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Why a basketball-playing RCMP officer helped Whatì, N.W.T., get some new hoops

A new net at the Mezi Community School in Whatì, N.W.T., that was installed thanks to local RCMP Cpl. Wesley Alexander Neal. The officer helped raise the money for 2 new nets at the school, after one of the old ones broke.  (Wesley Alexander Neal - image credit)
A new net at the Mezi Community School in Whatì, N.W.T., that was installed thanks to local RCMP Cpl. Wesley Alexander Neal. The officer helped raise the money for 2 new nets at the school, after one of the old ones broke. (Wesley Alexander Neal - image credit)

An RCMP officer in Whatì, N.W.T., who is "kind of obsessed with basketball" helped make the sport more accessible to the community by organizing new nets for the school gym.

Cpl. Wesley Alexander Neal said he's loved basketball since he was a kid, so when he moved to Whatì in 2020, he spread that love by running practices and scrimmages at the Mezi Community School gym.

Then something unfortunate happened.

"I come in one day and I see that one of the rims was just gone from the net, like the welding had just snapped right off," Neal said.

The apparent cause, he said, was a missed shot that hit the rim, which then "just fell and hit the ground."

Neal moved out of Whatì in early 2023 and just recently moved back. When he returned, he discovered that net was still broken.

"I just took it upon myself … I like playing basketball, people in town like playing basketball," Neal said.

Neal said he did some pricing and brought it forward to the school and a few different organizations in town including the Whatì Family Centre.

Between the RCMP, the school, and the Whatì Family Centre they were able to gather $9,500 for two new glass backboards, rims, and mesh. The community government offered some workers to help get the nets installed.

"Which is awesome because there's no way that me and a couple teachers that were trying to sort this out would be able to get this done," he said, adding that each backboard with the rim weighs about 250 pounds.

Neal said the new nets are a welcome change compared to the old ones that he'd heard had been there since the school was built, 40 years ago.

A photo of one of the old basketball nets in Whatì, N.W.T.
A photo of one of the old basketball nets in Whatì, N.W.T.

A photo of one of the old basketball nets in Whatì, N.W.T. (Wesley Alexander Neal)

The new nets allow basketball to return every Tuesday and Thursday, and Neal said he hopes to get more people involved in the sport.

He is also hopeful that Whatì can now host tournaments against other Tłı̨chǫ communities.

The new nets have been a welcome addition to the school and Mezi principal Bryce Glendenning said he is thankful for Neal's dedication to programming in the community.

"We've got a couple after-school basketball programs going, and it's been great. And we're using it during gym classes — the community is benefitting," he said.

"The two RCMP officers in this town are like, incredible — they're running programs for the kids after hours and yeah, they're doing a really great job."