North Idaho College (NIC) recently won the NJCAA women’s national basketball championship. Two of the eleven players on the team are Nez Perce tribal members: Shakiana Edwards-Teasley and Timena Shebala.
Shakiana played on the reservation at Lapwai through grade school before moving to the larger schools in Lewiston for junior and senior high. Timena also played on the reservation at Kooskia till her sophomore year in high school when she moved to Moscow, Idaho. “I still powwow,” she says.
Both girls are college sophomores and made their second trip to nationals, finishing 8th in the nation in 2010 before winning it all this year.
And how did winning feel? “Disbelief!” said Shakiana. “Everybody was going crazy. I was really excited but didn’t know if it really happened or not, just trying to wrap my brain around it.”
Timena’s reaction was similar. “It was nuts. It was awesome. It’s still kind of unreal (a month later). To think that we made it to the tournament and won by an average of 17 points … !”
NIC went into the 16-team tournament as the #5 seed and couldn’t have been in a tougher bracket. During their run to the championship they beat teams from Georgia, Missouri, Texas, and Florida which went into the tournament ranked #12, #4, #3, and #1. The Florida school was undefeated and the four schools had a combined record of 120 wins and 11 losses. Despite that type of competition, NIC beat the four by an average of 17 points per game.
Coach Chris Carlson had nothing but praise for the entire team but talked to Indian Country about the two Nez Perce young ladies. “Kiki (Shakiana) is probably one of the nicest kids I’ve ever coached. I have a great relationship with her. Basketball-wise she is long and thin but extremely tough. She’s a great inside defender on post players. She doesn’t back down to anybody and is very physical. She would rise in big games and make big baskets for us. During the regional championship game she scored on two baskets in the last couple of minutes to help us win that game. She came out in the national tournament championship game against Trinity Valley and got 17 points.”
Shakiana is 6’3” and started at the post position for NIC. “She’s a terrific player and still has a big upside to her. During the two years here she’s really learned to focus and has matured in her relationships to her teammates. She’s been very highly recruited nationally,” Carlson continued.
Many coaches attend the NJCAA championships so it’s a great place for athletes to get noticed and recruited to the next level. Shakiana has since signed to attend Oregon State University in the fall.
“The OSU coaches were right there on the floor following the game,” Carlson said. “I think Kiki (Shakiana) has an opportunity to go there and be a starter next year. She has to earn it but is going to have a shot.”
Timena did not start for NIC although she would have for many junior colleges. Carlson explained, “Timena has just been a great kid. She had to play behind some really talented guards the last couple of years. We challenged her to come in and really fight for playing time. She really responded in that respect. In the Missouri game at nationals she came off the bench and hit a couple 3-pointers for us. She’s the nicest kid to see in practice every day. I think she’s kind of a hidden diamond because she’s played behind Division 1 guards. Hopefully we’ll find a home for her (for next year) in the next couple of weeks.”
These young ladies are continuing evidence of the quality of players being produced on reservations. Shakiana is also a cousin of Jude and Shoni Schimmel, Umatillas, both of whom will be at Louisville this fall.