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Showdown on the Rez: ASU women’s basketball trip to Navajo Reservation was rewarding for all

Showdown on the Rez: ASU women’s basketball trip to Navajo Reservation was rewarding for all

Sam Ficarro

Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018

Showdown on the Rez: ASU women’s basketball trip to Navajo Reservation was rewarding for all

FORT DEFIANCE – For a lot of on the Navajo Reservation, basketball means the whole lot.

The homes on this small northeast Arizona group on the New Mexico line function quite a lot of basketball hoops. White. Black. Grey. Some have rims with no internet, others have rims with solely a part of a internet hanging from them. Many are hooked up above garages. Some merely protrude from the prime of a metallic publish.

All are well-worn. They’re symbols of hope for the Navajo individuals.

A basketball hoop may be discovered at many homes on the Navajo Reservation. They arrive in quite a lot of circumstances, and some even lack a rim. (Photograph by Sam Ficarro/Cronkite Information)

“I was told if there’s a basketball hoop, you can just basically play anywhere, and that’s how it is on the Rez,” stated Payton Charley, a junior on the women group at Window Rock Excessive Faculty. “There’s dirt; they still play. If it’s like really muddy, and it’s uneven, they still play. We just have so much love for the game here.”

The Arizona State College women’s basketball group noticed that firsthand final weekend when the staff traveled to Fort Defiance to take on Baylor in what was billed as the Showdown on the Rez. The objective was to honor Native American tradition and acknowledge the tribe’s Vietnam veterans.

However the Solar Devils additionally got here away with a higher information of the robust relationship between their sport and the Navajo group. It was a useful go to for each side.

A take a look at the ASU women’s basketball workforce’s lengthy route to the Navajo Reservation. (Graphic by Bella Sisneros/Cronkite Information)

“I think this has been a really amazing educational experience for them because we have some kids who have Native American blood, of course,” ASU coach Charli Turner Thorne stated. “But not anybody that’s full Native and knows their clan or tribe, none who grew up on a reservation. This is about learning everything they’ve had a chance to learn about, both the serious issues of reservation life and also the things to celebrate.”

The sprawling Navajo Reservation – the largest in the U.S. – consists of many clans, however they all share a love and keenness for basketball. They name it Rez ball, a run-and-gun, fast-pace fashion of play. A sluggish, possession-style of basketball doesn’t exist right here.

Charley was considered one of many Navajo youngsters awestruck to see one among the state’s main school packages enjoying of their city.

“It inspires me,” she stated. “The school is kind of small, and to have ASU here, it inspires me to go bigger, dream bigger and to have that mindset that wherever you live, you can always achieve more than you think.”

And younger Native gamers want solely take a look at their very own historical past for the sort of inspiration Charley talked about. Ryneldi Becenti, who was in the stands for the Showdown on the Rez, performed at Window Rock Excessive after which at Arizona State earlier than turning into the first Native American participant in WNBA historical past.

“Being on the court makes me happy, even if it’s just playing around or taking it seriously,” stated Charley, who added that basketball connects her and others to their group.

Followers line up early for the ASU-Baylor recreation at the Bee Holdzil Preventing Scouts Occasions Middle. Greater than 5,600 individuals have been in attendance. (Photograph by Sam Ficarro/Cronkite Information)

Dangelo Cadman, who’s on the group at his group school, stated basketball is “just really fun – something to get the mind off stuff whether I’m feeling down or something.”

Regardless of sporting an Arizona Wildcats shirt, Cadman stated he was pulling for ASU.

The sport’s magnitude

After a 90-minute apply with spectators wanting on, the Solar Devils went up to the essential concourse of the Bee Holdzil Preventing Scouts Occasions Middle, the faculty’s health club, and commenced signing posters. The autograph session was solely supposed to final about 30 minutes, however due to a number of thousand individuals lined up to meet the Solar Devils, the group stayed for 45 minutes.

“I’m going to ask what it took for them to make it all the way to college ball and how they succeeded,” Charley stated as she waited for autographs.

After that, Arizona State went again into the locker room, the place Peterson Zah, former chairman and president of the Navajo Nation, spoke to the workforce about the showdown recreation and the historical past of the Navajo individuals.

“I don’t think you have a good idea as to the impact you’re going to have on our kids because they never saw a game, many of them, as close as they’ll be seeing you play,” he informed the Solar Devils. “Many of them will watch on television a game of basketball, but … it’s a different experience to actually see people on their own land and their own gymnasium.”

Arizona State’s Courtney Ekmark retains the ball away from Baylor’s Juicy Landrum throughout the Showdown on the Rez in Fort Defiance. The Solar Devils fell to the Bears 65-59. (Photograph by Sam Ficarro/Cronkite Information)

Zah thanked Turner Thorne for her willingness to take a house recreation to Navajo land.

“We are very grateful to the great coach,” Zah stated. “It’s one of those things where a person really understands on a larger scale what we’re all about. People who are that way (are) really hard to find. And then at the same time, they’re into their profession 100 percent. For me, that coach here represents that train of thought.”

Zah, an ASU women’s basketball season-ticket holder, informed the workforce that he makes the 600-mile spherical trip to go to residence video games in Tempe, touring to the Valley on recreation day and returning the day after.

“I want to thank the coach and the school for doing what you’re doing here because we all cannot accurately predict what all this means,” Zah stated. “It means a lot to the 80,000 Navajo kids who are school-aged. I want to thank you for agreeing to come. Enjoy the game, make it a lot of fun, and just play hard.”

ASU senior Kianna Ibis and freshman Jamie Loera left with lasting impressions of Zah’s phrases.

“Just like what we heard in the story today (Saturday) in the locker room, like just being a better person,” Ibis stated. “Being as young as I am and as young as our teammates are, just trying to stress the importance of inclusion, loving everybody and stuff like that. I think it really had an impact on all of us.”

“What their president told us today was, after this game, they’re just going to be impacted completely and they’re just going to try new things and go all out after this experience,” Loera stated. “So I think it’s super cool to have this opportunity.”

Ibis was moved after seeing the names of fallen troopers at the Window Rock Tribal Park and Veteran’s Memorial, particularly vital with the recreation being performed on Veterans Day.

“Just looking at those names and just hearing the stories that we’ve heard today and weeks before this, it just really puts a perspective and different outlook on things,” Ibis stated. “Learning about their history I’m like, ‘Wow.’ I don’t think a lot of people really know (the history of the Navajo). Just hearing about it, you want better for everybody.”

Impression on youth

Ibis and Loera grew up in small cities – Ibis was born in South Dakota; Loera is from Moses Lake, Washington – and each respect the impression the recreation can have on this group.

“It just makes me happy seeing that I can inspire younger girls and be a good influence for them,” Ibis stated. “It just makes me really happy when I see them all excited after I give them a hug or I take a picture with them. Everyone is really awesome.”

“Where I’m from, a small community, you’re going to impact so many kids that are coming into this community. It’s like, ‘Wow, there are a lot of kids that you’re really going to impact,’ ” Loera stated. “Having this opportunity is just amazing, especially being a collegiate athlete. They’re going to look up to us.”

Many on the Navajo Reservation won’t understand the alternative that sports activities can present as an avenue to an schooling.

“I would tell them, ‘It’s OK if you don’t think you can do it, but go for it.’ The opportunities are there. That’s why we’re here,” Turner Thorne stated of pursuing a profession in school basketball. “We want to show them, ‘Oh wow, you did this.’ Out here, they don’t see. ‘Oh wait, there are opportunities. I can get academic money to go to college. I can work on my sport and get an opportunity.’ I hope we can show them that the opportunities are there.”

Ibis believes in pursuing goals.

“I feel you should never hesitate for anything you want,” Ibis stated. “If you dream it, you can do it. When my mom moved me to Omaha, Nebraska, I never thought that I would ever be playing college, especially D-1 basketball. I think just keep on working every day, improving, meeting people, exploring opportunities and taking them while you have them. Basically, just go for it.”

Lasting influence

Squaring off towards the No. four staff in the nation, Arizona State fought toe-to-toe with Baylor, main by as many as 14 factors in the second quarter and by 11 at halftime. The Woman Bears, nevertheless, persevered in the second half, outscoring the Solar Devils 41-24 to win the recreation, 65-59 in entrance of 5,609 followers.

Arizona State women’s basketball coach Charli Turner Thorne meets together with her workforce earlier than the Solar Devils took on Baylor. Her participant wore warmup jersey that stated “Yéego,” which in Navajo means “With much effort.” (Photograph by Sam Ficarro/Cronkite Information)

It was not the outcome ASU hoped for, nevertheless it gained’t diminish the impression the recreation could have on the group.

The Navajo phrase “Yéego” – “With much effort” – was printed on the again of ASU’s warmup jerseys. Regardless of the loss, Turner Thorne stated, the Solar Devils lived up to the phrase with their efficiency.

“I think we won with the event,” Turner Thorne stated. “I feel regardless of if we gained or misplaced (the recreation), we needed to present ‘Yéego.’

“We always talk about who we are over what we do. I think our players have great character on the floor. The character we play with – who we are – I thought that shined through. That’s going to inspire 80,000 Navajo kids on the reservation even more than if we win. I think they honored that, and did a good job.”

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