Being accepted into college can be a difficult process, let alone trying to make a collegiate athletic team. Yet, applying to a service academy can be even more rigorous, with admissions board approval and congressional recommendations only a part of that process. For Colville tribal member Chantel Heath, the decision to apply for admission and play basketball for the U.S. Naval Academy has been placed in front of her.
Heath is a three-sport junior at Reardan (Wash.) High School, who plays basketball, softball and volleyball. She, along with her mother Deanna, was invited along with 12 other basketball recruits and family members to visit the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, on October 21-23. Because of the lengthy application process, service academies are allowed to recruit athletes earlier than other Division I schools. Potential athletes are required to undergo the same application process as any other candidate.
“It is an honor that all of her hard work has paid off,” Heath’s mother Deanna said about the visit. “That’s what made it exciting for me, that her hard work all of these years is paying off, and that they’re recognizing her for the person she is and she could be. That’s where I stand. As a mom, I was really excited for her. That’s what made it exciting was to watch her have these choices before her.”
Both Heath and her mother were enthusiastic about the academic options. Heath said that she was interested in the instructor-student ratio and the subjects offered. If she attends the U.S. Naval Academy, she will weigh her options between pre-medicine and oceanography.
“Everybody there was very nice, and they’re friendly,” Heath said. “They gave tons of information about the school about how they would help you, what it’s about, and what you would be interested in studying.”
Heath is used to the role as leader. Her former coach, Tiger Peone, said in a released statement that it was her leadership qualities that made her a team captain as a freshman. Her playing resume includes teams that earned both basketball and volleyball state titles. A link to the KREM-TV website also shows Heath getting a last-second, half-court shot to beat the buzzer—as a freshman.
“I think she’s got a lot of the qualities that everybody looks for and a lot of the colleges hope for,” said Deanna Heath. “With the naval academy, it’s one of those things where they’re looking for people who step up and be leaders and strong people.”
Heath said her other interests include her family, friends and going to the movies. She said she also enjoys helping with fund-raisers on the Colville Reservation. Heath’s grandmother, Jeanne Jerred, served on the Colville Tribal Council for 16 years.
The Heath family see Chantel’s invitation to visit the U.S. Naval Academy as something positive not only for Chantel, but for Indian County as a whole.
“People are starting to realize that there are a lot of good qualities in a lot of our tribal students,” said Deanna Heath. “We have a lot of kids that strive for goals. As a whole, I think it will open up Indian Country for colleges to really start taking a look.”
Chantel Heath said about the naval academy visit that “it’s an actually amazing opportunity and a good choice that most kids don’t get to have.”
Graduates to military service academies are required to accept officer commissions upon graduation. According to the U.S. Naval Academy website, all graduates are required to serve five years in either the U.S. Navy or U.S. Marine Corps.
At present, Heath has not signed a letter of intent nor made a verbal agreement with any college or university. NCAA rules do not permit coaches to comment on recruits until after signing day. Other schools that the Heath family said have made initial contact include Arizona State University, Concordia University, Long Beach State and Sacramento State.
To note, Heath plays at the same school that Spokane/Couer d’Alene author, Sherman Alexie, played during his high school years. The town of Reardan is mentioned frequently in his National Book Award winner, The Absolutely True Story of a Part-Time Indian. Deanna Heath said that Alexie and his brother, Arnold, can be seen in the stands.
“[Alexie’s] brother Arnold is one of the biggest basketball supporters at that program,” she said. “We see them at the games quite often.”