Native basketball showcase in Reno looks beyond sports
Special to First Nation’s Focus
A crowd of 300 witnessed two hard-fought basketball games between regional Native American high school student-athletes during the 3rd Annual All Star Showcase June 18 at the RSIC Gymnasium in Reno.
But perhaps the biggest cheer of the night came during the introductions of three current collegiate basketball players:
• Kierra Johnson (an RSIC member) currently is a standout athlete at the United Tribes Technical College.
• JJ Nakai (Navajo Nation) just completed his second year at Pima Community College in Tucson and will play for the University of Nevada, Reno this fall.
• Zach Burns (Walker River Paiute Nation) is playing basketball and majoring in biology at Simpson University.
“We love to watch these young people grow and develop in his or her basketball skills,” said Jean Wadsworth, director of the RSIC Recreation Department. “What really makes everyone happy is knowing that these student-athletes are going to continue their education.”
Wadsworth said the idea to organize the showcase was an effort to promote and show public support for the Native American community’s young people.
This year’s Showcase featured student athletes representing 21 Tribes and 18 high schools. Further, Class of 2019 members from Nevada high schools and their chosen institute for higher learning are listed below:
Moses Bobb: Yerington High – Haskell Indian Nations University
Leo Grass: Spanish Springs High – Feather River College
Robert McFalls: Mineral County High – Feather River College
Issa Rios: Wooster High – Truckee Meadows Community College
Denton Williams-Thom: Yerington High – Western Nevada College
Lilly Aguilar: Yerington High – Feather River College
Janae Blue Horse: Reed High – Yuba College
Alexceah Emm: Yerington High – Lassen Community College
Larsa Guzman: Reed High – Everett Community College
Precious Masters: McDermitt High – Feather River College
Macee McKinney-Cota: Owyhee High – Benedictine University
Kailiana Ramos: Reno High – Central Wyoming College
Serena Sanchez Gardipe: Spanish Springs High – Feather River College
The final score for the boys’ game was 81-65, with the Red team winning. Leo Grass and Moses Bobb were named game MVPs.
The final score for the girls’ game was 74-56, also the Red team winning. Autumn Wadsworth and Larsa Guzman were named game MVPs.
Despite the difficulties finding their way onto an NCAA team, let alone becoming a high profile athlete, history is dotted with famous Native Americans athletes and their noteworthy accomplishments.
Just last March, the NCAA Basketball Championships (division I) the WNIT, and the NIT featured 13 self-identified Native American standout players.
In fact, Kierra Johnson, a member of the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony, was selected to the NJCAA DII All-America Third Team as just a freshman, despite Native Americans being the most under-represented ethnicity on college athletics teams.
Further, Native Americans, in partnership with their First Nations cousins in Canada, claim to have originally played in some form of what are now 10 Olympic sports, including canoeing, kayaking, sledding and field hockey.
In addition, today’s newspapers’ sports pages still feature stories of some of the most iconic Native American athletes of all time — Jim Thorpe and Billy Mills.
Thorpe, a Sac & Fox Indian, won two Olympic gold medals, played professional baseball and football and became the first president of the league that would become the NFL. Mills, a Sioux who came off the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota, scored one of the biggest upsets in Olympic history when he won the 10,000 meters in 1964. O
This article was provided to First Nation’s Focus by the Reno-Sparks Indian Colony and is republished with permission.
I am over the moon with how strong our school-community relationship is, how easy it was to grow, and surprised by the willingness of my community, students and parents alike, to move in this direction too.