The first-ever women’s team from Kwajalein Atoll will be participating in the annual Ralik Ratak National Champions basketball tournament that kicks off Friday July 16 in Majuro.
Kwajalein Coach Faiga Tagoilelagi told the Journal that after last year’s Ralik Ratak competition, and seeing how many girls on Majuro were able to play basketball at the tournament, he wanted to give the same opportunity to the girls living in Ebeye. He made it his mission to go home and put together a women’s team. Faiga, a former RMI national team player and a Kwajalein men’s team coach, started training them on the basics out in his backyard on Ebeye. Faiga selected the team and started training them around October.
After sometime, Faiga, the team and the parents paid Iroojlaplap Mike Kabua a visit to let him know that a team has been formed and wanted to get his blessing. Iroojlaplap Mike gave his blessing and advised the girls to not forget their manit (culture), said Faiga.
On the spot he donated $5,000 to help the team. The team has also hosted fundraising events to be able to participate in the tournament.
Coach Faiga expressed how thankful he is to Iroojlaplap Mike for letting the team form and represent their home islands.
Five of the 11 Kwajalein players have experience playing for Ebon team last year as they they live in Majuro. Six of them are fresh out of Ebeye and ready to make a name for themselves.
Though the girls discovered their love for basketball at an early age, culture and dress code got in the way of them being able to practice and play on Ebeye to become the best they can be. Two girls go to school on Ebeye and the other four go to school on Kwajalein. Ebeye girls Tanir Lana Kabua and Konelila Tagoilelagi both admitted that this experience is nerve racking. Yet they are very excited to be the first ones to represent their home islands and they are going to give their best.
Kwajalein Day crowds knew Tanir as “Flying Lana” because of how high she can jump and Konelila as “Eagle Eye Kone” because of how well she shoots.
Talyann Heather Almen, who was featured before in the Journal, is known to be an uprising star after people witnessed her skills on the court during the Kwajalein Day play at Ebeye. The rest of the team has yet to develop a name for themselves. They will have the chance to do so during the two week national tournament that will be played at the Majuro Cooperative School court.
Ralik Ratak National Championships (then called Ralik Ratak Shootout) was first launched in 1999 and has since served as the premier national basketball competition in RMI. It is organized by the Marshall Islands Basketball Federation.
This year’s tourney is the 21st. It will start Friday evening this week, July 16, and (weather permitting) will close on July 30.
All games will take place at Majuro Cooperative School basketball court.
Sixteen teams — 12 men, four women — will compete.
The men’s teams are: Wotho, Lib, Kwajalein, Majuro, Namu, Mejit, Arno, Ujae, Lae, Maloelap, Ebon and Rongelap. On the women’s side are Kwajalein, Majuro, Mejit and Lae.