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This is the Red Lake Basketball section of the site. I've looked around and found some articles and stories covering the team and will be posting some links here.

  • Red Lake School District (Home of the Red Lake Warriors) This is the school's site.

  • USA Today Article: This is an article USA Today did on the Red Lake Warriors, on February 14, '99.

  • 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

    Warrior Soul


    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 to.

    "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 as motivation.

    "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 main objective.

    "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."

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