I know the coaches here, their parents were coaches and I have a little 3-year old, so I plan to be his coach, so just the legacy I guess,” Olemaun said.