Full court press: This is a cover story that "The CircleOnline" did in March of '99. There are supposed to be some pics, but they are now broken images.
- Letter about the article, & response: Some guy wrote a letter about the "Circle" article on Red Lake's Year of basketball. They try to slam the writer, but the person responds slyly to this guy.
This is a feature article from the August '98 issue of Slam Magazine that focuses on the boy's basketball team from Red Lake, MN. The writer of the story is: John Holler
THE RED LAKE H.S. BASKETBALL SQUAD ISN'T JUST REPRESENTING
A SCHOOL IT'S REPRESENTING A PEOPLE
Walk about a mile or so outside of the town of
Red Lake, MN, and you can't tell if you're in the 1990's or the 1890's.
The locals still hunt, fish and canoe as they have for more than a century.
It's so unbelievably cold, car battery companies use this area to test
their products. The Native American population largely lives and dies without
leaving the same confined space.
But, when the onset of winter comes, the normal
quiet is replaced by the deafening din of Red Lake hoops fans. For the
small town of 1,700-the population hasn't changed much over the last 30
years-the Red Lake Warriors have become the focal point, giving local Native
American residents something to be proud of.
"Indian people don't have a lot of victories
to celebrate," Warrior coach Doug DesJarlait says. "The team's
success is something that pulled everyone together and gave us all something
to be proud of and consider a victory."
The high school is located in the heart of the
Red Lake Indian Reservation-one of the largest government-designed reservations
in the country. Despair, alcoholism and hopelessness have become hallmarks
of such reservations, but this boys' basketball team has done a lot to
show local Native American youth that there is something they can excel
at, that they too can enjoy the sweet taste of success.
For the better part of the decade, the Warriors
have been the top team in the Northland Conference but had never made it
to St. Paul for the state tournament-the pinnacle of Minnesota basketball,
where players like Kevin McHale, John Thomas and Khalid El-Amin have made
names for themselves. But in '96-97 season, Red Lake finally got over the
hump-defeating defending state champion Fertile-Beltrami to advance to
the tournament and put Red Lake on the basketball map.
"It was the ultimate high," Red Lake
junior center Delwyn Holthausen recalls. "Nobody had ever recognized
us before, because we had never got to the state tournament. To get there
was a dream of ours. Now, winning it all is our goal."
Last year, Red Lake's championship aspirations
resulted in one of the wildest games in the tournament's 80-year history.
The Warriors' coast-to-coast, down-your-throat style was matched by Wabasso-a
small town in southern Minnesota-to produce the highest scoring game in
a Minnesota state tournament. Red Lake trailed by 18 points with four minutes
to play but rallied behind the unconscious performance of then-sophomore
guard Gerald Kingbird, who scored 19 fourth-quarter points, including 13
in the final 1:15 of regulation.
The game went to overtime tied at 105-105. Wabasso
pulled the game out 117-113, but the Warriors finally got the statewide
recognition that had been denied them in previous years.
"We didn't really expect anything last year,"
Kingbird says. "As the season went on, things really picked up. Once
we got to the state tournament and had the game [with Wabasso], it seemed
everyone was noticing us."
That attention to the team brought pride to Native
Americans across Minnesota. It was expected that when the team made the
250-mile trip to St. Paul, all of Red Lake would follow-the last person
out of town would turn off the lights. But the Warriors had no idea what
impact they would have on the state's other Indian tribes.
"There were anywhere from 5,000 to 7,000
Indians that came to the state tournament to cheer us on," DesJarlait
says. "Half the people there were Indians, and it made our guys realize
what they had accomplished. They didn't expect that people would come from
all over the state to cheer for them. [But] the fans have always been our
sixth man, and they gave us a lot of support." The media spotlight
was also a surprise. For young men who live so far away from any media
outlets, being requested for interviews and having their pictures in daily
newspapers was culture shock.
"We enjoyed it a lot," Holthausen says
of the attention. "I live between the two lakes [in the middle of
the reservation], so if I want to go to a movie or the mall, I have to
drive 60 miles. That's why we had so much fun with the attention we got."
The buzz didn't end with the state tournament.
With the core of the team still centered around the Warriors' junior class,
expectations are high that Red Lake, which was ranked No. 1 in Minnesota's
Class A polls most of the '97-98 season, will be making state tournament
appearances an annual event. It has translated into the players earning
celebrity status-something the players admittedly had a hard time adjusting
"The strangest part for me was the first
time a kid came up and asked for an autograph," Kingbird says. "I
didn't know what to think. We know that these kids look up to us, and we
all want to be good role models, because they look at what we do."
The Warriors didn't disappoint this season. Despite
playing a schedule that included schools more than twice their size, Red
Lake finished the regular season with a 19-3 record and was the top seed
in its section tournament. While the team tried to remain focused on not
looking too far ahead, their fans weren't under similar constraints.
"The people's expectations here are almost
overwhelming at times," DesJarlait says. "Most of them thought
the kids were going back to the state tournament before we played our first
game. Our players know that games are won in practice and that they have
to work hard if they want to get back for a chance to win the championship."
The players haven't let the past success go to
their heads. They remember the pain of losing.
"We could blow out a lot of teams around
here and score 100 points in a lot of games, but we don't," Holthausen
says. "We have a first team, a second team and a third team. If we
get a big lead, they all play. All that beating teams by 50 points does
is make enemies."
The Warriors were aware at last year's state tournament
appearance that they would have at least two more opportunities to make
their championship hoop dreams a reality. With the support of the entire
Minnesota Indian Nation behind them, the weight of making that goal come
true is a heavy one. But it is a challenge they readily accept and use
"I've thought about winning [the state title]
since I was in seventh grade," Kingbird says. "I don't know if
we'll do it, but we're going to give it our best shot. I don't want to
let my community or my teammates down."
That the Warriors didn't bring home the gold to
Red Lake this year (they lost in the quarterfinals), in the big scheme
of things, is almost irrelevant. Reservation life will go on as it has
for more than 100 years if Red Lake never brings home a first-place trophy.
As far as DesJarlait is concerned, a championship is simply the end of
one of Indians' many long journeys. It would be nice, but it isn't the
"Winning a championship would be great, but
it's more important that these kids have learned a sense of pride in themselves,"
DesJarlait says. "They've seen how the Indian community has reacted
to them and how proud they are of them for what they've been able to accomplish.
A state championship would be something that will show them they succeeded
on the basketball court. Having pride in themselves and their heritage
is something they will take with them for the rest of their lives, whether
they have a title with it or not."