Nevada’s Terae Briggs (Crow Tribe) excels on the court and as community leader | FirstNationsFocus.com

Nevada’s Terae Briggs (Crow Tribe) excels on the court and as community leader

Kaleb M. Roedel
Special First Nation’s Focus
Nevada forward Terae Briggs grew up playing basketball on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana.
Courtesy Nevada Athletics

RENO, Nev — A few years ago, Terae Briggs, then a freshman forward at United Tribes Technical College located in the heart of North Dakota, was sitting in class when her cellphone buzzed.

It was, curiously, a Nevada number.

Briggs arched an eyebrow at the seemingly random digits and answered, despite expecting a telemarketer on the other end.

Indeed, it was someone trying to sell Briggs something — just not what she expected.

The call was from then-Nevada women’s basketball coach Jane Albright, who was trying to sell Briggs on the idea of a new future as a student-athlete at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Instantly, Briggs was sold.

“Once I got the phone call, I was like, ‘I’m coming!’” Briggs said in an interview with First Nation’s Focus.

At the time, Briggs was coming of a freshman season in which she averaged 22.4 points and 12.1 rebounds per game, earning her NJCAA Division II second team all-American honors.

“(Coach Albright) was telling me all the details and I was like, ‘yes, yes, yes!’ She got me here, I went on an official visit, I signed right away,” she continued.

Three years later, Briggs, now a senior forward for Nevada, is in authoring the best season of her Wolf Pack career. As of Feb. 15, she leads Nevada in rebounding (8.0), field goal percentage (.527), steals (37) and blocks (20) and is second on the team in scoring (14.6). Moreover, she has racked up a team-leading eight double-doubles, which ranks second in the Mountain West and 35th in the nation.

SHAPED BY HER TRIBE

Yet, prior to that fateful phone call, Briggs didn’t think playing NCAA Division I basketball was an option.

Growing up on the Crow Indian Reservation in Pryor, Montana — a dot of a town with a population of about 600 — Briggs was accustomed to being part of a small Native community amid family and friends. It was a comfort zone Briggs, a member of the Crow Tribe, expected to stay settled in through college and beyond.

“I didn’t think I was good enough to play at this level,” Briggs said of playing Division I basketball. “When I was in high school, I decided I still wanted to play basketball (in college) but I was like, I don’t think I’ll go to any big schools, so a junior college would be perfect for me. And I thought I would just play two years and get my associate (degree) and be done.”

Briggs, who will receive a bachelor’s degree in Human Development and Family Studies from UNR in May, said her upbringing on the Crow Reservation helped shape her into the basketball player — and person — that she is today.

“Growing up on a reservation, I was able to play outside, play basketball, all of the time,” said Briggs, who went to a high school of 50 students. “You knew everybody, and everybody came and cheered for you.”

Briggs said she was constantly encouraged by her family to continue working at basketball and pursue a college career. Her grandparents, who raised her, were especially instrumental in instilling her with confidence, she added.

“My grandpa is funny, he always tells me, ‘OK, you need to rebound more, play defense more,’” Briggs laughed. “Everyone (in my family) just kind of coaches me. They are big influences.”

In early December, Briggs got the opportunity to play in front of her “family of coaches” when Nevada played in a tournament in Missoula, Montana, roughly 370 miles from her hometown of Pryor.

“They had a little cheering section,” said Briggs, flashing a smile. “They were just so loud. It was so cool — it reminded me of when I was in high school.”

A NEW ROLE

As a senior for the Wolf Pack, Briggs said she has embraced not only being a leader for her teammates, but also a role model for the native youth back on the Crow Reservation. She said she even occasionally gets messages on social media from kids asking her for advice.

Notably, Briggs has been named the Wolf Pack Student-Athlete of the Week three times this season. In the Mountain West opener at Utah State, she poured in a career-high 30 points and grabbed 12 rebounds.

“A lot of native kids from back home really look up to me,” Briggs said. “I didn’t really think of myself as a role model before. But I personally don’t really know a lot of native women that played D-I (basketball) from my tribe.”

Second-year Nevada women’s basketball coach Amanda Levens said Briggs is certainly making her tribe, and the greater native community, proud.

“I think Terae is just another player that the community can really have as a point of pride,” Coach Levens said. “She’s such a great role model for boys and girls in a community that loves basketball. She’s such a self-made player; she’s really worked hard.”

ON THE HORIZON

After wrapping up her final season for the Wolf Pack and graduating from UNR, Briggs said she wants to continue a career on the hardwood. She plans to play professionally overseas.

Coach Levens said if Briggs “keeps doing what she’s doing,” she could make that a reality.

“I think the biggest shift has been her confidence in herself and just trusting how good she really is,” Levens said. “She definitely has the tools.”

Off the court, Briggs said she wants to give back to her native community, whether it’s by holding a basketball clinic or speaking in the schools of her hometown.

“When I was in grade school and high school,” Briggs said. “I wanted people to talk to us about (playing college sports), so you can start to have these goals.”