Why don’t more collegiate level coaches and recruiters take a serious look at the very talented Native American junior and senior high school basketball players we know are out here in Indian country? We know there are more Shoni and Jude Schimmels, Bronson Koenigs, Derek Willises and Beatty Sisters out there. How do we get them exposed to NCAA Division 1 and other college basketball level coaches and recruiter organizations? Even UCONN women’s coach, Geno Auriemma, acknowledged in an interview that he knows there must be other Shoni Schimmels out there.
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We have all heard the anecdotal excuses, some real and some mythical, that let the coaches and recruiters off the hook and which discourage our young men and women from believing that they can play at the collegiate level, even NCAA Division 1. I will list a few:
- They would rather stay home and play Independent League ball or Indian Community College Basketball. (Nothing wrong with 1-2 years and then make the jump, but need exposure.)
- They can’t make it academically. (We know we have scholar athletes that are the exception. Also, tutors and advisors are available at the collegiate level.)
- They get lonely with no support system. (Identify mentoring resources and host families or organizations.)
- They drink, smoke and drug. (We know that there are those who are the exception. We also know that some escape this trap by moving from the environment of acceptability.)
- They are too skinny, lack proper nutrition and lack the necessary strength and bulk. (This is a matter of proper training in nutrition and strength development and access to proper nutrition. The answer must come from the community, parents, schools, coaches, Health Providers and tribes.)
- They become mothers and fathers before they get out of High School. (Tribes, parents and Coaches, Counselors, School Administrator and Health Providers must realistically address the issue by securing birth control information and methods for students. Don’t assume parents will do it, it is obvious from teen pregnancy rates that they don’t. We must stop accepting it as a generational norm.)
- They are quitters and un-coachables. (We must provide opportunities for them to experience and train to meet Basic Athletic Measurement-BAM Standards and experience the “tough love” of D1 level coaches.)
There are other “excuses” but these are some of the majors. Please note that African American Players had to overcome pretty much the same stereotypes to break into college basketball level play and they still experience many the same issues listed above. But they overcome the “excuses” or stereotypes and we can too.
I don’t usually do “commercials” but in this case I make an exception because there is an organization that is at least attempting to get Indian country high school junior and senior basketball players before, or brought to the attention of, D1 coaches and recruiters.
RBA International Foundation (RBA) is a New Mexico non-profit entity which will provide the TOP 50 Native American High School Basketball Players Combine/Camp this summer (June 29-July 2nd). Negotiations are underway with Haskell University and Santa Fe Indian School for the venue. All player expenses, including air travel, ground travel, housing, meals and equipment, will be paid. One of the premier recruiting organizations is the western U.S., D1 Nation powered by Adidas Grassroots Basketball, which will handle the training and recruitment elements (including individual video production) along with Global Elite Basketball. Nomination forms are available on the above website. Screening will start at the end of April. RBA intends to expand the number of players in coming years and to put on regional basketball combines and camps around Indian country. Tribal, Casino, business and individual-Go Fund Me donations will be greatly appreciated. Tribal and Casino “Venue” sponsors are needed. All donations and proceeds from the sale of TOP 50 Sportswear will go to expenses of the TOP 50 Camp and future events.
The University of New Mexico men’s basketball program announced the loss of 7 scholarship players this last week (and the coach). The now former coach did not recruit in the Native American and Hispanic communities and then everyone wonders how falling attendance can be turned around. To the UNM athletic director, and the new coach, I’d say-walk out of the GYM and look around at the community in which you are coaching.
We know there are hundreds of Native American basketball players out there that could play college basketball at the NCAA level. Yes, it’s a small start, but we must start somewhere.
Harold Monteau is a Chippewa Cree lawyer and writes from New Mexico. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org.