March Madness comes early as Vancouver hosts college basketball tournament

American college basketball is coming to Vancouver for the first time this weekend and some kids will get to attend free of charge.

VPD-led initiative will give kids a chance to see high-calibre basketball free of charge

The Vancouver Police Department hosted a basketball clinic for youth in Metro Vancouver ahead of the NCAA tournament. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

Vancouver basketball fans will get to experience American college basketball in person for the first time this weekend as the city hosts several top NCAA teams.

The inaugural Vancouver Showcase will feature a women's and men's tournament, including the defending champions on the women's side from Notre Dame.

"This is like March Madness early in November, and you get to go down to the convention centre, an iconic building." said Howard Kelsey, co-founder of the event.

Friday afternoon, kids got their dribble on at a clinic hosted by the Vancouver Police Department, ahead of the tournament that begins on Sunday.

The VPD and the Canada One Athletic Foundation have partnered in an initiative to distribute game tickets to youth groups and schools throughout Metro Vancouver.

Sergeant Raj Mander leads youth in a basketball clinic ahead of the Vancouver Showcase tournament this weekend. (Jacy Schindel/CBC)

"We have to give back and that's what you do. You don't charge kids when you have the ability through a corporation or a foundation to get them to the games," said Kelsey.

Sergeant Raj Mander, one of the police officers leading today's clinic, says the event's positive influence on youth goes beyond giving them a front row seat to high calibre basketball.

"It's just showing them what hard work and dedication, where it can get them ... Showing them that it's possible."

He adds that organizers emphasized gender parity by ensuring an equal number of girl and boys were selected to take part in the clinic.

The men's tournament tips off on Nov. 18 and runs through Nov. 21, and the women play from Nov. 22-24. All games will take place at the Vancouver Convention Centre.