Basketball's big man

Fort Simpson's Laurent Isaiah ready to play
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Junior male basketball player Laurent Isaiah of Fort Simpson cheers on Team NWT's junior girls on Monday. Both NWT basketball teams won their tournament openers.

At six foot two and just shy of 200 pounds, Laurent Isaiah is an imposing force under the hoop, but the well-mannered, soft-spoken Fort Simpson athlete sees the Arctic Winter Games as a chance to connect socially with those he might be boxing out on the court.

“I want to meet new people and make friends,” the 17-year-old forward said of his goals outside of competition. 'Some Russians would be pretty cool, even though I can't speak to them.”

Isaiah is competing in his first Arctic Winter Games. He didn't try out for previous games but his skills over the past two years have been improving to the point he felt comfortable putting them to the test against some of the NWT's best competitors.

He said he was not “into basketball” at the time of the previous games and credits his brother, Charles Gargan, for getting him involved in the sport.

“I saw my brother playing it so I started picking it up,” he said.

The junior boys team is hoping for a medal this games. They won silver in 2010 in Grande Prairie and are well on its way to heading into the playoffs as the first or second seeded team.

NWT holds a record of two wins and no losses after defeating Nunavut 80-63 and Alaska 77-76. Isaiah put up 31 points over the two games. The boys have one more game against undefeated Yukon today and the outcome will decide which of the two will finish first in the round robin. Only four teams are competing this year, which means regardless of record each team will advance to the playoff round.

Aside from the chance to wear an ulu home, Isaiah has a personal goal he is aiming for on the court. If achieved, it should delight fans.

“I want to get a dunk,” he said.”I don't know if that's going to happen, but I will try. I have dunked in a game before.”

Isaiah said it's a privilege to represent his community at the games and sees the event as an opportunity to improve on his skills, a reason why he says more youth should get involved.

“They should do it, it's awesome, the opening ceremony was crazy, I've never been to something like that before,” he said.