This week on the Minnesota Native News health report, traveling during the pandemic. Hear why two young Native athletes from the northern part of the state were in Arizona for a basketball tournament. Reporter Dalton Walker explains in this week’s story.
No question, basketball is a big deal in Indian Country.
Just ask Red Lake Nation’s Delwyn Holthusen III. He recently graduated from Red Lake High School and has his eye on Bismarck, North Dakota for college basketball. But first, a trip to the desert was in order.
Holthusen was one of hundreds of Native athletes from across Indian Country to participate in the annual Native American Basketball Invitational in Phoenix, Arizona. It’s one of the premier sporting events for young Native basketball players.
Last year, like most things, the tournament was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic. The event, known simply as NABI, is key for many prep athletes because of its size and exposure opportunities to college coaches. Some 400 games take place in five days. Masks were required for all who attended but optional for athletes when competing in game.
“I came down to Arizona to play in NABI because it’s an experience. You get to travel and meet new people, especially. It’s a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Holthusen.
In 2020, the opportunity was taken away from Holthusen and others like him.
“The pandemic, because, it happened while I was in my junior year, it set me back a lot because I really wanted to keep traveling every summer but we couldn’t really do it my junior year, but there was that time from September to December where they eased up on pandemic and we were able to get in a few tournaments,” said Holthusen.
Holthusen has committed to play for the United Tribes Technical College in Bismarck. He also wasn’t the only one in Phoenix with ties to one of the Ojibwe bands in Minnesota.
Kailee Fineday was back in Phoenix this week to show off her skills on the basketball court. She has competed in NABI before and is familiar with its tough competition.
Fineday is from the Leech Lake Band of Ojibwe and later this year, she’ll head to Lawrence, Kansas to play basketball for Haskell Indian Nations University.
Fineday used her free time in the pandemic to improve her basketball game on her own and with her dad’s guidance.
“During the pandemic, I was in the gym a lot because that was the only thing. So I had access to the gym so it was easier for me and I was in the gym every night getting shots up. My dad was coaching me in the gym, helping me out. I think it helped me a lot, developed my game,” said Fineday.
Fineday has been traveling this summer for basketball and already visited Las Vegas, Nevada.
“Now that I am able to travel, you know, I wasn’t able to, I think it made me want to play better because, you know, I didn’t get the opportunity like last year in the pandemic. So I think now it makes me go harder and makes me want to win,” said Fineday.
Dalton Walker reporting for Minnesota Native News