The annual National Māori Basketball tournament has always been a family affair and this year will be no different with multiple generations of families playing in a range of different age groups.

Tournament director Sue Pene said there were 192 teams entered in this year's tournament, with games being held at Rotorua's Energy Events Centre Games, Rotorua Girls' and Rotorua Boys' high schools from tomorrow until Saturday.

"It's definitely an event where the entire whanau can be involved at various levels. We've got under-9s right through to the masters. So, you've got the grandparents - sometimes great-grandparents - playing at the same tournament as their mokopuna. You've got brothers, sisters and cousins all together as well," Pene said.

"It's a good social occasion, as well as a competition. We've introduced a B Grade in more of the age groups this year because there's definitely a top level and a more social level. We're catering for both."

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Last year Te Arawa dominated on their home courts to win the overall aggregate challenge trophy, which has this year been renamed the Willie Taurima Memorial Challenge Trophy after the stalwart of Māori basketball who died in December.

"Willie was the convenor and one of the main instigators of setting up Māori Basketball New Zealand. He passed away on Christmas day, so we will be remembering him throughout the tournament. He did a lot of the admin stuff, not just for Māori tournaments but also for the national Māori men's and women's teams."

Te Arawa men's open player Tamakari Vercoe-Kameta in action during a previous Māori Basketball Tournament. Photo / File
Te Arawa men's open player Tamakari Vercoe-Kameta in action during a previous Māori Basketball Tournament. Photo / File

The national Māori sides are playing in the World Indigenous Games in Porirua later this year and Pene said this tournament was a valuable opportunity for players to put their hands up for selection.

In 2018, Te Arawa claimed gold in the under-9 girls, under-13 boys C, under-15 girls, under-17 girls, under-17 boys B and open mixed, silver in the under-15 boys B and special Olympics and bronze in the under-11 girls and under-13 girls to take the overall title.

They will have their work cut out for them if they are to defend the title this year, especially with several of the top players away on a basketball trip to the United States with Rotorua Boys' High.

At this year's tournament, Te Arawa has teams entered in under-9 girls and boys, under-11 boys and girls, under-13 boys and girls, under-15 boys and girls, under-17 girls, open women's and special Olympic tournaments.

"We don't have an under-17 or under-19 boys' team this year because Rotorua Boys' High make up most of those, but those others will be keen to defend their titles."

One of the major highlights off the courts, during the tournament, is the Cultural and Celebration Evening on Thursday.

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"Every iwi shares a performance or an item of their own, like a song or a haka. That's a great evening, all the teams get up with their iwi and perform, it's a real highlight.

The tournament will start with a powhiri at 7am tomorrow, before the first games get under way at 8am.